BELIZE CITY, Mon. Sept. 19, 2016–Another football star of the 1960s, John “Gas” Dougal, was laid to rest yesterday, even as two other football greats of the past, Louis “the Mugger” Garbutt and Maurice “Gene” Guild were being honored with a day of fun and football at the Yabra field in Belize City.
The day was well organized, although there were no official speeches and ceremony to kick off the festivities. It was all informal, relaxing and full of a togetherness spirit that saw many old acquaintances and former teammates and adversaries greeting each other, sitting to chat about the old times, and sharing their recollections of historic events, which sometimes led to clarification of facts and dates that had become hazy with time.
The Roo (Nelson Robinson, the legendary 1960’s Brodies goalkeeper), who hosted the event along with contributions from a few individual donors, declared that he would be issuing a football to each of the U-10 game participants after their match. The brand new footballs, of various bright colors, were laid out on a table which was bordered with many pictures of the Mugger, the Roo, Gene Guild, and other players and teams of the past in Belize and the U.S. And he was true to his word, as thirty children, fifteen each from Daniel “Sundance” Smith’s Ladyville Rising Stars and Leaton St. Clair’s City Boys, each received a brand new match football after the youth game, which Rising Stars won, 1-nil, on a goal by Devin McCaulay.
In a touchy moment, after the Rising Stars kids had received their footballs, one child was visibly heartbroken because he wanted another color of football from the black and white one he was given. Sulking away while the others gathered for a team picture, he was scolded by others for being ungrateful; but the Roo showed empathy and understanding of the child’s feelings, as he personally intervened, hugged the child and brought him to take the team picture beside himself (the Roo) at the front of the group. (See the Rising Stars team picture above.)
The veterans game between Kulture and a Third World selection ended in a 3-3 draw, but the score was not really important, as the level of play was hardly noteworthy; but the spirit of the game was all positive, and added to the festive atmosphere for the many old timers who sat or stood looking on from the sidelines. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the veterans game, for me at least, was the appearance of three prominent referees of the 1970s and 80s – Albert “Girl” Robinson, Rudy Vasquez and Oscar Ramos – to perform the officiating of the veterans game. Girl, in full black and white referee uniform, was the “man in the middle,” while Rudy and Oscar manned the lines.
There was food – sere and barbeque, drinks – hard and soft, and music to add to the ambience. Indeed, from its inception in 2013, the Mugger Day continues to be an occasion when Belizean footballers of all generations come together to reminisce and celebrate the greats of the game, while also showcasing our youth; and it all started with the commemoration of perhaps its greatest legend, if not necessarily its greatest talent, Louis “Bembe, the Mugger” Garbutt.
There were many other football greats from yesteryear in attendance, besides the Roo, who first initiated and continues to be the driving force behind the event honoring the memory of his best friend and Belizean sports legend, the Mugger. We got a chance to chat with Lionel “Pops” Hamilton, Gilbert “Gilly” Dunn and Cristobal Mayen. Hopefully, we can get some more details of their football career from these outstanding gentlemen.
Of course, Vincent “Winty J” Johnson was there, and suited up to participate in the veterans game. Winty J took the opportunity to introduce a former teammate who he said could clarify a question raised some time earlier by a picture Tony Wright had donated to us on the Willy Wylie junior team of the mid-1960s. Tony wasn’t sure of Winty J’s membership; but Rodwell “Cactus” Gill emphatically recounted that indeed, Winty J was the left wing on that first Willy Wylie team in which he, Cactus, was the goalkeeper. As in many cases even nowadays, teams change from year to year.