Former Central FC and San Juan Jabloteh attacker Jason ‘Nelly’ Marcano was roughly five minutes from his home when he lost control of his car and crashed into a wall near 4Js Electrical and Plumbing Supplies in D’Abadie.
A police source who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed that the 38-year-old Marcano, a married father of one, was alone at the time of the fatal accident, which occurred at roughly 2.40am on Indian Arrival Day. Officers suspect he fell asleep at the wheel of his beige Tiana car.
Marcano, who hails from Sherwood Park in Arima, is one of the Pro League’s all-time best players. He lifted a remarkable five league titles—two with San Juan Jabloteh and three with Central FC—to go with a trunk full of cup trophies while he is the ninth highest Pro League scorer ever with 66 goals, despite playing as a winger for much of his career.
Coaches, administrators and teammates have paid homage to the talented, tenacious player while his half-brother Elton John, who now plays professionally in Canada with HFX Wanderers, praised his strength of character after growing up in poverty in the ‘Congo’.
“His story runs way deeper than anyone could imagine,” John told Wired868. “This is a guy who grew up in an environment where I have seen so many of our friends and family just give up their belief and stop fighting to achieve.
“But despite all the negativity, he stood strong. People always asked me why ‘Nelly’ gets on like this; and I would always say try growing up with everyone against you, when you’re always in defensive mode.
“[…] He was different and unique in every way. There is no replacement for him.”
Central head coach and Trinidad and Tobago’s record senior international goal scorer Stern John said Marcano was one of the best players to grace the Pro League.
“Once you were coming up against Nelly you know you had a tough game,” said John. “He was strong and such an unorthodox player and he would keep fighting, no matter what. He was a battler and always wanted to win.
“When you speak to Pro League players, they would say he was the most difficult guy to come up against.”
Former England World Cup defender Terry Fenwick, who coached Marcano at Jabloteh and Central, urged the Pro League to hold a benefit match in honour of the late player.
“He had loads of talent; he was a bag of tricks and quite difficult to play within a team structure,” said Fenwick. “He didn’t want to beat a player once, he wanted to beat him two or three times. But he was bright enough to adjust and be able to use his ability within a team structure.
“A lot of players found it difficult to do that; but he was good enough to marry his abilities into a structured way of playing. He has been a great footballer for the Pro League.”
Marcano made 12 senior international caps for the Soca Warriors. His last outing in red, white and black kit was in Lima on 26 March 2013—under then co-head coaches Hutson Charles and Jamaal Shabazz—as Trinidad and Tobago lost 3-0 in a friendly to Peru.
Marcano shared the field with household football names like Kenwyne Jones, Cornell Glen, Chris Birchall, Densill Theobald and Joevin Jones on that day.
Arguably, Marcano’s fame did not extend to the armchair football fans as he never played abroad or represented Trinidad and Tobago in a major competitive match. However, his unorthodox yet highly effective dribbling ability, irrepressible nature and inimitable high-pitched voice made him unforgettable for those who followed the domestic game.
“When you talk about a model professional player, he is one,” said former Central FC coach and Trinidad and Tobago international Dale Saunders. “Most of my top players called my phone this morning and left voice notes; most were crying. Trinidad and Tobago has lost a top, top player.
“[…] He was a real, real influential player—someone who could make something happen on the spur of the minute. He was real special for me and it is a loss for Trinidad and Tobago football.”