Guyana-born Charmaine Hooper is Canadian football icon
...considers seeing 2003 Kashif & Shanghai championships
By Gary H. Tim in New York
November 24, 2003
Stylishly heaving his '6-4' trump card over our heads before slamming it onto the green velvet-top table, sports aficionado Edgar Henry blurted out, "Tek' duh like a Hooper stroke a domino!" Incidentally, it was his fourth win of the six games we had played, and he was referring to famed Guyanese cricketer Carl Hooper.
"Talkin' 'bout Hooper, he namesake playin' fa' Canada in the women's World Cup, and 'ah think she's GT, too," he sounded off while settling back into his seat. Edgar and I were having a few games with some other Guyanese at a friend's Brooklyn residence, and Canada was meeting China in a game later that day. "I have been watching her games, but I got a gut feeling she's one of us," I responded. "Y'all missing out Gary, you've got to meet her 'ah challenge yuh' she's a journalist's dream," Edgar painted in his regal Guyanese accent. He went onto gave us the most enthused account of her prowess on the soccer field.
Later that day (Oct. 2nd), I watched Charmaine Hooper's headed-goal snatch an unexpected victory from the fancied Chinese. Her goal in the first half of the game was against the run-of-play in that last match of a double-header in Portland, Oregon. She played a 'true skipper's game', marshalling the defense and overlapping to strike success in that quarter-final. It was enough to meet the challenge to know more about this visually awesome sporting figure, so I called her up to talk.
Answering every question poked at her, the Georgetown-born Canadian women's captain gleefully recalled growing up in South Ruimveldt Gardens, and attending Sacred Heart R.C. School. Born on January 15, 1968 as the eldest daughter of four children of Ivan and Myrna Hooper, she's point-blank, yet cucumber-cool, and said she was always driven by sports. "I remember playing cricket in Guyana Ã it is the national sport, so it was natural for me, even though I was a girl.
This revelation led to query her relationship with former Windies cricket captain, Carl Hooper. "He's my father's brother's son I think you say first cousin in Guyana, ugh!"
she hurriedly exclaimed. "I've followed his exploits and I guess he follows mine and my brother's, but it's tough to catch up 'cause of our hectic careers," the Aquarian said in our mid-morning discourse, a few days after returning from a FIFA undertaking in Zurich.
Almost 27 years ago when she left Guyana with her family, she least expected her legs to carry the soccer hopes of Canada, a nation of 20 million. These expectations became a stimulant for her drive to success. Eventually, her women's national team accomplished more than its male counterparts which included her older brother, Lyndon who played midfield for nearly a decade.
"I grew up inspired by Lyndon whatever he did I did," she offered with a chuckle. "He played cricket, I played cricket he did tennis, I did too." "Then he did soccer and started moving up the competitive ladder, I wanted to do the same thing," Hooper said. "But at that time, there wasn't any professional women's soccer, so it wasn't something I could aspire to do." "But, when I got out of college, there was a coach from Norway looking for semi-professional players, and my name was given, so that's how it started. I knew I had big goals to score." And, she scored more. Together, the pair became the first brother and sister to play on Canadian National Football Teams.
Today, at almost 36 years, Hooper is on the threshold of the sport's grandeur as one of the most decorated and accomplished players, ever. With a glut of Most Valuable Player awards to first-team World All-Star line-ups, she is unmatched, yet sometimes the credit lags. Having played most of her career for North Carolina State University and the Canadian national team, Hooper has never received the adulation afforded top guns on the stronger teams. At an age when many give up on competitive sports, Hooper remains one of the world's most lethal players.
Once with a reputation as the most physical forward in the game, Hooper has at times been chided for being overly aggressive. "I've always had people complain about my physical play for as long as I remember, so I am not really bothered now," she said. "If anything, that spurs me on to be even more aggressive. (So, the title as the sport's most physical player is) not a bad one at all." Now, marshalling the defense, her immense versatility and ferocious play cut a nightmarish mist in many strikers' endeavors. "I guess I had to get my recognition in some form, but hey! I am in the sport to play, not parade, if you know what I mean," she quipped. Hooper is satisfied with the esteem she gets "whenever I go to the Farmers' Market in Atlanta, there're lots of foreign people there, especially West Indian who recognize me."