TT’s legendary goalkeeper Lincoln “Tiger” Phillips has long been recognised for his contributions to the development of football, both in the US and at home, but on Wednesday, he received his crowning jewels when he was named the recipient of the Hummingbird (Silver) Medal.
The award is presented by the president to any person “who has rendered loyal and devoted service beneficial to TT in any field of human endeavour or of gallantry or other humane action.”
Phillips is currently in the US, where he lives, and a member of his family collected the award on his behalf.
Phillips told Newsday although he has been recognised many times before the news still came to his surprise.
“This is a prestigious award,” the soft-spoken 80-year-old said.
“To be honest with you, there are other people who this award could be given to and it will be deemed appropriate, so for me to have been chosen, I am very honoured and very thankful.
“I’ve received a lot of awards and each one is very special to me, because some group of people have thought of you and thought you were worthy of an award.
“All have a special place in my heart, but some more than others are very, very special, and this one is very, very special.
Although he knew for the better part of a month, others were unaware and were surprised to read about his award in a newspaper on Tuesday, the day before he was to be officially awarded. It is customary for the names of national awardees to be released after they receive their awards.
Phillips told Newsday, “I was told some time ago but I was asked to keep it confidential for obvious reasons. They wrote me earlier this month and told me I was nominated.
“(The newspaper) called and spoke to me about it, so my thought is that (the news) was out.”
Phillips comes from a family of accomplished former sportspeople and professionals.
He isn’t even the first in his immediate family to have received a national award.
Phillips’ eldest of four brothers, George Phillips, also received the Hummingbird Medal in the 1990s for his contribution to basketball.
Another of his brothers, Winston Phillips, was a long-time defender for TT’s senior men’s team, and one who played in the infamous losing match against Haiti, which saw this country narrowly miss out on a place at the 1974 Fifa World Cup.
Having spent most of his post-playing career in coaching, there are no indications of Phillips slowing down.
He is a respected coach in the US. In 2020, he was awarded the Walt Chyzowych Lifetime Achievement Award at the United Soccer Coaches Annual Convention for his contributions to the development of football in the US. He won alongside another legend of US football, Jill Ellis, who led the women’s senior team to two FIFA Women’s World Cup victories.
Phillips said he remains active in coaching. “I’m always active. I’m afraid that (getting old) I’ll slow down. I work a lot with young kids, young goalkeepers in particular. I’m an advocate for goal-keeping.
“Some people think that goalkeepers should start specialising when they’re 12, 13. I don’t believe that. I think you should start them right away like you would an outfield player.”
The ex-Queen’s Royal College student and Howard University alumnus, who holds a Master’s degree, was conferred an honorary doctorate by the University of TT in 2020. Phillips has been instrumental in the development of football clubs and national football programmes. He holds a record as the TT Football Association’s longest-serving technical director, a post he demitted from in 2011.