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“His choice of passes was one of the best I’ve seen!” Remembering the ‘pass-master’ Sedley Joseph

“I never saw Sedley [Joseph] in the middle of a problem as a player, and as manager he was even better…”

“Sometimes a player might make an accurate pass but it wasn’t the best one—he would always see the best pass…”

“Captain Sedley was the epitome of the essential gentleman: noble in his endeavours, generous with his time and himself, upright and frighteningly upstanding…”

“I don’t know that football is producing men of his quality any more…”

Trinidad and Tobago Sport Hall of Fame inductee and former Men’s National Senior Team captain Sedley Joseph passed away on Monday 8 June 2020 at the age of 80, after ailing for some time with his kidneys.

Photo: Iconic Trinidad and Tobago football midfielder Sedley Joseph and his wife, Janet, at the Germany 2006 World, as they get ready to watch the Soca Warriors face England in Nuremberg on 15 June 2006.

Wired868 pays tribute to his legacy in the local game with help from his former national and club teammate and fellow Hall of Fame inductee, Alvin Corneal, former Referees Department head Wayne Caesar, Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) president Keith Look Loy and former Trinidad and Tobago football captain David Nakhid:

Alvin Corneal, former National Senior Team and Maple star and Sport Hall of Fame inductee:

It is well known that Sedley was an excellent captain, and he captained from a very early age as well—from about two years into his time with the national team [while still in his mid-20s]. He played in central midfield and he was an excellent distributor of the ball and read the game very well.

He was also able to think out his teammates’ game for them while he played and he was excellent at changing the flow of a match. He always knew when to speed it up and when to slow it down. He didn’t shout at you, so you didn’t shout at him and he got excellent results. He was the captain of the team when we beat Argentina and Colombia and tied Mexico in the 1967 Pan Am Games.

Of course he was the captain of the Maple team too and we both played there; and I was in the national team before he came into it and we retired together in 1969. When I became national coach, Sedley was my manager and his organisation was outstanding. When he told you ‘don’t leave the hotel’, he meant it. People listened. I never saw Sedley in the middle of a problem as a player, and as manager he was even better.

He did commentary with me for the first time at the 1994 World Cup in the United States and then that was something else we did together ever since, and another thing he did really well. Our last time doing commentary was in the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL), about a year and a half ago.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Hall of Fame footballer Sedley Joseph.

It is clear to me that he inspired a lot of people in the game of football. Even with the teams we played against, after the game you would always see their players come and talk to him and show him that respect.

It was not that he was the type of player who would catch the eye with tricks on the ball—but his choice of passes was one of the best I have seen. Carlton Franco was the only other local player I have ever seen who could do that.

Sedley could shoot the ball too when he got the chance and I remember him scoring from 30 yards against Suriname and getting another one against martinique. But he was mainly a distributor. And he was as good at that as we have ever had.

Wayne Caesar, former Referees Department head and midfielder for Southern FA team, Lanes:

I never had any real personal interaction with Sedley but I remember growing up as a young fellah, I would go up to the Queen’s Park Savannah to watch him play in the days of Malvern, Maple, Colts and Shamrock. I went to Woodbrook Secondary at the time, so it was just to walk up Maraval Road and then into the Savannah.

I was a Maple man! At the time, it seemed like the whole of Trinidad and Tobago was behind Malvern and I guess I didn’t like to follow the favourites. There was something about Maple’s style of play that I always liked.

To be honest, I loved Andy Aleong—he was my favourite. Corneal used to score the goals but Aleong was the creator. But even as a young fellah who didn’t have the same football knowledge I do now, you had to notice Sedley and you knew that there was something different about him.

Photo: Maple midfield stand-out and captain Sedley Joseph (left).

As a player, he was always so laid-back. He wasn’t the twinkle toes-type of player—but he was always very constructive in the midfield. He was more of a sitting midfielder, like a [Claude] Makelele, while the Aleongs and Corneal would do the attacking. But he was very meticulous and he hardly ever seemed to make a mistake.

And then there was his vision of a pass. Sometimes a player might make an accurate pass but it wasn’t the best one—he would always see the best pass. As I got older, I had a better appreciation for him and what he brought to the team. He was a great player.

Keith Look Loy, TTSL president and former St Mary’s College and National Youth Team player:

Sedley Joseph was an early hero of mine. He captained CIC and Trinidad and Tobago, which was my aspiration. Moreover, he was a technician, which I also considered myself to be. And he was a gentleman—on and off the field.

His role as a football broadcaster is legendary, and his knowledge of the game. I don’t  know that football is producing men of his quality any more. He will be missed.

David Nakhid, former National Senior Team and St Mary’s College captain and Caribbean MVP:

I am filled with extreme remorse at the passing of ‘Captain’ Sedley Joseph. My remorse is extreme as he had passed over my thoughts more than three times in the last week and I did not call him. May Almighty God forgive me and reward him for my negligence.

Captain Sedley, fondly referred to as ‘Skipper’, was one of my earliest mentors, and certainly the first to have played the midfield position for the national team. Our first encounters would be playing against him as he captained the BWIA Graduates team, which was no fete match side by any stretch of the imagination. They boasted the likes of Tyrone De La Bastide, Bobby Sookram, Gordon Husbands, Andy and Eddie Aleong (my personal favourite), Ellis Sadaphal and Trinidad and Tobago’s own Rivelino, Alvin Corneal.

Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago football captain Sedley Joseph was awarded the Hummingbird Medal Gold at the National Awards in 2005.

Our St Mary’s College coach, Bugs Mendes, would organise our 1st eleven to play against these legends of the game, assuring us that the benefits for our development would be immense. For the 16-year-old David Nakhid, more accustomed to the rough and tumble of the Eddie Hart Men’s League than the refinement of football at CIC, it was all noise. Cocky as ever, I looked over the other side of the perfectly grassed St Mary’s Grounds unimpressed by the older but not unfit group of players in front of me. I was laughing in my mind already.

For the first 15 minutes, I didn’t pass a single ball—dribbling two, three, four players at a time, trying to impress any and everybody who happened to be there. And when I inevitably lost the ball, not only did I have the angry looks of Barry Henderson, Dexter Skeene, Duane Gonzalez and Troy Regis to deal with, I had to literally watch on as this team of obviously high technical quality passed the ball with one and two touches each, on their way to scoring five goals in 20 minutes.

My Santos competitiveness would never let me accept the hammering we were getting and I was shouting at my teammates to do this and do that to no avail. I felt absolutely helpless. Then Sedley stepped in. With natural authority, he told the referee to stop the game and everybody froze. He looked straight at me and said in a firm but not belittling tone: ‘young man, you will get this  team to play once you begin playing the right way’. And that was that! A lesson in two seconds that I took into my university and professional career.

We became friends as I would often visit him at his Valsayn house, together with Skeene. Even when I became a professional, I would still go to hear his advice, memories and anecdotes about the beautiful game. Captain Sedley, along with Alvin Henderson, were the protagonists who boldly told Jack Warner that it was time to lift the blacklist that stopped me from playing for the national team in 1992.

Photo: Iconic late Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Sedley Joseph.

After a one-off game against Jamaica, it would take Jack Warner another two years to allow me back into the national team at age 29.

I went to see Sedley after my MVP win at the Caribbean Cup finals in 1994 to thank him for all his advice and lobbying on my behalf over the years, and I was taken aback at how much he knew about my success in Europe and how closely he followed my career. He even encouraged me to keep learning the game in every possible way. He was truly happy that Trinidad and Tobago had finally seen what he thought was possible in the cocky, precocious 16-year-old boy, all those years ago.

I lost contact with the great man over the last decade as I sought to establish my academy in Europe, but I would enquire about him from mutual friends and smile with tremendous melancholy when reminded of Captain Sedley’s first life lesson to me.

Captain Sedley was the epitome of the essential gentleman: noble in his endeavours, generous with his time and himself, upright and frighteningly upstanding. Big, huge shoes to fill for any wanna-be captain. I wanted to be like him, I dared for a touch of his greatness. I remain heartened by his words to my father, as he collected the National Player of the Year award from Captain Sedley on my behalf in 1996.

“You have no idea, Mr Nakhid, how proud I am of the person and player David has become.”

No Captain Sedley, you have no idea how lucky I was to know you, to play on the same field with you—to be able to learn from you, not only about the intricacies of midfield play but, more importantly, how to be an effective leader of men. I pray that I continue to make you proud as you look on from above, on a nation that has suffered an unfathomable loss and a 16-year-old forever grateful.

Adieu Skipper, adieu!

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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