From the ghetto to the cold

LIFE IN Scotland is surely a marked difference from life at Nelson Street, Port-of-Spain for Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Densil Theobald.

Theobald recently took up an 18-month contract with Falkirk, a club in the Scottish Premier League, who has, amongst its personnel, Russell Latapy, who serves as a player/coach.

In fact, it was Latapy who recommended Theobald for a trial stint last September.

When Latapy returned to the national squad for the Concacaf World Cup Final Round qualifier against Guatemala earlier that month, he was so impressed with Theobald’s overall game that he invited the 23-year-old for the trials.

The Falkirk’s management were also pleased with what they saw and, during the recent transfer market (for European clubs), added Theobald to their ranks.

While the debate remains about the number of overseas-based players in the national football team, one must be happy for Theobald to parade his skills to a wider audience, in light of the trials and tribulations he has faced in his life.

Born to Delano and Jasmine Theobald on June 27, 1982, Densil and his two brothers were raised on Nelson Street, an area he easily refers to as the ghetto.

"I (grew) up from the ghetto, hard times (and) negativity surrounded me and I was able to turn that into positives," he noted.

"It was not everyday that we had something to eat. (It was a) struggle to get clothes on our backs, we even had to wear clothes for days, wash it over and stuff.

"It was a rough time going up but that helped me to be who I am today," he continued. "I’m very proud to say that. It has helped me to keep working hard, realising not to take life for granted and to cherish everything (that) you have in life, most importantly.

"I was fortunate enough to be blessed with a talent from God and I used that talent to help me where I am today," Theobald added.

Nelson Street, like the neighbouring East Dry River and John John areas, are known as crime havens, and Theobald was exposed to an environment of drugs, guns, crime and dysfunctional families. But, with the guidance of his parents, he never followed that path and, instead, decided to venture into the world of football.

"I was taken from a young age into Jean Lillywhite Coaching School," he related. "He brought me in, taught me the basics and from there I moved on to Malick and, from Malick, I went on to the national Under-17 team before I moved on to Canada."

In Canada, he played semi-professionally for Toronto Olympians from 2000-2001 before returning home, and almost giving up the game for good, following the death of his mother. However, Theobald got back into the groove and represented the national Under-23 team before advancing into the senior squad.

Despite a brief stint with Joe Public, Theobald was a first-choice player with Caledonia AIA/Fire in the T&T Pro League, and he is eternally grateful for the opportunities they gave him as a player.

"I believe I enjoyed my best times playing with Caledonia under Jamaal Shabazz," said Theobald. "I owe him so much and, to me, he has been a father figure. Thanks to Caledonia, I have been producing for them, bringing home the results now and then. I always see myself as a Caledonia (member)."

Shabazz, as well as coaches Bertille St Clair and Leo Beenhakker, were considered by Theobald as the ones who have been instrumental with his growth as a player.

Even though there were constant chopping and changes in the national squad, and even the coaches themselves, St Clair, and later Beenhakker, persisted with Theobald throughout TT’s successful World Cup campaign (from the first game at Dominican Republic on June 13, 2004 to the final match in Bahrain on November 16, 2005).

Concerning his mentors in the game, he was high in praise of close friend Kerwyn "Hardest" Jemmott and national captain Dwight Yorke "for his hard work, on and off the field.

"Internationally, I admire Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldinho, fantastic players. You can learn a lot from them, how they read the game and how they play the game, with their (heads).

However, according to Theobald, he left the best for last - Latapy.

"Tremendous ability," noted Theobald, "sometimes I wish I could have his style and play like him, but everyone have their own character, own personality. But I learnt a lot from them."

As far as his overall demeanour, he describes himself as somewhat moody. "I guess it comes from where I (grew up), which is in the ghetto, where there (are) so much hard times.

He continued, "I see myself trying to be somebody and wanting to be somebody. That helps me develop as a person and as a player, on and off the field.

"I’ll say Densil is, more or less, a cool person, always talkative, somebody who you can always understand and reason with, (a) very interesting person to know," Theobald ended.


"From the ghetto to the cold"

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