A deeply attached fan of a championship team called a couple of months back, saying he had arranged an interview with the coach and one of his star players at the L Street downtown office of an international businessman, that it was of “paramount importance” to be there.
Asked what this is about, he replied simply, “It’s about the best team you never heard of.”
Several days later, in a third-floor conference room with a strong African art-deco motif, an upbeat, ultra-fit man introduced himself: “Hello, Mori Diane, nice to meet you.”
Diane, the executive vice president of his company for the past 28 years, is — for the purposes of this story — “the player.” Sitting next to him is “the coach”: a grinning, 73-year-old, gray-flecked gentleman who speaks in a rhythmic Trinidadian twang.
“I’m glad you have come,” said Lincoln “Tiger” Phillips, a former world-class goalie who once faced Pele. “Now we will tell you the story.”
The Civil Rights era is the backdrop to this story of a black college soccer team who played their hearts out to overcome racial injustice in 1970s USA. Stocked with some of the best Caribbean and African players of the era, the Howard University Bison went on to win two national championships under the martial discipline of Coach Lincoln “Tiger” Phillips. The Tiger made history by becoming the first college coach to win an NCAA championship for a Historically Black University, when the Bison stormed to the 1971 and 1974 titles. He is a former professional goalkeeper who did his utmost to repel the sorcery of Brazilian maestro Pelé in the early days of professional soccer in the United States, and helped take Trinidad & Tobago to bronze at the 1967 Pan Am Games. This biography crackles with anecdotes of Coach Phillips’s life. From his roller skating, Carnival costume-wearing boyhood in Trinidad to his days as the nickname-bestowing soccer coach who expects his players to excel, academically and athletically, Above And Beyond will transport the reader from the tears of tough losses to the euphoria of two national titles.
Read the story of an athlete and soldier so exhausted from long days of training for competition that he can’t polish his army boots when he returns to base, and learn about the man who finds the ideal slogan to rally the embattled Howard team to a second national title after they’re stripped of the first.