by Michael Findlay
One of St Vincent and the Grenadines’ finest footballers, Rudolph “Rudy” Boucher died in the early hours of September 13 at the South Shore University Hospital at Northwell Health in Bay Shore, Long Island, New York. He was 76.
He was also a former National Men’s Table Tennis Champion after winning the Championship in 1967, and played cricket and football at Primary School.
There was a Memorial Service for him in New York last Friday, September 23 and he will be buried in his native, St Vincent and the Grenadines on a date to be finalised.
“Rudy” Boucher played as an attacking midfielder for Notre Dame in the then 1st Division of the National Football Championships, and for St Vincent and the Grenadines in the Annual Windward Islands Popham Tournament which the country had the distinction of winning on several occasions including on two consecutive years in 1965 and 1966. His inspirational talent played a major role in Club and Country winning many of those Titles.
There are no statistics available to confirm the numbers of goals that Rudy scored or created for either Notre Dame or St Vincent and the Grenadines.
His career spanned 14 years from 1963 when he joined Notre Dame as a teenager, to 1977. He was captain of the National team between 1972 and 1976, and coached the team for four years in 1977, 1978, 1979 and 1980. It was during those years that the standard of football in St Vincent and the Grenadines blossomed and reached its peak in 1979, culminating with that famous achievement when the team emerged as runners-up of the second edition of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Championship.
1979 was the most successful year for the Boucher-coached team. In the second round of the CFU Championship, St Vincent and the Grenadines qualified for the final stage by playing to a 2-2 draw against Martinique in Martinique, then beating Martinique 1-0 in the return match at the Arnos Vale Sports Complex here to reach the final stage of the Tournament played in Paramaribo, Suriname.
There they defeated Suriname 3-2 on November 12, were beaten 2-1 by Haiti on November 14, and beat power-house, Trinidad and Tobago 2-1 on 17th November to finish runners-up behind Haiti.
Haiti played unbeaten to win the Championship with 6 points from 3 matches after scoring 4 goals with 1 against for a +3 goal difference.
St Vincent and the Grenadines, a virtually unknown Caribbean Football Nation at the time emerged runners-up on 4 points. They won two of their three matches, scored six goals, had five scored against them and finished with a goal difference of +1.
Suriname was third with 2 points, and Trinidad and Tobago fourth having failed to win a match.
It was then, and still is the biggest achievement in the history of football in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Undoubtedly, coach, “Rudy” Boucher must have had a big influence on the players. He was the most experienced member of the entire squad, and did not have the benefit of a big coaching staff as is the norm in modern day football. He had to depend on the support of Captain, Elliott “Morie” Millington; Trainer, Rudolph Mayers; Manager, Sylvester “Scobie” Taylor, a former national forward; and Assistant Manager, Basil “Bung” Cato who played Club football for Eagles.
Boucher, who left St Vincent and the Grenadines for New York in 1980, took over as Coach of Team SVG in the Brooklyn-based, Caribbean Soccer Cup.
The many accolades and awards that Boucher has received from several organisations at home and in the United States are testimony to the significant contribution he made to the development of football in St Vincent and the Grenadines and in the US diaspora.
In his lifetime, “Rudy” Boucher has been honoured by the St Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation (2009); presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the St Vincent and the Grenadines VincyCares Diaspora Heritage of Brooklyn, New York (2014); and the Breakaway Masters Football Organisation of St Vincent and the Grenadines (2019).
He accepted those Awards with great humility and appreciation, but in the lyrics of Vincentian calypsonian, Mystic Prowler (Roy Lewis), who won the Calypso Monarch Title in Trinidad and Tobago in 1998 with his calypso “Look Beneath the Surface”, any researcher on the life of Rudolph “Rudy” Boucher will have to dig deep below the surface to unearth the measure of the man, and to discover the wealth of his football talent.
Boucher played at a time when there was no future in the sport for any young man playing football in St Vincent and the Grenadines and by extension in the Windward Islands, and the wider Caribbean region. There were no CFU Championships, no CONCACAF FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, nor any exposure to talent scouts from international football clubs. The best a footballer from these small islands could have hoped for was to be selected to a Windward Islands Football team for a rare friendly match against Martinique, or at a lower level, to play for the National Team in a friendly against a visiting British Naval Ship or a visiting club team from Trinidad and Tobago such as Maples with some of the best footballers in the twin-island Republic.
There was no meaningful football development programme. That was restricted to the annual 1st and 2nd Division Championships which were organised between June and December at Victoria Park, and were limited to eight or nine clubs mainly from the Kingstown area. Few of the Clubs had any formal structure and many of them centered around a few leading players from a particular area, with the captain being the chief architect of their establishment, development and progress.
Mostly the players were mainly responsible for their own physical training and development with the captain coordinating those aspects of the game at the club level during practice sessions. No Technical Director existed, and there was very little sponsorship so that members had to pay subscriptions each season to meet the cost of registration and uniforms.
Those players who reached the top of local football did so based primarily on their love for football and their commitment to the sport. There was not even a proper Playing Field in the country. The main field, Victoria Park where every sports and big social event such as Carnival was held, was an apology for a field. The upper half was level but there was a steep decline at the bottom half. It was the joke of many visiting football teams. They would return home and tell their friends that the incline was so steep that the team defending the bottom goal could not see when the opposing team was on the attack, so that a member of the club had to be stationed at the half line to shout to the team that play was coming their way.
It was against such a background that Rudolph “Rudy” Boucher emerged and made his mark on Football at Club and National levels. It was not surprising that he developed into a very skilled player because he was born and grew-up in the area near to Victoria Park, the country’s main Playing Field at the time which meant that he was at the field morning, noon and night practicing his skills.
The great pity is that there are no videos available of football matches in those times to show how very skillful Boucher and others of his time were, and it is indeed sad that because of this, his talent and high skills are lost on the current generation of the country’s top footballers.
Boucher in particular mastered every skill that there is in the sport. He possessed excellent ball-control. He dribbled very well, and his shots to goal were almost always good and away from the goalkeeper and to think that he would not have seen many international matches which are now commonplace on television in any home or on YouTube.
There are no statistics available to show “Rudy” Boucher’s accuracy at scoring or the impact that his scoring or lack of it had on domestic and regional football. But to have seen him play in his hey-day was like watching a modern-day football match involving the world’s best players in any of the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, Italy’s Serie A, the German Bundesliga or any of the other top football Leagues in the World.
Boucher’s critics would say that he was not as disciplined as he should have been, and that he allowed his sharp temper to get the better of him. That is an unfortunate trait with many of the top sportsmen of today. They are geniuses and their angry reactions to situations are normally their way of expressing disgust at their own errors and shortcomings.
In the context of football in St Vincent and the Grenadines, Rudolph “Rudy” Boucher was a genius. He was a player ahead of his time, who, given the right professional coaching and management in his youth, could have been rated alongside any of the greats in the world.