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The Don ‘Dada’: One on one with Trendsetter coach Anthony Wickham

“A coach will be out there to show you along the way but players have to understand that to be an extraordinary player you have to put in extra work,” Trendsetter Hawks coach Anthony “Dada” Wickham told Wired868. “That is as simple as it is. If you don’t come out to work you’re not going to make (it).”

Photo: Trendsetter Hawks coach Anthony "Dada" Wickham points the way during 2015 Republic Bank National Youth Cup action at the Queen's Park Savannah.  (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trendsetter Hawks coach Anthony “Dada” Wickham points the way during 2015 Republic Bank National Youth Cup action at the Queen’s Park Savannah.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Trendsetter Hawks veteran coach Anthony “Dada” Wickham knows a thing or two about developing successful players. He played his part in laying a foundation for talents like World Cup 2006 midfielder Densill Theobald, 2009 Under-20 World Cup defender Uriah Bentick, former Caribbean Cup winner Kerwin “Hardest” Jemmott and 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup players Mekeil Williams, Ataulla Guerra and Radanfah Abu Bakr.

Dada combines his love for football and community with the Port of Spain-based youth team that mainly comprises players from east Port of Spain and environs like Laventille, Nelson Street and John John.

He uses football to guide them on a positive path away from violence and crime and constantly injects his philosophy and values into young minds.

On Saturday, as the 2015 Republic Bank National Youth Cup draws to an exciting finale, Wickham will lead Hawks and San Juan Jabloteh into the semifinal round of the Under-11 and Under-13 categories respectively.

Dada might be the only coach to have been involved in all 20 years of the Republic Bank competition. And he took some time out to discuss his philosophy and passion for the game in a one on one with Wired868:

Photo: Trendsetter Hawks coach Anthony "Dada" Wickham. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trendsetter Hawks coach Anthony “Dada” Wickham.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Date of birth: 5 October 1963.

Hometown: My hometown is St Joseph Road, which is opposite to Riverside Plaza.

How long have you been coaching in the Republic Bank Youth Cup?

Anthony Wickham (AW): Since inception.

What do you enjoy about coaching?

AW: The enjoyment is watching the youths and them enjoy themselves. I think that giving children the opportunity to do something positive with their lives especially in areas where this team is from, that is all the joy I think I could get out of it. Other than this (football), it really don’t have anything for them out there.

What do you see as the value in this competition?

AW: The Republic Cup players have the chance to match their talents against players from all over the country. You also get the opportunity (to play in front of) national coaches and school coaches. Scouts may be around to give them the opportunity to move on and get a lil scholarship.

Photo: Trendsetter Hawks Under-11 attacker Quddoos Abdul Hypolite shoots for goal against the Santa Cruz Under-13s during Republic Bank National Youth Cup action at the Queen's Park Savannah last week.  (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trendsetter Hawks Under-11 attacker Quddoos Abdul Hypolite shoots for goal against the Santa Cruz Under-13s during Republic Bank National Youth Cup action at the Queen’s Park Savannah last week.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

People see you as a living legend in this competition…

AW: Yea… (He smiles) I have been here from inception and we have always been in the finals.

Do you take part in any other competitions?

AW: I let them play a lot of football. Any little competition it have I take my team with me. I have been to Tobago, south, central and east with my team to play football. Once we’re playing together all season, it is very hard to beat us.

What brought you into coaching?

AW: My coaching started when I was going to South East Port of Spain Secondary under the instruction of (late Trinidad and Tobago national youth team coach) Arthur “Jap” Brown. May his soul rest in peace.

What used to happen was the under-14s (would) play on a Saturday morning (and) Mr Brown really couldn’t make it. So he had myself and a guy called Anton Serrette, who used to take the under-14s to the games and I think everything started there.

Photo: Trendsetter Hawks coach Anthony "Dada" Wickham has a word with one of his players during 2015 Republic Bank National Youth Cup action at the Queen's Park Savannah. (Courtesy Allan Powder/Wired868)
Photo: Trendsetter Hawks coach Anthony “Dada” Wickham has a word with one of his players during 2015 Republic Bank National Youth Cup action at the Queen’s Park Savannah.
(Courtesy Allan Powder/Wired868)

At what level did you play the game if at all?

AW: Yes I played, matter of fact we started this team as young men. Trendsetter Hawks came out of a falling away from one club called Woods United. We as the youngsters find we weren’t getting any justice in getting on the field, so we formed our own team. I played up to the zonal level.

How did you get the nickname Dada?

AW: We got involved with the Rastafarian movement and we had to choose a name that would have suited us. At the time, my hair was matted and it wasn’t growing. So going through the book I saw a name that described closely what was going on with me. As soon as I comb my hair it used to roll back up, and ‘Dada’ is a child born with curly hair.

What is your coaching philosophy? 

AW: As my coaches used to say, you have to make yourself a student of the game. Unless you make yourself a student you will never reach far because the game is the greatest teacher. With all the coaches it have you can learn more from playing the game than anybody can teach you.

Photo: Trendsetter Hawks Under-11 midfielder Josiah Wilson (centre) tries to shake off attention from a Santa Cruz FA player (left) during 2015 Republic Bank National Youth Cup Under-13 action at the Queen's Park Savannah.  (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trendsetter Hawks Under-11 midfielder Josiah Wilson (centre) tries to shake off attention from a Santa Cruz FA player (left) during 2015 Republic Bank National Youth Cup Under-13 action at the Queen’s Park Savannah.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Where do you source your players? 

AW: I think I have the biggest source to pull from. Children from the east Port of Spain area and surrounding the east Port of Spain area (and) we have one or two that come from the outskirts. We go to John John, Laventille, Nelson Street, George Street, Duncan Street, Cocorite. People come from as far as Diego Martin. But the main area is in east POS where there are a lot of youths that are not doing anything.

Of course Dada is a household name so I am always getting calls from people who want to come and play.

What current players should we look out for? 

AW: We actually have a couple of them. In the U-11 we have Josiah Wilson, Luke Williams and Abdul Hypolite. U13’s we are looking at the Captain, Daniel David, Kareem Thomas and Real Gill.

What is your saddest moment as a coach?

AW: Losing a player called Michael Ford. He was very promising and I was pretty sure he would have moved on to play professional football. He lost his life (at 14 years old in a fatal stabbing) in Prisgar Lands.

Photo: Former England star David Beckham (right) tries to escape from Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Densill Theobald.
Photo: Former England star David Beckham (right) tries to escape from Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Densill Theobald.

What are your proudest moments?

AW: I had a couple proud moments when we had players that were selected to make the national team. Densill Theobald who went to the 2006 World Cup. We also had Uriah Bentick who went to the Under-20 World Cup in Egypt. Also we have guys like Jomal Williams, Mekeil Williams, Ataulla Guerra and Maurice Ford who play for the national team.

What are the changes in ability and attitude you have seen over the years? Do you attribute it to anything?

AW: The first format of the Republic Cup was six players and a keeper. I think some of the players displayed a lot more ability in that format because of the intensity. Six a side you have to play very fast football (with the ball) very close.

Now they have brought it to eleven a-side where there is offside… In this form, the players have more time to play and it’s more of a team situation. In this version, teams have to put down their heads and play together… because it’s a wider pitch, it has more room to operate (and) it takes a lot more time to get to the next side’s goal post.

Photo: Trendsetter Hawks standout Luke Williams (centre) hurdles a tackle against Santa Cruz in an Under-13 contest of the 2015 Republic Bank National Youth Cup in the Queen's Park Savannah.  (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trendsetter Hawks standout Luke Williams (centre) hurdles a tackle against Santa Cruz in an Under-13 contest of the 2015 Republic Bank National Youth Cup in the Queen’s Park Savannah.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

What do you think sets the players that progress to the professional level apart from the rest? 

AW: The player’s interest to take it upon themselves to do some kind of personal training. A coach will be out there to show you along the way but players have to understand that to be an extraordinary player you have to put in extra work. That is as simple as it is. If you don’t come out to work you’re not going to make.

We can take example from players that went on trial in the US and feel they could sleep until 10 o’clock and they were back here very fast.

What was your most memorable achievement? 

AW: With Trendsetters, we have won two national leagues with the under-19 and under-16s. Also when I coached Jabloteh and we won the Pro League Under-13 division with two games to spare. That was quite an achievement also.

Photo: Central FC attacking midfielder Ataulla Guerra (second from right) takes on the entire Caledonia AIA defence during a Pro League match. Guerra played under Anthony "Dada" Wickham at Trendsetter Hawks. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Central FC attacking midfielder Ataulla Guerra (second from right) takes on the entire Caledonia AIA defence during a Pro League match.
Guerra played under Anthony “Dada” Wickham at Trendsetter Hawks.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

What is your ambition in coaching? How far to you plan to take it? 

AW: Until the Father tells me is time to stop, that may be the time. If opportunities came along and I believe that I am capable to do the job I will accept it.

(But) I believe youth football is my calling. In my area, there are a lot of youth to save. When you have youngsters trying to be gangsters at 13 and 11 years, I think I am there to try to discourage them where that is concerned. I just came back from Canada with an Under-14 team and there are a lot of things for them to see outside there.

Is there a message you want to send to players and fellow youth coaches?

AW: To the youths, football is not just for a sweat. When I was playing football, we could have just played just for a sweat. It have too many opportunities outside here where you can get a scholarship or (have) it be a paying job.

Photo: Trendsetter Hawks coach Anthony "Dada" Wickham (left) talks to his players during 2015 Republic Bank National Youth Cup action at the Queen's Park Savannah. (Courtesy Allan Powder/Wired868)
Photo: Trendsetter Hawks coach Anthony “Dada” Wickham (left) talks to his players during 2015 Republic Bank National Youth Cup action at the Queen’s Park Savannah.
(Courtesy Allan Powder/Wired868)

To the coaches, I want you to know you have people’s lives in your hand and you should pay full attention to children that come under your guidance. Make sure when they leave, they leave with something positive because sometimes you don’t even know what that child leave home.

I know children that come here without a cup of tea; you really don’t know what problems they have home. We have to know that we have to act as coaches, parents and guides to the youngsters in our care.

About Allan Powder

Allan Powder
Allan Powder is an avid writer currently pursuing his BA in Mass Communications at COSTAATT. He is employed as an IT professional at Republic Bank Limited, and is a freelancer at Wired868. Powder is also a certified photographer.

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30 comments

  1. Its such a pleasure to see Dada continuing to lay the foundation. He is and represents the several unsung national diamonds who give, and those who have given selflessly to mould the young men of tomorrow, to sow the seed of the manner in which boys and men should live with each other in harmony, setting their goals, putting in the hard work necessary and above all readily receiving the knowledge and experience, with thankfulness. As we all know these are the attributes required for them to be the best they can be. Then we all jointly celebrate the joy of that love, admiration and pride of those boys becoming men in their own fashion and style giving our thanks that we have played our part to the benefit of all those with whom we come into contact in this part of God’s creation. Dada, on behalf of my dear departed big cousin, my Malvern and Pro-Pioneers teammate Arthur “Jap” I say May God give you the strength and courage to keep up the great work, being fully aware that your greatest reward is the blessings from God, the pride of your ancestors and hopefully the expressions of thanks and fond memories of those whose lives you have touched, similar tithe manner in which you have fondly demonstrated to another giant, Arthur Findley Brown – Jap. My dear cousin Holford – Holford our call for each other as Selris Figaro also our teammate would know, in reference to Gary Sobers and his cousin David Holford. Continued richest blessings Dada.

  2. He deserves and award I started my career playing for trendsetters Hawks so too my brothers ….so too Kerwin “hardest ” jemmot …Densil Theobald and so many more ….

  3. Hannibal Najjar

    I support the national award suggestion as per T. Mulraine.

  4. If uh ain’t come out under dada yuh ain’t good Dada big up yuh self ???

  5. As with Fuad Abu-Bakr, I too truly enjoyed this one. Brent Bennett also speaks with accuracy. “Dada, please grant me the opportunity and honor to speak on your behalf. You are one of a kind and I totally respect what you do and have been doing for decades. Our youth are better served because of the genuine things you bring to them and. Your heart is in the right place and you have shown not to be one that have any ulterior motives.. you give, forgive, and seek nothing in return. The Scriptures describes best what you are – “you act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). And, as for the video clip on you, let me say, what you said was filled in with what could have also been said by the simple truth and trust demeanor that Anthony “Dada” Wickham exudes. And, thanks for the curly hair explanation of the origins of your nickname. Hey, Dada, wha kind of jungle is dat we have out dey? Geh Republic to run some tractor with some blades – leh dem youths maximize dey potential. And lastly, I like de Brasil shirt, buh yuh need one wid 5 Stars. When I comin dong home again, ah go bring yuh one wid 5 and maybe after 2018, a 6 Star! Love, Hannibal.

  6. I had a lot of fun working on this story. Much respect to Dada and the amazing job he is doing with his avaliable resources. Thanks Lasana Liburd and Lou-Ann for the opportunity, its greatly appreciated!

  7. Hannibal Najjar

    As with Fuad Abu-Bakr, I too truly enjoyed this one. “Dada, please grant me the opportunity and honor to speak on your behalf. You are one of a kind and I totally respect what you do and have been doing for decades. Our youth are better served because of the genuine things you bring to them and. Your heart is in the right place and you have shown not to be one that have any ulterior motives.. you give, forgive, and seek nothing in return. The Scriptures describes best what you are – “you act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). And, as for the video clip on you, let me say, what you said was filled in with what could have also been said by the simple truth and trust demeanor that Anthony “Dada” Wickham exudes. And, thanks for the curly hair explanation of the origins of your nickname. Hey, Dada, wha kind of jungle is dat we have out dey? Geh Republic to run some tractor with some blades – leh dem youths maximize dey potential. And lastly, I like de Brasil shirt, buh yuh need one wid 5 Stars. When I comin dong home again, ah go bring yuh one wid 5 and maybe after 2018, a 6 Star! Love, Hannibal.

  8. only the best come from this guy

  9. Cheers! — to you BIG UP// I remember you travails and efforts up in the Eddie Hart FL and that was then keep ON keeping up the responsibility and the good work. There is another name huh/ ,,,,. yes monumental a thankless ……. I understand it is what do you have to do to get everybody-else to UNDERSTAND IT. Cheers Dada.>>>>>

  10. The man i must respect him!! Full Respect

  11. Been assisting Dada for last two years & two important points… 1. His coaching is almost free. He charges $40 a month & many parents either can’t afford or are negligent in paying this minimal fee; 2. We applied to HDC for a deed of gift to have an U13 field in POS

  12. I had d honour of passing this great 1

  13. To the sky… Respect the great ones…

  14. Its an honour to pass tru the ranks of trendsetter hawks…#dada and #curtis…

  15. THIS MAN DESERVES AN AWARD so many national players he has produced and coached from foundation and i don’t see him pushing up himself for any kind of award. A true champion, when you speak of dedication to trinidad and tobago football you should see his picture next to the word. I as a youngster playing knew him, and he has stood the test of time. TTFA should recognize people like him. Dada if no one would i am giving u a lifetime award for service dedication and commitment to the development of TnT Football. Respect!!

  16. I played for him and he isn’t only a coach he is a role model he is a father figure to some he is always there for u on and of the field and tht wht makes him special he coaches the fundamentals off the game he should get a chance but as he said his calling is the youth he is the only hope some of them have from where we come from…. great article

  17. Nice work again Allan Powder! Really enjoyed the video clip too.

  18. I have tremendous respect for Dada. This dude should be given a national award for his contribution to society. ✌???

  19. THIS MAN DESERVES AN AWARD so many national players he has produced and coached from foundation and i don’t see him pushing up himself for any kind of award. A true champion, when you speak of dedication to trinidad and tobago football, you should see his picture next to the word. I as a youngster playing knew him, and he has stood the test of time. TTFA should recognize people like him. Dada if no one would i am nominating u for a lifetime award for service, dedication and commitment to the development of TnT Football. Respect!!