At the end of my last article I promised to reintroduce to you Raymond Granville Lashley, but I will be unable to live up to my commitment because I need to do some further research to be able to write about as great a figure as Raymond Granville Lashley. I beg your pardon and indulgence to move on until I am able to complete the commitment I made to you, my readers. In the meantime, I will discuss with you football in the District of Orange Walk.
My article “Was Queen’s Park Rangers the Greatest?” drew a lot of attention and my article “One In A Million You” created havoc among avid football players and their fans. Scores of readers complimented me on the article, “One in a Million You”. All recognized the talent and ability of the Avengers football team. I was of the opinion that I was the only man in Belize that was latched on to Pappy Smith. Hell no! The feedback I received on the article convinced me that I did not stand alone. My corner was heavy laden with both footballers and fans.
Wellington Ramos, a friend of mine for many years who now lives in Chicago, Illinois, submitted an article entitled, “Queen’s Park Rangers, One Of The Greatest, Not The Greatest” to this newspaper after he read my article. Wellington plays a key leadership role in our Belizean Diaspora harnessing their resources toward Belize’s national development. He is a well respected journalist, commentator, community organizer, fund raiser and activist. He has been persistent in his advocacy for the rights of Belizeans who reside abroad to vote in our national elections. On the occasions when our Head of Government and other political leaders meet during their “pastoral” visits with Belizeans residing abroad, Ramos can be counted on to be the individual present who will be posing the most challenging and pointed of questions to the visiting Prime Minister or other senior official. Most recently he was involved in forging and strengthening links of functional cooperation between the State of Illinois and the Dangriga Municipal Government.
Wellington, in his article, set out his argument why Queen’s Park Rangers was not the greatest. He went on to argue that during the 70s all these Inter-District Football teams were evenly matched. He argued that all the teams which played in that time were great teams and games could have gone either way on any given day. He asserts in his article that it could have been the same, it could have gone either way for the championship matches. But Ramos did not explain why it took an All Belize selection put together by Raymond Lashley to prove the Queen’s Park Rangers vulnerable.
Ramos is a very “ballsy” man. He grew up in Dangriga, played football with most of these guys from the Queen’s Park Rangers, and was the teammate of Garrincha Adderly, Brazilian Velasquez and the late Buck Palacio on their Sacred Heart Primary School team who were successful in winning the championship for two consecutive years. I can come to just one conclusion – that he called the shots as he saw it and that is typical of the personality and character of my friend, Wellington Ramos.
Orange Walk from the 60s was always the less recognized selection in the country, for whatever reason I don’t know. But they were always, in my view, a crafty looking team on the football field in their yellow and white or sometimes full white uniforms.
The Belize City selection was the hardest selection to undo. The Belize selection from the early 60s was always a dominant factor in the Inter-District Football Competition, but the 1970s was a rude awakening for the Belize City based selection which all other District teams, including Orange Walk, were out to dethrone as Inter-District Champions.
I can vision as I write, Stud Hendricks, Enrique Carballo and Harrier Laing creating pandemonium on the M.C.C. Grounds. They were so daunting and overwhelming one could not understand why Hendricks, Laing and Carballo were hidden from the Football Globe. When they burst on to the scene at the M.C.C. Grounds the message was sent to all and sundry that Orange Walk is the team to watch and the surprise of 1970s.
I can remember Gregsie jones, Noeli Leiva, Cheesy Flowers, the great Matthew Williams in the middle of the field, Romualdo Lambey, Daniel Cacho, Renan Briceño, Bunz Bennett and, of course, the able, talented, outspoken and classy defender Wellington Ramos. In its composition the Orange Walk selection was well balanced and reflected the harmony of our multi-cultural, multi-ethnic country.
I cannot verify whether it was 1975 or 1976 and my research was unable to clarify which year’s competition it was, but Orange Walk was the first District team to defeat the All Belize selection at a game played at the M.C.C. Grounds in which Stud Hendricks, Enrique Carballo and Wellington Ramos were the antagonists for the Belize selection.
What Ramos wrote is true. After that game the Police had to protect and escort them out of the M.C.C. Grounds to their bus. The Belize City fans were so shocked, and I believe still stunned as I write; they could not believe what had happened to their Belize City selection and began throwing stones at the Orange Walk bus.
Ramos argued that Mark Anthony Chavarria was too short as a goalkeeper and in his article argues that he tried to encourage their coach to put Lewis Thompson in the goal instead of Chavarria. I totally dismiss Wellington’s argument. Mark Anthony Chavarria was a hell of a goalkeeper and created excitement when the opposing forward line would come down and attack against his goal. Mark Anthony Chavarria was in a class by himself.
Orange Walk stunned Belize’s football world when they reached the finals of the Inter-District football competition facing off against the Queen’s Park Rangers, and, if anybody thought it was pure luck, they returned to the finals in the following year, again to face their nemesis and rivals – the Queen’s Park Rangers.
On both occasions they lost to the Queen’s Park Rangers by 2-1. On both occasions it was a left foot off Dean “Sarge” Lewis that created problems for Wellington and Mark Anthony Chavarria. These championship games between Queen’s Park and the Orange Walk selections were games that were played to the wire. Games that saw Matthew Williams trying to create opportunities for Stud Hendricks and Enrique Carballo. These championship games against Queen’s Park Rangers made the entire country believe that Orange Walk was a force to reckon with, but they always fell short. They reminded me of the Los Angeles Dodgers, “Wait until next year”.
In my recollection from visits to Orange Walk in the 60s two players from the Orange Walk selection stand out in their performance during the early days. Stand out. I can recall Elute Gutierrez with a handkerchief tied around his forehead playing standing back for Orange Walk. He was nothing to play with. And how about the talented centre forward, or at times inside right, Chamaco?
I have mentioned my involvement with the Red Stripe team in my earlier articles and frequently boasted of Red Stripe’s superlative performance in the national competitions in and around 1969. During that era, after the conclusion of the national competition, a Knockout competition would be held. In 1969 I was unfortunately hospitalized during the Knockout competition as I was being treated for a pain I was suffering in my side. My team Red Stripe was playing, and lo and behold the outcome of the Knockout competition placed my team Red Stripe against Orange Walk in the final. This final game was played at the B.E.C. football field in Belize City with Red Stripe winning the championship Knockout round by beating Orange Walk 2 – 1. Again another occasion in which the Orange Walk selection fell short.
When I revisit those days in my time of quiet reflection, the performance and experience of the Orange Walk selection in the Belize Inter-District Football Competition brings to mind the lyrics of that very beautiful and melodic James Ingram composition, Just Once, which in my reflections are applicable to the Orange Walk football situation. “I did my best but I guess that my best wasn’t good enough…”