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From “Classico” to catastrophe

SportsFrom “Classico” to catastrophe

San Pedro 2-1 Kulture Yabra

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Aug. 21, 2017–The Over-40 vibes were shattered yesterday evening at the MCC, and it may never be the same again.

What started out as nostalgia for the game by some old timers wishing to get some exercise and share the camaraderie of meeting past teammates and adversaries in a less combative setting, ended up with individuals getting carried away with the intensity of competition, forgetting their age, and, regrettably, taking a loss too seriously.

Under any circumstances, the reaction of a Kulture Yabra defender after the game yesterday, attacking referee Anthony Robinson with a vicious left hook that probably broke his jaw, caught everyone, including his own teammates, by surprise. The game had gotten a little too intense, as happens when old rivals meet; but, as red-carded Rudolph “Bolo” McKoy of Yabra lamented after the incident, when the long whistle blows, we forget about all the game clashes and tussles, and go on as friends. It’s just a game.

Perhaps the clash between Kulture and San Pedro, dubbed the “Over-40 Classico,” was given too much of a build-up. True, they were joint standings-leaders, and years-past finalists in a storied local Over-35 competition that saw the legendary Norman “Tilliman” Nunez leading Kulture to the championship over Orlando Pinelo’s San Pedro.

There were a number of other big-name stars of the past at the MCC yesterday in the Kulture – San Pedro veterans reunion, though Tilliman was not among them this time. For San Pedro, the Pinelo brothers, Orlando and Jacinto, were accompanied by the Hendricks brothers, Christopher and Oliver, as well as by goalie Aldon “A.C.” Augustine, and Raul “Coco” Rodriguez on the sideline coaching; while Kulture Yabra featured the likes of David “Manu” McCaulay, Reuben “Postman” Crawford, Albert “Allie” Thurton, Kevin Rowland, Rudolph “Bolo” McKoy, and Maurice “Magic” Francis taking a turn in goal after eye-glass wearing Kenny Morgan had difficulty with an air ball that cost Kulture their first goal from a Jacinto Pinelo free kick. Kevin Rowland had given Kulture the early first-half lead, but a long center by San Pedro’s Jacinto Pinelo found Christopher Hendricks trailing on the right side, to slam in the 2-1 game winner early in second half.

A number of the veterans rekindling memories in Sunday’s clash at the MCC were top-ranking 1st Division or semipro players in their day, some serving time on the Belize national team.

These players had been in big games before, and knew that the Over-40 exercise is more geared towards fun and friendly competition.

Unfortunately, for some, the focus was too intensely on competition, to the point where tackles became fierce and tempers flared, and the disappointment of defeat sparked a most regrettable reaction.

Ironically, the player that spoiled the Over-40 vibes with his physical aggression of the referee, was not one of those legendary stars. Never a national team player or one of such high rank in his playing days, the hype preceding yesterday’s Over-40 “Classico” must have affected long-time Kulture stalwart Morlyn Diaz, who was called upon, and gave good account of himself, to man the sweeper position against the likes of legendary Orlando Pinelo and Christopher Hendricks. For Morlyn, this was perhaps his biggest game, and he had given it his all, in a commendable, but losing effort. A member of the past Kulture Over-35 champions, Morlyn took yesterday’s loss too much upon himself, and, emboldened by the flaring emotions of some of his teammates against some calls by referee Robinson, he got carried away in the moment. Castigating the referee in a hostile manner after the long whistle had been blown, Morlyn was promptly served with an unusual after-game red card; and that apparently “blew it” for Morlyn, who undoubtedly regrets his action today, as he remains in Police custody.

For sure, that’s it for Morlyn Diaz this season, and possibly indefinitely, from the MCC.

In the wake of this most unfortunate incident, perhaps the FFB, who endorsed the competition, will need to review and revise the terms and conditions for Over-40 participation.

Shortly before noon today, a visibly agitated Joel “Dara” Robinson visited our sports desk to decry the senseless act committed yesterday against his younger brother, referee Anthony Robinson. Dara said Anthony’s jaw is broken in two places, and he will need emergency surgery by a private doctor, to the tune of around eight thousand dollars.

Belize City referee board chairman Elvis Tablada, who was a linesman in the game, also shared with us this evening that it has been very difficult to recruit new referees, because of the abuse, insults and even threats that “the men in the middle” often face in Belize City football.

Players on both teams have condemned the action, but a number of those on the losing side need to question their own behavior, which may have helped to create the climate on the field that led to one player acting out his frustration.

Morlyn will no doubt face the consequences, from the FFB and the courts, for his action committed in full view of fans and players at the MCC yesterday. But, for love of the game, and the game is really about love, as veteran coach Daniel “Sundance” Smith reminded us yesterday, we all will need to look in the mirror, players and fans, Over-40 and semipro, and try to temper our behavior towards our opponents as well as towards the officials of the game; if we truly love the game of football.

Respect the game; respect the officials. Play ball; and stop “play man;” and the fans will soon start coming back to the ball park.

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