Reports from Corozal are that Delmar Sutherland, a championship semipro football goalkeeper during the 1990s, is seriously ill. This is a sad state of affairs. Delmar is a fine gentleman, and in September of 1993 he helped to prevent serious violence in and around the People’s Stadium in Orange Walk Town.
In 1993 Mayflower Street was already one of the toughest streets on Southside Belize City, but football was still competing with gang life for the attention of the young boys and young men on the street. One Saturday afternoon in July of 1992, a Mayflower-based team, the Kremandala Warriors, sponsored by our business organization, won the second division football championship in Belize City. The following night, the Kremandala Raiders lost to Penta Lakers in the inaugural semi-pro basketball championship.
The inaugural semi-pro basketball season in 1992 had been a big success under Commissioner Gus Perera, while the Commissioner of semi-pro football, the late Telford Vernon, had run two successful tournaments, in 1991 and 1992. Amidst the general optimism surrounding semi-pro sports at the time, Kremandala decided to purchase a semi-pro football franchise for the Kremandala Warriors. This was a business decision, but it was more a community interest decision, because several of the young Warrior players had grown up working part time at our newspaper.
One of the Kremandala Warriors’ midfielders was a quiet, respectable young man named Robert Cunningham. I did not know Robert to have any connection with Mayflower apart from playing on the team. I can’t say when I found out that Robert Cunningham and Delmar Sutherland were brothers, but that relationship played a big role in People’s Stadium that September Sunday afternoon in 1993.
Now way back in 1970 when I was running in the streets, I learned a lesson from Charles X Stamp which saved me personally in the People’s Stadium that afternoon 23 years later. I learned that there are situations where things collapse so completely that all you can do is strike out on your own and pray to God for the rest.
As a new semi-pro football franchise in 1993, the Kremandala Warriors’ management had decided to include a few older players to improve our chances to qualify for the following season. Two of these older players were David “Manu” McCaulay and Francis “Tonsil” McCaulay, who joined their younger brother, Jason “Tickle” McCaulay, a Kremandala Warriors’ original. The McCaulays were a Mayflower Street family who were respected for avoiding all the crime and violence surrounding them. (An older brother, Daniel “Thin Man” McCaulay, represented Belize in sprints in the 1984 Olympics.)
When we travelled to Orange Walk Town to play Juventus that Sunday, I was not paying any attention to the fact that there had been a big fight between Juventus and Yabra at the MCC Grounds the previous Sunday. This was a major mistake on my part. We took a minimum of players and fans to Orange Walk Town in our chartered team bus.
Rawel Pelayo was the owner of Juventus at the time, and they may have been the defending champions. Certainly, they were one of the top franchises and had already qualified for the 1993 four-team playoffs. Kremandala Warriors had qualified to compete in the following season. The game, therefore, had no importance to the standings. Juventus were in the playoffs, and Kremandala had avoided relegation.
Sitting in the empty stands before the game, I was approached by an Orange Walk Town resident/fan who told me that he didn’t like anybody from Belize City. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to him. I did not pay any attention to the fact that the Juventus’ owner had not introduced himself to me or welcomed me to his town. And when the game started, I did not notice that there were absolutely no policemen in the stadium. I thought it was a meaningless game.
Near the end of the game, however, a game which ended in a 1-1 tie, an Orange Walk forward and our young defender, Jason McCaulay, got into a fuss. This simmered down, but after the game a fight broke out and Orange Walk football fans, armed with sticks, bottles, and machetes took to the field. In matters of football security, they will tell you that it is an absolute imperative for the fans to be kept off the pitch. Once the fans take the field, all bets are off. I remember seeing our goalkeeper, Steve “Jerry Collins” Myles, fighting about ten fans while backpedaling. The situation seemed totally out of control to me, and I remembered my 1970 Charles X Stamp lesson. Disappear.
I remember thinking, as I was “disappearing,” that our players would end up either in the hospital or in jail. It looked that bad at the time. My sources told me afterwards that Delmar Sutherland had played a big role in cooling down things. None of our players was seriously hurt. To me, this was truly a miracle.
As a result of what happened in People’s Stadium that afternoon, and how the situation had developed, seemingly in a conspiratorial manner, I decided that I could not participate as a franchise owner in the semi-pro league. I tried to get someone to take over the Kremandala Warriors for the 1994 season, but mainstream business people were avoiding Mayflower Street’s socio-economic heat. This is real. The franchise collapsed.
In 1999/2000, we made one last ditch effort to save a few of the players from the gang life by taking them to train in Dangriga. This was the Grigamandala experiment. That’s another story, for another time.