Publisher — 08 November 2000


The veteran athletes in Belize are always telling you about how good things were when they bought their own football boots and everybody played for free. This is a colonial mind set, provoked and encouraged by the anti-professional crusaders. If you?re going to be an independent nation state, which means you compete at the highest level against other nation states, there is no way you can expect your amateur athletes to compete successfully against professional athletes from other countries. The amateur lobby in Belize, an integral part of the racist, oligarchical, colonial classes in Belize, has maintained a propaganda war against professionalism which has been successful.


40 years ago the committee which ran amateur football in British Honduras suspended some prominent members of the Independence football team because they asked for money from the gate receipts at the MCC Grounds. The details of the episode are buried in history, the same way they buried the case of the Nazi collaborators here in World War II, the same way they bury the history of anything which embarrasses the oligarchy.


The story of Independence is very important in a socio-political context. Around 1957, 1958, a team of young footballers emerged in the old capital who were simply spectacular. The team was called Dunlop, sponsored by Guy Nord and managed by an old gambler by the name of Bobby Moore.


The most powerful institution in colonial British Honduras was the Belize Estate Company ? BEC. BEC represented Great Britain. BEC divided Dunlop by giving jobs to some of their superstars so that they would play for the BEC team. These superstars included Gilbert ?Pine? Hernandez, Gilbert ?Chico? Ellis and Ernest ?Reds? Wilson. I think BEC also hired Wilfred ?Palmer? Davis, but I?m not sure. It?s a long time ago.


For whatever the reason, the Dunlop left winger, Louis ?Mugger? Garbutt (originally known as ?Bembe?), refused to accept the BEC deal. He went to then First Minister and PUP Leader, the anti-colonial Hon. George Cadle Price, and Mr. Price sponsored the Independence football team. Others involved in this initiative on behalf of the Independence players were Serapio ?Big Mole? Alvarez and the late Charles ?Qualify? Nicholas.


Independence was very popular, but most Independence fans, like myself, did not know of the team?s political sponsorship. Independence was considered a Yabra-based team, because this is where The Mugger (also known as ?Antonio?) was based. Because of the financial backing of Mr. Price, the leadership of Independence was independent of the stifling colonial business structure in British Honduras. Most of their players were unemployed, just as most of the Dunlop players had been. And so it happened eventually that the Independence team challenged the colonial football committee to get a piece of the gate money. This was their human right, but they were disciplined for it.


It turned out, however, that there were Mexican teams which came to British Honduras after the committee sanctioned Independence. Those Mexican teams beat all the other Belize teams. In desperation, the committee had to turn to Independence to defend the colony?s honor. Independence fought like heroes: they got the job done. This happened on more than one occasion during the 1965-1968 years while I was at school in the United States. Various people have told me of these happenings, including my younger brothers, ?Jim Baxter? and Robert ?Rabbi Dead? Flowers.


It is inexplicable to me how Mr. Price?s younger relatives in Belize City appear to be so firmly opposed to professionalism. Amateurism is a colonial legacy. The upper classes can afford to buy the equipment to play sports, so the upper classes will have an advantage in the amateur system. Listen, not even the Olympics are amateur any more. The international athletes in the Olympics were professionals from the 1960?s, a time when the late Gilmore Hinkson, the head of the Olympic committee in British Honduras, was still preventing Belizean athletes from getting sponsorship on the grounds that they would become ?professional.?


This is not a debate in which I am prepared to be anything other than militant. After 15 years, semi-pro football and basketball were supposed to be thriving job-creating industries in Belize. The oligarchy here simply refuses to give support to professional sports.


Three years ago something interesting took place. Basketball commissioner Troy Gabb came to Kremandala to ask me to bring out the Raiders team. After all the propaganda shelling the Raiders had received, we were not in a position to bring out the team. I offered, however, to serve as a consultant to the semi-pro basketball league?s executive. This would have been my personal contribution to the process. I never heard from Mr. Gabb again. I feel that I have been insulted. But now I understand why. The oligarchy was opposed, and by 2004 Troy had become a child of the oligarchy.


The devastation visited against Dangriga?s Justin Gonzalez after he had done everything right, was sad. It was not unbelievable, but it was shocking. Belize is now ranked last in the world in football. The reason we are last in the world in football, is because Belize is a racist and oligarchical society. Get the sense.

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