Sports — 22 February 2013 — by Charles X

There is this ridiculous talk among some unenlightened football fans, that this or that player is “too old” to play in the Premier League.

In business, there is a thing called the “free market;” and it basically says that, if you have the “goods,” and there is a “demand” for the goods that you have, then you’re “in business.” If F.C. Belize thinks that at 40 years, Norman “Tilliman” Nunez can still help them to win a championship, then who are you to question the wisdom of F.C.

It is ironic that some critics who might not even qualify to “tie the shoe las’n” of a legend like “Tilliman,” would have all kinds of negative things to say about his rumoured return to action at the MCC this weekend.

According to Wikipedia, England’s greatest football legend, Sir Stanley Matthews, “.. kept fit enough to play at the top level until he was 50 years old.” And, talking about national teams, “On 15 May 1957, Matthews became the oldest player ever to represent England, when at 42 years and 104 days old he turned out for the victory over the Danes in Copenhagen.”

Another living legend, “El Rey” Pele celebrated his 50th birthday in 1990 by playing 40 minutes of a game with the Brazil national team against a Rest of the World selection. Rest of the World won, 2-1.

Closer to home, “Mr. Ball” of the 1960’s, the great Angus Vernon played 1st Division football for Landivar up to 45 years of age. And the legendary Louis “The Mugger” Garbutt was of similar age when he returned from New York on a visit to the Jewel with a “Team Belize” around 1982, and “put a move” on Belikin star defender “Horsey” Cooper on the left wing, before forcing All-Belize goalie Orin Orio to make a diving save of his ground shot to the corner.

Back on the international scene, remember Cameroon’s Roger Milla? He was “the oldest man to score in the final stages of a World Cup. He was 42 when he scored against Russia in the 1994 World Cup.”

Regrettably, on the home front, in typical “crab eena barrel” fashion, some of us are digging in our well of negativity, instead of celebrating the return to the grass of our own home-grown football phenomenon.

Imagine the skill, discipline and dedication to craft that allows the likes of Orlando Pinelo, Ismael “John” Trapp/Robateau, Freddy Tun, David “Manu” McCaulay, and a select few others over 40 to potentially still be competitive, not necessarily for the whole ninety, in football at the highest level in Belize.

The youth are our future. But who teaches and builds the legacy for our youth to emulate and aspire to? Let’s make better use of our living legends to inspire our youth, instead of trying to pull them down.

And let’s appreciate and cherish the last performances of some of our best ‘ballers before “Father Time” finally removes them from the football stage.

We desperately need a U-12, U-15, and U-17 competition, as well as the Open amateur 1st Division competition in each district, to be followed by Inter-District competitions between the winners of all these tournaments. And we need qualified and dedicated coaches to administer these teams. But Belize is not the same as it was in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. Now, survival is a struggle for most; and “weh di next meal coming from, yo neva sure.” Not only referees need their stipends to survive; coaches do too.

In the meantime, don’t miss the opportunity and the pleasure to watch and learn from the masters.

(Ed. Note: Tilliman debuted with F.C. Belize this past Sunday, February 17, when he entered the game to start the second half. F.C. held on to a 1-nil first half lead to secure the victory over Police.)

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