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“Mugger Day” a festival of football memories

Sports“Mugger Day” a festival of football memories

It was a first effort, the idea of football legend himself, Nelson “the Roo” Robinson, and the street facing the Third World field was temporarily blocked off yesterday afternoon by a congregation of relatives, friends and football fans and veterans who came to share in the festive occasion to honor the memory of perhaps Belize’s greatest football legend, Louis “Bembe, the Mugger” Garbutt, who passed away in New York on June 28 of this year.

In a brief ceremony to mark the occasion at the residence of Ms. Linda Faber, ex-wife of the Roo, master of ceremony Earl Grinage first invited Mugger’s wife, Mrs. Sylvia Garbutt, who received Belize’s Meritorious Award in his honor at the Bliss on Thursday last, to say a few words about her late husband and thank the organizers and everyone present for sharing in the occasion. Others then shared their thoughts, including Norman Fairweather, a close friend of the Mugger in New York, Hilbert “Areas” Craig, Bert Cattouse, Vincent “Winty J” Johnson, and the Roo, who then exhorted everyone present to enjoy the rest of the evening – music, food and drinks were provided under a tent in the yard.

The day would not be complete without a game of football, and a selection of veterans were no match for the Kulture Over-40 squad, who, though short a couple players, still got a convincing win, 3-1 or 5-1, according to different sources. The Roo posed in his usual goalkeeper position for the veterans pre-game picture, and the yet active Winty J showed he still “got game.”

An array of female relatives, friends and fans of the Mugger and the Roo, who hosted the event, were seated on chairs placed on the street side to watch the game; and later in the evening, after the game was over and the ladies had either departed or retreated inside the yard under the tent, some of the old timers soon took over the street side chairs, and the real football talk then went into high gear and continued on into the night.

One special highlight of the afternoon was the arrival of Raymond “Lee Mole, Ramon, El Toro” Alvarez along with his wife Eleanor. Lee Mole has been ailing for some time, and it was a pleasure to have his company on this special occasion, when the remembrances also included that of his older brother, another football legend, Serapio “Big Mole” Alvarez, a very close friend and teammate of the Mugger on Independence, who, as fate would have it, also passed away recently in U.S., less than two months after the Mugger. A number of the younger footballers in the gathering never got to know the Mugger or Big Mole before they left for the States; but most of them know Lee Mole, who is himself a living legend, having played a dominant role in Belize football in the decade of the 70’s.

In an interesting sidelight, a young brother remarked to Pealoff that he didn’t know that he, Pealoff, used to play top-level football – Jerome “Pealoff” Maheia of the original Jaguars fame in the mid 1970’s. It was funny, but it underscored the need to re-activate the dormant Belize Football Hall of Fame, and give it life, so that the younger generation of ‘ballers can be educated about the “generals” who came before, and who helped pave the way for them.

Rupert “Canalete” Anderson, a star goalkeeper with champion teams (Landivar of the late 1960’s and White Label of 1976-77) was there too, and the conversation remained exciting and animated, until after 9:30 p.m., when we had to call it a night.

We also got to meet and hear of the old days of Dunlop and Independence from another legend and close friend of the Mugger, Randolph “Tiempo” Barrow. Tiempo talked of the total dedication and commitment to training that he shared with the Mugger, the Roo and “Qualify” (Charles Nicholas), who used to hang together. He said they were called “the 3 musketeers and 1,” and they stayed in shape, training year round, although the football season only lasted about 4-5 months in those days (late September to late January or early February). Hearing Tiempo, it reminded me of the bond shared with Chubby, the Mob, Don’t and Bom (Evan Jones, Winston Humes, Benjamin Mejia and Wayne Jones, respectively) in the mid-1980’s, who used to train together in the midday sun, and still report for team workout in the evenings with Coke Milpros. It had to be that they were thinking that there was something to be achieved at the “end of the tunnel” from becoming the best in football. Professionalism was certainly on their mind, and Tiempo confirmed that they did make demands from the association, and were sanctioned for their efforts. They were considered outcasts, “weed smokers,” which they certainly were at the time; but, nevertheless, they were among the best in the sport, and “the system” had to acknowledge that on a number of occasions.

Tiempo recalled a game in Jamaica in 1963, when himself, the Mugger and the Roo were left out of the starting line-up as a disciplinary action (the team manager was Bill Lightburn), for not conforming to some rules during the trip; and it was the cricket contingent members who clamored for them to be put in the game, when the Jamaican team was beating the Belize Selection 3-1 in the first half. Tiempo said the management relented and inserted them in at half-time, and Belize went on to win the game, 5-3. He said that the Belize team won 4 games and lost 1 on that Jamaica trip. A Jamaica selection later completed the series with a visit to Belize the same (or the following year), and that game was drawn, 2-2. A similar situation would develop some years later when a visiting Mexican team beat everybody, the Belize City champion and a selection; and the committee called on Independence to try and stop the visitors, which they did in dramatic fashion, 4-1, at the MCC.

The Roo, for his part, gave some interesting revelations about his “rebel” behavior in the face of class prejudice he experienced from the football and social establishment. One involved a job request he had made to Mr. Russel Grant when being recruited to play for Brodies; another when invited to the Brodies championship “ball” at Thistle Hall, when he wanted to bring in his friends Tiempo and the Mugger, since he didn’t yet have a wife, and they were refused entry; and another when he was taken off the Brodies champion team trophy list when word got out to management that he was planning to leave and join another team for the next season. The Roo’s actions, which we will describe in detail another time, were those of a real rebel. In the American parlance he would be called “one bad nigger.” It figures why brothers like the Roo, the Mugger and Big Mole felt they had to go north to seek betterment for themselves, when “the system” didn’t allow them to achieve their dreams from the thing they knew how to do best, and were willing to work hard at – playing football.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable night, and only served to spark our interest to learn more from the still living legends about the game of yesterday, their experiences and lessons learned, from which we can benefit and pass on to inspire the young ‘ballers of today.

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