Amandala sports desk “inducts” Cristobal Mayen and Raymond Alvarez into its Amandala-Belize Football Hall of Fame
BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Apr. 21, 2016–Appearing as a guest on KREM WUB this morning with host Nuri Muhammad was one Armando “Mandy” Gomez, who presently heads the Orange Walk ITVET, a model of educational excellence in its own right. It was an interesting and informative show, focusing on the upcoming Open Day tomorrow, Friday, at the Orange Walk ITVET. But what sparked some flashbacks in my football memories, was the name Mandy Gomez. That name, along with one of the most renowned football superstars of his day, Raymond “El Toro” Alvarez, is forever etched in my mind on a moment in time and space that has to be one of the most dramatic happenings in the heyday of football’s glory days at the MCC Grounds, then aptly dubbed “The Garden” by Amandala in deference to its beautifully manicured green turf, the special responsibility of full time groundskeeper Terrence “T.J.” Jones, who restricted all traffic and activity during the week except for nurturing and trimming the grass, or occasionally rolling the turf to keep the surface smooth and welcoming to the passes of football stars come Sunday and another offering of “Fire on the Barracks”.
That moment in time and space, like the splashed paint coming to life on the fertile canvas of the immortal “Beelisle,” still resonates in my mind, even if a bit painfully, since I was on the receiving end of a historic and legendary goal-scoring and game-winning performance by a couple all-time greats of Belizean football.
It was a much anticipated, and amply publicized clash between reigning champions from the Lake, Berger 404, and the young upstarts in their first season, Charger, who were making all kinds of waves with exciting new stars like Michael “Suffudge” Rushford, Kenrick “Dusty” Panton and Albert “Bi” Arnold, along with the leadership of established stars, “Big Striker” Harry Cadle and goalkeeper Noel “Flying Fargo” Ferguson.
I’m not sure if I was deemed worthy to be a starter on that memorable day, but I remember well, being on the field for the critical piece of second-half drama.
Actually, it was half-time, with the score still nil-nil in a nail-biting battle between the two teams, an exciting attacking game that often had fans on the edge of their seats in the three wooden bleachers lining the western sidelines, as well as the Guinness and Brodies pavilions near the gate on the northeast side, and other fans pressing against the wire fence to get a closer view. There had been some rumors around that “Lee Mole,” then based with San Joaquin in Corozal, but already appearing in a couple Berger 404 games earlier in the season, might be coming to town for this blockbuster encounter; but he had not appeared in the starting line-up, and was nowhere around. But suddenly, during the half-time break (I’m not exactly sure when; it might even have been a bit earlier or later in the game), all eyes turned to the area near the main gate entrance to the MCC, where two already uniformed players could be seen briskly trotting along the pathway around the wire-fenced field enclosure, in the direction of the team benches. Word spread quickly; it was Mandy Gomez and Ramon “El Toro” Alvarez, already included on the Berger 404 substitute list, who had just arrived after a Maya Airways flight from Corozal, and were making their way through the entrance to the playing area, to lend their talents to the Lake.
In a sense, it was an indirect compliment to the challenge posed by the young Charger squad. Unfazed, we battled on, and the game remained nil-nil until the waning minutes. Mandy was a highly skilled midfielder who was a formidable addition to the already stellar Berger 404 offense, but Stobal and Ramon, huge stars of the game, also shared a unique football chemistry that would make all the difference on that memorable day. I was in the Charger central midfield, and was doing all I could to obstruct and intercept the passes that developed as the well-oiled 404 offense tried to penetrate the Charger defense. It’s another moment in time that never escapes me, holding my ground in the middle of the action facing my own goal, as Stobal on my far left stroked a grounder across the top of the penalty area towards my far right into a space where no defender could intercept, and Ramon, coming from nowhere it seemed, likewise striking the ball with the flat inside of his right foot with “one touch”, and sending the not too hard grounder into the left corner, with Flying Fargo stretched out, but just out of reach, as the ball almost gently tugged at the back of the Charger net. 1-nil, Berger 404!
The epic battle ended with that score just a few minutes later. There was pain, as in any great loss; but, as sporting rivals, there was a measure of respect, and a sliver of admiration even, for the level of drama our rivalry had unearthed for the fans, and the superlative performance for the ages by two legends, who, without any doubt, must someday be inducted to the Belize Football Hall of Fame – Cristobal “Stobal” Mayen and Raymond “Lee Mole” “El Toro” “Ramon” Alvarez. Until then, here’s to the two newest inductees to the Amandala-Belize Football Hall of Fame – Stobal and Ramon!