In my last column I briefly discussed the disappointing division which took place in early 1973 in the UBAD organization which I led. Some of the people in my executive apparently believed that the People’s United Party (PUP) government of the day was the ultimate enemy, and to a certain extent they were justified in so thinking at that point in time. Despite all the pressure the PUP was bringing down on UBAD, however, I personally believed that the ultimate enemy was not the PUP, but rather it was white supremacy in all its forms, local and international, manifested and disguised.
My understanding of the division in the UBAD leadership involved the eagerness of half the UBAD executive to embrace the so-called Unity Congress, which was the immediate precursor to the United Democratic Party (UDP), which was established on September 25, 1973. As the president of UBAD, my position was that the Unity Congress had to prove certain things before any embrace could take place. I was highly skeptical of the Liberal Party, because to me this was a paper party which had not put in any real work in the streets. I was correct where my skepticism was concerned, but I was too inexperienced to recognize and accept that the Liberal Party was more important to the Unity Congress organizers than UBAD was, because the Liberal Party was bringing Chamber of Commerce money support and the Liberal Party was bringing a chunk of Roman Catholic blessing.
By November of 1974, the UBAD Party was dissolved, and one of the Liberal Party originals – Paul Rodriguez, became Mayor of Belize City in December that year after the new UDP had defeated the PUP in Belize City Council elections, the first time the PUP had ever been beaten in the old capital.
I was now almost full time in the streets, unemployed, broke, and targeted for attacks by a UDP which was surging in popularity and had branded me a traitor. Try as I might with Amandala, I could not compete with The Reporter because of their huge advantage in printing technology.
Around September of 1975, I accepted an offer from Mr. Arturo Matus to manage the senior football team sponsored by their Charger brewery, which was two or three years old. I believe that Barry Bowen’s Belikin company had first been granted a development concession in 1969. Arturo Matus and his younger brother, Orlando, did not have a development concession, but by 1975 they were already successfully competing with Belikin in the beer business.
I honestly did not know that much about the beer war between Belikin and Charger when I took over the Charger football team. In the streets of Belize City, myself normally hanging out at Mike’s Club, we drank far more stout than beer, and Belikin ruled in the stout department. In fact, there was a point when Belikin took over the sponsorship of the championship Tough Guys dominoes team on which I played, and this must have taken place while I was still involved with the Charger football team.
Football in the 1975/76 season was attracting overflow crowds to the MCC Garden every Sunday afternoon. Amateurism in sports was still an absolute religion in Belize in those days, so my focus on introducing professionalism was seen as radical and sacrilegious. During the 1974/75 season, however, my younger brother, Michael, had played with Christobal Mayen’s Berger 404 squad, 1974/75 being Berger 404’s first championship year. Christobal and I had become good friends. Supported by White Label’s Sir Andie, we held a meeting of the senior football teams at Riverside Hall (likely late ’75 or early ’76) to ask the Belize Amateur Football Association (BAFA) for 15 per cent of the gate revenues to be shared with the clubs. The only team which voted against the 15 per cent resolution was Landivar, represented by their manager, Mr. Albert Hoy, and Ray Davis, one of their players.
To be truthful, I don’t even remember if the BAFA agreed to our request. 15 per cent was not a lot of money, and by the middle of the 1976/77 season I had given up the management of the Charger team. I left football in early 1977 because the Charger team was being victimized on the field because of the socio-political controversies surrounding me. Remember, as I said before, the UDP was really surging in popularity, and the UDP’s Dean Lindo leadership and myself were daggers drawn in 1977. I was still considered “black power” by Belize’s white supremacist power structure.
When the PUP shocked the UDP in the 1979 general election, Said Musa, the new Minister of Education, Sports, and Culture, my good friend who had become my business partner at Amandala in mid-1977, decided that he would make me the first chairman of a new National Sports Council (NSC).
Mr. Musa’s decision must have been controversial, because Evan X Hyde was controversial. But Mr. Musa was not backing down. (His decision, one assumes, must have gone through Cabinet.) Meetings were held to introduce me as the PUP government’s choice for first NSC chairman. It turned out that I was the one who backed down. Someone whom I considered a sports spokesman for Barry Bowen and Belikin said something at one of the early meetings, this one at Riverside Hall. What he said convinced me that Barry and Belikin were totally opposed to my professional views. Remember, this was 1980. This newspaper did not become the leader in the business until the following year. Mr. Bowen was arguably the biggest man in Belizean business and industry.
It was not until ten years later that we succeeded in opening the gate to an experimental professionalism in Belizean sports. (For whatever the reasons, boxing had already been professional for decades and decades in Belize. What made boxing different, I cannot say.) It happened in football, after a 1990 dispute where Kremandala (Amandala having added KREM Radio in late 1989) took sides with the Milpros football team against the presidency of a Bowen official in the Belize National Football Association. As this dispute became more and more bitter, with the mighty Bowen empire and the upstart Kremandala confronting each other, Said Musa intervened, basically on the side of Kremandala. I have no idea what kind of negotiations he must have held with Mr. Bowen, but this was, to my mind, how semi-pro football began in Belize in 1991: Said Musa, Minister of Sports, reasoned with the great Barry Bowen.
Within five or six years time after semi-professionalism was introduced here, if I remember correctly, a Belize football club, Juventus of Orange Walk, was able to defeat Honduran professional teams such as Real España and Platense. These were teams, specifically Platense, which had destroyed championship Belize football teams a quarter century before.
Power to the people! Remember Danny! Honor Danny! Fight for Belize!