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Clarke: God is good! WASA employee nears Soca Warriors debut but says sabbaths are off-limits

FC Santa Rosa captain Keron Clarke could be nearing a dream senior international debut for Trinidad and Tobago after being promised a new passport on Monday morning.

The 31-year-old forward, who competes in the second tier Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) competition, was called up by Soca Warriors head coach Dennis Lawrence to train with the national team, only to be denied a chance to face Ecuador in Guayaquil on 26 July owing to their inability to secure his passport in time.

Photo: FC Santa Rosa captain and forward Keron Clarke (centre) tries to pull off an ambitious move while Bethel FC attacker Jalanie James (right) looks on during TTSL One action at the Arima Velodrome on 18 June 2017.
(Courtesy Annalicia Caruth/Wired868)

However, Clarke’s mood was lifted again after his MP, Maxie Cuffie, who is also the Minister of Public Administration and Communication, intervened to help expedite the process for the La Horquetta resident. And National Senior Team manager Richard Piper confirmed that they are ready to accommodate the TTSL player once he gets his travel documents.

“It was a very dispiriting time for me and I was really down,” Clarke told Wired868, “but I believe in God and think He knows best. It was a tough time for me, I must say, because I was really looking forward for it…

“But I contacted my MP and the last I heard [on Saturday night] is I should get it in the morning, please God…”

Cuffie offered high praise for Minister in the Ministry of National Security, Dennis Moses, and the Immigration Division staff for working extra hard to accommodate the footballer.

“I’m a really big fan of Keron, who epitomises the very best of La Horquetta,” said Cuffie. “I was elated when I learnt of his selection to the national team since he has always displayed that quality as a player. He contacted me last Thursday to tell me of his passport problems and I immediately contacted […] Dennis Moses, who promised to assist…

“I’m hoping everything will be organised in time.”

Photo: Minister of Communications and Public Administration Maxie Cuffie (far left) on a tour of the incomplete Chaguanas Library.
(Courtesy Ministry of Communications)

If Clarke steps on to the field for Trinidad and Tobago in Guayaquil, it will cap an extraordinary rise for a young man who did not play his first organised football match until he was 19 years old. Almost certainly, he will be the only player for either team with a full-time job outside of the game.

Clarke is employed by WASA, where he works as an attendant at the Caroni Water Treatment Plant in St Helena.

And, when Clarke gives credit to God, he really means it. His Christian faith, as a Seventh Day Adventist, is key to everything his life—and he makes no exception for football.

Clarke went to school at North Eastern College in Sangre Grande, which did not participate in the top flight Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) competition. It meant he never had the chance to brush shoulders with the top local players of his age group. He admitted, however, that football was not his first priority then anyway.

“As a child, my uncle [Michael “Jacko” John] would carry me around when he played sport and through him I developed an interest in football,” said Clarke. “But I never played organised, competitive football; I would only take a ‘sweat’.

“People would tell me ‘God bless you with a talent’ but I was distracted and going along a wrong road. But thank God for Jesus…”

Photo: FC Santa Rosa captain Keron Clarke (left) looks to escape from a WASA FC opponent during TTSL One action in St Joseph on 9 July 2017.
Clarke scored twice as Rosa won 3-0.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

At 19, Clarke finally found himself in an organised team, having joined Eastern Football Association (EFA) club, Maloney FC, which was coached by former Trinidad and Tobago international utility player Shurland David. He started a relationship with God around the same time.

Clarke was 22 when Pro League club North East Stars hired David and the coach offered to sign him as a professional player; he declined.

The issue was that Pro League teams play more than half of their fixtures on Friday night and Saturday evening—unlike the lower leagues, which often play on Sunday afternoons.

“I am Seventh-Day Adventist and I observe the Sabbath,” said Clarke, “so I had to settle for Super League football, which coincides with the Sabbath day. That is the reason why I never played professional football in this country.

“If I was playing in the Pro League, I would have been in the limelight [and] I would have been seen more by different coaches who came and went.

“Most of the other coaches only viewed professional football and only those players had an opportunity [to make the national team]. But thanks to [Santa Rosa coach Keith] Look Loy, who invited [Lawrence] to our games and he saw what he saw and I am forever grateful.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence (left) passes on instructions to Aubrey David (right) and Curtis Gonzales during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Costa Rica at the National Stadium in San José on 13 June 2017.
Costa Rica won 2-1.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

It has been four years since a lower league player was selected on a senior Trinidad and Tobago team. And, arguably, the last selection was not as much of a gamble, as then 22-year-old Southern Football Association (SFA) attacker Marcus Joseph already had two World Youth Cups and about seven years of international football under his belt with the junior teams.

In contrast, Clarke never so much as trained with a national team before in any age group while the sum total of his international travel was one trip to Barbados—so long ago that he cannot remember the precise year.

“The physical aspect of [the National Senior Team training] was difficult because I come from a lower league, so the intensity was higher and the quality was higher,” said Clarke. “So my fitness level was a bit under par and I was struggling to keep up in that aspect. But I am a willing worker [and] I have no trouble with putting in the extra work.

“I must say the guys and the staff welcomed me with open arms. It was a real nice experience.”

By all accounts, Clarke did better than just ‘fit in’. His mobility, focus and finishing power upfront was such that he is believed to have a real shot at starting ahead of India-based professional Willis Plaza in Ecuador. Plaza’s salary at East Bengal FC is likely to be about 20 times what Clarke earns at WASA.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago forward Willis Plaza (right) runs at Mexico winger Miguel Layun Mexico forward Javier Hernandez (right) tries unsuccessfully to evade a tackle from Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevan George during 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on 28 March 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

So, at 31, will Clarke jump at the opportunity to earn USD in Latin America, India or the United States, where there is a ready market for Trinidad and Tobago players at present?

The Santa Rosa forward said he has no such ambitions.

“I have my job, I have a family [and] I am 32 in five months, so I think my time has passed to explore a [professional] career in football,” said Clarke, who described his wife, Claudia Clarke, as ‘a tremendous support system’ and offered special mention to his children, Elijah (9) and Kera (5).

In truth, though, it is his faith—more than his age—which will keep the talented forward from turning professional.

“I love football and, as much as I can, I will play football,” said Clarke. “But the sport doesn’t respect religious beliefs and that is one of the reasons I cannot pursue a professional career in football. No team will pay me to train and not play [because the game falls on the Sabbath].

“I don’t think I will pursue a career in football at this time in my life but, if ever the national team needs my services, my two hands [are] up and I will be readily available.”

There is a caveat, though. Trinidad and Tobago’s next two World Cup qualifying matches are at home to Honduras on Friday 1 September and away to Panama on Tuesday 5 September.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago playmaker Kevin Molino (left) celebrates his goal against Costa Rica with teammate Joevin Jones during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the National Stadium in San José on 13 June 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

Clarke would give anything to play in the second outing but, remarkably, he said he will not make himself available to tackle Honduras in the first fixture.

“I wouldn’t play on the Sabbath day and I explained that to the [Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team] coach,” Clarke told Wired868. “The Sabbath is set apart for holy use. I know there will be issues in the near future but that is my stance…

“I wasn’t always a Christian. I came from a tough background and I made my mistakes but, through the mercy of God, I am doing well and He continues to bless me and show me goodness. I met with my saviour and things changed.

“Everybody has their own experience with God but this is my sacrifice; God has been good to me so I have to continue with my stance.”

It is a minor miracle that Clarke, at 31 and a mere 12 years after having played his first organised football match,  looks set to be added to a player pool which includes former World Cup 2006 and England Premier League forward Kenwyne Jones and a string of overseas-based hit-men like Jamille Boatswain (Costa Rica), Shahdon Winchester (Mexico), Trevin Caesar (United States) and Plaza (Mexico).

Ironically, his relationship with God could mean that his time with the Warriors is shorter than it might otherwise be. Or will it?

Photo: FC Santa Rosa captain and forward Keron Clarke celebrates after completing his double against WASA FC during TTSL One action in St Joseph on 9 July 2017.
Santa Rosa won 3-0.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Last Friday, Clarke was advised that his dream of wearing “red, black and white” in Wednesday’s friendly against Ecuador was over owing to a passport complication that could not be resolved in time. Within 24 hours, Cuffie told him to pack his bags—and pray.

Apart from his ending his strict observance of the Sabbath, Clarke is not ruling anything out as far as his fledgling international career goes.

“When Jesus says yes,” he said, “nobody can say no!”

(T&T 20-man squad—once Clarke travels)

Goalkeepers: Marvin Phillip (Point Fortin Civic Centre), Andre Marchan (Defence Force);

Defenders: Alvin Jones (W Connection), Carlos Edwards (Central FC), Maurice Ford (W Connection), Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Carlyle Mitchell (East Bengal FC—India), Kevin Villaroel (North East Stars), Triston Hodge (W Connection);

Midfielders: Jared London (Club Sando), Leston Paul (North East Stars), Nathaniel Garcia (Central FC), Hughtun Hector (W Connection);

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago and Point Fortin Civic goalkeeper Marvin Phillip.
(Courtesy CONCACAF)

Attacking midfielders: Nathan Lewis (San Juan Jabloteh), Neil Benjamin Jr (W Connection), Sean De Silva (Central FC), Hashim Arcia (Defence Force), Tyrone Charles (Club Sando);

Forwards: Willis Plaza (East Bengal FC—India), Keron Clarke (FC Santa Rosa).

Editor’s Note: Keron Clarke received a new passport on the morning of Monday 24 July and was immediately drafted in to travel to Guayaquil that same evening with the Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team.

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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198 comments

  1. How yuh mean how religion get on the table. Religion is informing the man’s decision. How could it not be on the table? It’s not like he saying he not playing on Saturday because he dipping out to the avenue with joevin and molino…

  2. A young man with a God-giving talent serving his God and respecting his religion is so strange in 2017 ppl actually have a problem understanding that? Wow!

  3. Who criticizing the man? How did religion get on the table. We here to talk football.

  4. Who criticized him Kirwin Weston?

  5. Keep in mind he was called to training. He’s simply stated his position. It’s up to the staff to make their decision. I don’t think his decision warrants criticism. Live and let live…

  6. Steups this ridiculous now man…lemme disable notifications for this posts. Steups!!

  7. This is the man religion and his belief there are numerous players of varying religions that adhere to their religious practices. We could argue that a coach wouldn’t be as encouraged to pick him but that is a decision the coaching staff would have to make. As a man I not compromising myself for nobody if I believe in something bigger than us all …especially for a country that would discard you at a moment’s notice and with supporters just as fickle …

  8. Exodus 20:8-11King James Version (KJV)

    8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

    9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

    10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

    11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

  9. @ Nigel I don’t believe SDAs have a specific definition for the word “work”. It’s the same as defined by any dictionary.

  10. Great article, Lasana. Thank you for highlighting his story because it provides inspiration for other players who may think that they can’t make it. However the line, “the sport doesn’t respect religious beliefs” just sent my blood pressure up. And I will stop at that.

  11. Malcolm, for Seventh Day Adventists, what is the definition of “work”?

  12. FYI, in the Adventist church, the only persons who are allowed to work on Saturday are those in essential services professions such as Doctors and Nurses (I may have missed another). However, there are persons of the faith who obtain jobs where they have to work on Saturdays (police service or the Army) and try to make arrangements with their employer/supervisor to not work on Saturdays and make up for the time during the week.

  13. “I am Seventh-Day Adventist and I observe the Sabbath,” said Clarke, “so I had to settle for Super League football, which coincides with the Sabbath day. That is the reason why I never played professional football in this country.” Keron Clarke.

  14. I grew up in the Seventh Day Adventist church and could relate with this guy’s dilemma. As a kid I had missed quite a few 100 M finals: including trials for the Carifta games and secondary school sports which were held on Saturdays, so I feel this fella’s pain. My advice to him is to be straight-up with the administrators and don’t expect to be given any preferential treatment because it would contribute to poor morale among his teammates in the long-run.

  15. I love this thread!
    Keep it going peeps, keep it effin going

  16. Then he shouldn’t be picked. What if there is a game on that day? Steups, pick someone else

  17. Actually, if the 5 starters became SDAs (as stated in the scenario above) and are committed to the teachings of the church, they would stay out of a Saturday game regardless of if it was the World Cup Final.

  18. Utter BS & this religion nonsense. Imagine if 5 players (starters) from Chelsea or Man City etc become 7th Day Adventist; they all will sit on games on Saturdays? What if they reach the Champions League Finals; they gonna sit out too? Ultra BS yes

  19. Respect the guy and his beliefs. Let God’s will be done.

  20. Keep the faith brother.God will pull you through

  21. Seen Carlos edwards brother who was as good or better dictated to by his dumb ass father because of church guess what he’s nothing more close to vagrancy… guess that’s what God wanted…..WHEW

  22. Give the man his time off, better for god than to go boatride and drink rum like the usual

  23. We’re at the end of this WC campaign, but generally a player doesn’t have to play every match. So for the future… from a football perspective, maybe an evaluation can be done to determine what percentage of these matches are actually played during the sabbath to know if this is a situation that cannot be worked around.
    Cause if it’s generally Friday and Tuesday, then you’re available for 50% of the matches. And if you’re valuable enough, that may be a percentage a coach is willing to work with.

  24. The issue is the player’s availability for important Saturday practice sessions to prepare for a Sunday game, and his availability for any game on a Saturday, both of which are paramount in building a team. If each player gets there respective religious day off, we go back to fete match football, and we not far from that in some respects.

    But as a Coach you need all players always available, with few emergency exceptions.

    National football is not an easy road, and all participants must always be rowing in the same direction, nobody has special days off,

  25. Again nobody is against his stance or religion, we are discussing football

  26. I commend him for his stance though and nothing is wrong with his choice. No disrespect.

  27. Let God’s will be done Bro.

  28. The Sabbath is not the issue, the player’s availability is.

  29. Ms hazel saturday is d sabbath.The first day of d week is sunday so the seventh day is saturday it is in yuh bible; sunday is ah man made not God’s Day!!

  30. Sunday is the Sabbath for Christians. I don’t see them banning Sunday football

  31. Per Soca Warriors Facebook, UPDATE: Keron Clarke did not receive his passport as stated. SWO got the message from FC Santa Rosa’s head coach Keith Look Loy and relayed it. We would like to apologise for misleading our readers. TTFA Media (Shaun Fuentes) said that on Monday the TTFA will approach the passport office with further attempts to get Clarke’s passport in time for the Ecuador trip.~ Facebook 40 minutes ago

    Not me and allyuh TnT baccahnal nah

  32. I must say i admire Clarke’s belief in his faith God’s Blessings brother!!

  33. Can anyone recall a National Player who could not play or train on a certain day fro religious reasons making the team?

  34. If it isn’t one thing is the next yes.
    I’ll wait and see if this can’t-play-on-a-Saturday thing EVER becomes an issue…I’m guessing it won’t ever

  35. Am always curious why God would give one large abilities and then limit one to a small stage..Reminds me of a coach who wanted to work on us on an outreach track and field program which we carried out on Saturdays though he was an Adventist..He accused us of bias, prejudice, injustice. We pointed out to him that the modern industrial based society demanded major.mass based sporting and cultural activity be done on week ends..Guess that is why to some of us the ways of religion remain something of a mystery.

  36. Take it to God in prayer Keron Clarke. And your God through your religious beliefs will guide you accordingly. But this very interesting.

  37. I am sure that whatever God he serves…..God will definitely understand……
    God put the ability in him in the first place…

  38. Nothing new here. Players like Argentine goalkeeper Carlos Roa had the same issue. Sherron Manswell was at the MLS combine years ago, but there’s no way he could have been selected because of his religious beliefs. The players concerned are aware of the limitations, so it is what it is.

    • Carlos Roa: “In 1999, I decided to devote myself to religion. The reaction I met everywhere was one of incomprehension. As a follower of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, I’d always taken my responsibilities as a Christian very seriously. For example I never ate meat – which is how I got the nickname Lechuga. My wife and I had always been heavily into meditation, and we both understood that it was time to embrace a deeper level of devotion.
      I spent a year in a countryside retreat, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, doing a lot of reading and learning how to live a better, more meaningful life. Because it’s such a personal thing, only those very close to you can fully understand the meaning behind the decision.
      It was based on that same kind of reflection and meditation that I decided to return to play for Mallorca a year later… with just one condition; that I wouldn’t have to play on Saturdays, instead observing the day of rest, as taught by my church.”

      Read more at https://www.fourfourtwo.com/features/carlos-roa-what-happened-next#l8FXcoX3g42HzXkJ.99

  39. Tahiti missed out on 2 Beach soccer world cups, where their Captain couldn’t /wouldn’t play due to the fact that the world cup finals fell on his sabbath. Now I could understand any player’s religious belief but I’m sorry I just can’t choose a player that’s not totally committed when/if called upon. #justmyopinion

  40. Nobody has disrespected the man’s decision

  41. Let us all respect the man decision he was living long before he got selected on the national team

  42. It is written that Man cannot live by ball (sorry bread) alone

  43. It won’t last, why depend on a Sunday striker, I agree with his religious stand. But if I choose a player and cannot depend on him to train and play on every given day. I will drop him on the basis that he missed important practice sessions

  44. Coach had a look at all the super league teams?

  45. Unless he is that good the coach would be happy to use him when he can… Suppose Lawrence dropped him and the boy wins a suit for discrimination on religious grounds. 🙂
    He earned his pick against Ecuador from all accounts though. And Lawrence might still hope to convince him to play on the Sabbath in time for Honduras game.

  46. So if the national team has a game on Saturday then he won’t be available. Does it make sense to pick him then ?

  47. Well he won’t be playing, the religion of football supercedes all.

  48. Earl Best

    Hmmmm…. A Trinidadian who publicly stands up for what he believes in? But what this country coming to?