Introducing ‘Bubba’ and ‘Papa’.
The combination of nicknames might sound like the makings of a sitcom or a witty cartoon show. But last night in Cantaro Village in Santa Cruz, the two young men with those nicknames strained their last sinew to ensure that home team Cantaro United got a tight 3-2 win over Trendsetter Hawks in the Next Level Consultant Ltd (NLCL) Under-19 Community Cup.
Bubba, real name Nathaniel Perouse, is no stranger to this publication, having starred for San Juan North Secondary and Naparima College in the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) on his way to both Intercol and League titles.
Last night, though, with a beautifully placed first-half free kick and a dramatic late penalty, Bubba served as the driving force behind coach Stephan David’s team as they saw off a plucky Trendsetter outfit, who suffered a second straight loss at the start of the youth tournament.
If Bubba was the engineer and architect in the Cantaro midfield, then heavyset goalkeeper, Papa, was both the entertainer and the rising cult hero rolled into one. Christened Stephon Langaigne, the Cantaro keeper’s every save, dive, parry or catch drew loud cheers of ‘Papa’ and ‘Well done, Papa’ from the smattering of Cantaro supporters and staff members present.
Perhaps many years ago, before his rise to superstar status, the Prince of Port-of-Spain himself, Brian Charles Lara, once had scores of persons cheering for him at that very recreation ground.
Still some way for Papa to travel to earn princely status but seeing him in action warranted the price of admission.
In the 17th minute, despite a valiant dive, Langaigne was beaten low to his right by a Janari Villafana penalty. Just past the half-hour mark, he also had to pick the ball out of his net when Mikai Rochard bundled it in from close range—after the Cantaro goalie failed on the second attempt to hold on to a deep Anthony Samuel free kick.
Thereafter, though, it was the Papa show. And the big keeper was determined not to be beaten again, producing a couple of smart second-half saves off Trendsetter free kicks.
Just maybe, hearing the chants of ‘Papa, Papa’ spurred him on. And in the 63rd minute, after successfully dealing with a tricky Darion Marfan set piece and avoiding any potential spillage, Langaigne lay down in his penalty area and soaked up all the adulation.
After the encounter, both David and Trendsetter assistant Anthony Harrington pointed out that the teams had had just one week to prepare for the tournament. And, in all honesty, the rust was there for all to see.
Perouse aside, both sets of players struggled to really get the ball down and make consistently accurate forward passes. But to be fair, having had hard taskmasters like Jerry Moe and current Soca Warriors coach Angus Eve bellowing instructions at him in the past, the now 21 year-old Perouse can be expected to be a cut above the rest in this NLCL Community Cup.
(The NLCL Community Cup allows each team to register three under-21 players and to have two on the field at any given time.)
“[Perouse] means a lot because some of the younger guys they look up to him because he played in the SSFL and Republic Cup and he was the leader for us out there,” said David, a former midfield hard-man for Caledonia AIA and the Trinidad and Tobago National Youth Team. “He was calming it in the middle.”
“This tournament means a lot to us because it helps to bring out the youths,” he added. “Anything to help bring out the youths, whether it be cricket or football, is something to be endorsed.”
Harrington, too, touched on the importance of tournaments such as these as they help to keep the youth off the ‘block’. He expressed the view that more should be done to have more matches within the communities as opposed to the overworked stadia.
“I feel if we push these [tournaments] over and over, I think we’ll get the standard of the football to rise to a certain level,” said Harrington. “[…] I’d like to say, if we could get these tournaments to play in the communities instead of always rushing to the Ato Boldon Stadium and other stadia, I think more people will come out to support this.”
Known for their rich and vibrant tradition in youth football, Trendsetter, Harrington says, shouldn’t be written off just yet, despite the early Community Cup losses to Soccer Made Simple and now Cantaro.
With eight match days still to go in Group A, comprising North and East Zone teams, Trendsetter do indeed have time to turn things around.
The road ahead may be somewhat tricky to navigate, though.
Led by their head coach Afiyah Matthias, Trendsetter were winners of the Republic Bank Youth League (RBYL) Under-17 tournament back in June 2019. Some three years on—and after the not-so-small matter of the Covid-19 pandemic which now forms part of the daily fabric of T&T life—Matthias’ current Under-19 team is hardly recognisable as that Under-17 team from a few years ago.
The impressive trio of Emmanuel Thomas, Kaihim Thomas and then captain Daniel ‘Fingers’ David are currently suiting up with the high-flying Terminix La Horquetta Rangers in the Ascension Invitational Tournament. Harrington indicated that the youngsters made the best moves for their respective futures.
“They stayed focused to do what they have to do and sometimes they come in between to support these guys,” he noted. “Even Ataullah Guerra comes on a Saturday sometimes to give us help with the juniors.”
The silky-smooth ‘Fingers’ in the middle of the park and the no-nonsense Emmanuel Thomas at wing-back would have helped Trendsetter’s cause last night as they tried to contain ‘Bubba’ and a lively Jaydon Charles up top.
Twice on the night, the diminutive and nippy Charles showed Trendsetter goalie Jaheim Prescott a clean pair of heels as he easily rounded him, leaving the custodian grasping at the Cantaro grass.
On the first occasion, Charles slotted into an empty net to give Cantaro the lead in the 28th minute. On the second occasion, though, when missing looked a more difficult task, Charles fired agonisingly wide.
The game was locked at 2-2 with a mere three minutes left in regulation time.
“Aye, that really have to be your brother, boy,” one overly eager Cantaro fan teased the spectator beside him, the pair having scant regard for the social distancing protocols.
Both Charles and the fans would soon be celebrating, though, as the final few moments of this NLCL Community Cup clash were dominated by ‘Bubba’.
In the 89th minute, the former Naps midfielder charged at right-back Villafana and dispossessed him in front of Matthias and the Trendsetter bench. He then stormed into the penalty area only to be unceremoniously chopped down by a defender. Unhesitatingly, referee Gregory Guevara signalled for a penalty.
There was no doubt about who should take responsibility for the kick from the spot as the chant from the Cantaro bench made clear.
“Bubba, Bubba, that’s yours, eh!”
With the weight of the excited fans at the Brian Lara Recreation Ground in Cantaro on his shoulders, King Bubba—not to be confused with the Bajan soca artiste—showed he was the coolest man in Santa Cruz. He arrowed a low, right-footed shot past Prescott into the back of the onion bag to secure the three points for Cantaro United.
“I tell you that, boy,” yelled the overly eager fan, charging on to the field to show his appreciation for Bubba, Papa and the rest of the Cantaro players, “I tell you that!”
To be clear, Cantaro have not yet lifted the NLCL Community Cup. But they look ready to unveil some new cult figures for the wider Trinidad and Tobago football community.
Cantaro United (4-4-2): 00.Stephon Langaigne (GK), 4.Kareem Pope, 2.Jeremiah Kennedy, 8.Keishaugn Pridar-Williams, 5.Atiba O’Brien (14.Christian Browne 50); 9.Quincy Eustache, 10. Nathaniel Perouse, 13.Yohan Perouse, 16.Jahdell Alexander; 7.Jaydon Charles, 19.Dimitri Rayside (23.Darnell Crosby 65).
Unused substitutes: 21.Denelson Kennedy, Samuel Forgenie, Sherwin John, Jeremy Seaton.
Coach: Stephan David
Trendsetter Hawks (4-2-3-1): 1.Jaheim Prescott (GK); 3.Janari Villafana, 4.Mikai Rochard, 8.Andrew Charles, 9.Malachi Hazel; 6.Jonathan Robinson, 13.Jaheim Bruce (20.Akido Weekes 78); 12.Nyrek Thornhill, 17.Anthony Samuel, 11.Jervaughn Drakes (15.Terrel Gibson 68); 7.Ronaldo Rogers (10.Darion Marfan 60).
Unused substitutes: 5.Zakari King.
Coach: Afiyah Matthias
Referee: Gregory Guevara
NLCL Under-19 Community Cup
(Thursday 28 April)
Cantaro United 3 (Nathaniel Perouse 13, 89, Jaydon Charles 28), Trendsetter Hawks 2 (Janari Villafana 17, Mikai Rochard 33) at the Brian Lara Recreational Ground, Santa Cruz.
Soccer Made Simple 3, Creek S&CC 0 at Montague Ground, Trincity;
Malabar Young Stars 6, AC Port of Spain 0 at Montague Ground, Trincity;
Pitchmen FC 1, Pt Fortin Youth Academy 1 at Techier Recreational Ground;
Moruga FC 2, Cunupia FC 1 at Grand Chemin Recreation Ground;
Cox Football Academy 0, Gasparillo Youths 2 at Beach Camp, Palo Seco.