Valentino Singh’s second biography of Austin Jack Warner was written to commemorate a historic moment in the annals of the tiny twin island republic of Trinidad and Tobago. The qualification of our football team, fondly known as the Soca Warriors to the World Cup 2006 warrants a definite place in our history. It is also inextricably linked to the fortunes of the one man who more than any other personality in the history of the game in this country facilitated what some believe to be the Republic’s finest hour. It united the nation and ignited a spontaneous outpouring of national pride and achievement in all Trindadians and Tobagonians at home and in the diaspora. To rise to such heights in the beautiful game was a dream now fully realized.
Zero to Hero comes eight years after Upward Through The Night (1998) a biography written by the same author, and which detailed the vicissitudes of Austin Jack Warner, one of Trinidad and Tobago’s most accomplished sons. This book centres on the now historic circumstances that led to fame and unfulfilled glory for the Strike Squad, the team that campaigned for World Cup 1990. This recent offering, Zero to Hero presents a similar approach to a happier tale of journey and quest strung together in a socio-historical narrative. Singh has repackaged and reconfigured the material from the earlier work using it for a substantial part of the content of this book.
In fact, Zero to Hero is a metaphor for the life and achievements of Austin Jack Warner, who came out of a stereotypical background, possessing the all too familiar qualifications of being poor, black and countrified but rising to conquer his island, the region and the world. It is no wonder that Warner describes his country’s place in the finals of the football’s most stellar occasion as ‘happier than my wedding day’. There are those obvious similarities between man
and country respectively in diminutive size and stature but with the ability to defy all the odds. Who expects a Warner to interact with world figures at the most significant levels of sport, business and politics? Who expects one of the tiniest nations to qualify for football supremacy? The team, like the man triumphed over insurmountable circumstances. In the tradition of the classic quest there are villains and godfathers; obstacle courses and elevators throughout in the many years that led up to this victory and moment in time.
The content of Zero to Hero therefore possesses all those qualities which ought to ensure successful story telling. The author does not choose to dwell unduly on character delineation. This is not a psychobiography; there are no sensational forays into the secret life of the man. Warner, his family and personal life remain sacrosanct. The book employs the standard plot and situations in a mix of fact and opinion. This is Singh’s métier since he is a prizewinning sport journalist/ author who is most comfortable leading the reader through the
archives of football sporting history from which he quotes liberally. This journalistic trait produces the immediacy and spontaneity requisite for media hype and sensation, a staple of modern sport writing and to which Warner, the protagonist has copiously contributed. Singh’s technique also supports a stream-of- consciousness method interspersed with letters to the editor; anecdotes from friends and family. Zero to Hero is the narrative medium which provides details for those readers and football fans desirous of possessing important facts and figures at the minutest level of the game close to heart and to hand.
Ultimately, Zero to Hero is a tale to be told to the disadvantaged underclass of this world. It is a fitting testament to Warner who was trained and certified professionally in the humanities and who honed his skills for many years in the classroom. The book is also a study of the transfer of skills, knowledge and abilities from the vocation of teaching to the craft of football administration and also the adversarial cut and thrust of politics. Warner has debunked the critics’ snide remark that those who can’t, teach by his ascendancy to one of the highest offices in the world.
The book is dedicated to the memory of his mother Stella, the mother who fathered me.
I find it difficult however to understand the rationale for the title of Zero to Hero for Austin Jack Warner never was zero. While he was financially poor, he was privileged to have inherited positive genes from his mother. Love and care were lavished on him. His special gifts were rewarded very early in his life. Stella’s biological transmission accounts for his academic brilliance when he was given the educational opportunity as well as his later business acumen
and success. These stories are important accounts that substantiate the perspicacity of the women of Stella’s era who made their husband, however he was, their home and their offspring the centre of their world. This was their single-minded commitment. Stella exhibited shrewd business practices as the many vignettes of her active life demonstrate. His flawed father Wilton, despite the negativity and underachievement that surrounded him came from strong Tobago stock which desires success, a trait which, though it may have skipped Wilton, found full expression in Jack whose quest and journey would be more fruitful than his