You are here
Moving on after SoE nightmare
He looks down and his mellow voice drops when he speaks about his six weeks behind bars. But as soon as Keon Quow picks up a football, the connection to what has been the source of his comfort and stability in recent years lifts his sprit. And he smiles, a broad gap-toothed grin. Last Friday, as the sun set on Beetham Gardens, Quow, savouring his second day of freedom after failed “gang” charges, was in his natural element—outside training neighbourhood youngsters playing football. Vehicles beeped as they passed Quow that evening. Passers-by looked his way and smiled. A woman driving by hailed out: “I so glad to see you, m’boy!”
The day before, Quow and seven other Beetham residents had become the latest statistics attesting to the failure of the Anti-Gang legislation wielded in the Government’s state of emergency (SoE). Quow, 22, a striker with the local Pro-League team W Connection, walked out of Port-of-Spain Magistrates’ Court with his two cousins, also accused of being in a “gang.” Back home, Quow immediately cut his hair which had grown out and hours after being freed, returned to football training and a huge reception from his teammates. He was on the field up to last Saturday. Neither police officers nor Quow might have applied the word “irony” to the situation which arose during the first week of the state of emergency when he was taken away from Beetham. Quow, formerly with the National Under-20 football team, had played for the Police Football Club last Pro-League season.
An orphan, Quow has lived with his two brothers and sister in Beetham all his life and is now the family breadwinner. As a boy, unusual skills on the football field rather than usual secondary schooling gave him the direction he needed. Quow was in coaching school by the age of 15. Later, came a stint with the Fire Services football club, then the Police Club where he was based for two years before being spotted by W Connection. With his first contract, Quow opened a bank account, moved out of his then residence and found a place for his siblings and himself. Quow had been asleep after practice, when police knocked on his door around 1 am on the fateful August night.
He recalled: “They pulled me out, my brother Kevin and my cousins. They didn’t tell us anything. I kept asking if I could still go to training next day because my tournament was coming up.” He added: “I really beg. I beg, I beg them to let me go because I train so hard for the season and a big match was coming up.” “Nobody against the police for their work, but I have no record. I thought they would have checked it out properly. But the day after they held us, a man bring a book and started charging everybody. Then they sent us Golden Grove.”
Five to a cell. No information.
“Even the turnkeys couldn’t understand what was happening. They tried to deal with us as best as possible,” Quow added. Deprived of daily training and confined to the small cell, Quow became depressed. He didn’t do push-ups for fear of contracting a rash from the cell floor. He lost weight. “I cried. I real cried for days. It was real painful in there. Real pain, real pain. I never know I’d reach there,” Quow mused, head bent. “I missed training. I was frustrated as I was really prepared for the season. I was trying hard to reach the Under-23 National team and the big game against Rangers for the Pro League opening was the following week.
“And I was frightened. We heard they could hold you for 120 days. I prayed a lot. They give us Bibles to read. That used to calm me down. “They give us little puzzle books too. Being locked down 24/7, it was real hard in there, like you going mad—like a bad, bad dream,” he said. His brother and others helped buoy his spirits. Quow also busied himself looking forward to rejoining his team. The day of the Rangers’ game, his thoughts were with teammates all day, he said. “I kept asking the turnkeys if they win. I say if they win, they’d give me victory to come out too and things start to shape up after they win in truth.”
When Quow arrived home last Thursday, residents bombarded him with hugs, kisses and tears. “Because they know I’m not the type of person to be in gangs. And I’ll never be,” Quow said. That was the only time in the interview his voice turned firm. Quow continued, “No matter what they do, I’ll never be. Or who they feel I am because of where I’m living. That doesn’t mean that sort of thing have to get in me.” He said: “I want to be a professional footballer. I wanted to make it to Concacaf. But if I went overseas and they check and see this situation—what will happen? This could destroy people.” “I just want to live in peace and not be harassed or wrongfully arrested. They look at us in Beetham and try to bring us down to a low level but there are good people here,” Quow said.
Quow’s attorney Pennelope Beckles said: “What happened is very unfortunate. I’ve no doubt Quow is innocent. He has no convictions or pending matters—he’s simply a victim of where he lives.” “He earned a decent living. He could have left Beetham. But he stays because he’s a positive inspiration for youths.” Beckles added: “I hope this doesn’t affect his career and that those looking to crime or are in it, see how badly others who aren’t, can be hurt.” Whether Quow becomes a Beetham success story or whether his SoE experience will foil his football career, is in fate’s hands. For his part, it also resides in his feet. Quow added, “Despite all this, I keep a positive vibe. I just hope nobody link me with this or hold me again. I’m hoping for the best and to do what I do best.”
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.