BELIZE CITY, Wed. Oct. 8, 2014
Much of our commentary in this issue is taken from a booklet given to yours truly sometime around 1988 or ’89 by Mr. Phillip S. Hall, who at the time was a fan of our football club, Coke Milpros.
(continued from Amandala of Wed. Oct. 8, 2014)
A 1962 Souvenir Programme for the visit to Belize of cricket and football teams representing St. George’s College Old Boys of Kingston, Jamaica, chronicles the list of football champions in Belize going back to the first competition on record, held in 1919-20. The souvenir booklet was “issued by the Belize Cricket Association” and, judging from the names of Belizean players listed, one would have to assume that the selection to represent Belize was taken from players active in Belize City, the population, administrative and commercial center of the country at that time. Nevertheless, the sporting exchange was obviously considered an international contest by the Belize Association, as the souvenir booklet featured messages by a number of the colony’s dignitaries, starting with then Governor, Sir Peter Stallard; and including First Minister and Minister of Finance, Hon. George Cadle Price; Belize Cricket Association President and Minister of Public Works, Power and Communications, Hon. A. E. Cattouse; Minister of Local Government, Social Welfare and Cooperatives, Hon. Louis Sylvestre; Minister of Natural Resources, Commerce and Industry, Hon. A. A. Hunter; Minister of Education, Health, Housing, Information and Broadcasting, Hon. J. W. Macmillan; Minister of Labour, Prisons and Cinemas, Hon. C. L. B. Rogers; the representative of The West Indies Extra-Mural Department British Honduras, Mr. Vernon Leslie; Chairman Secondary Schools Competition, Rev. C. W. Cousins; Secretary, Belize Cricket Association, D. R. Gill; President of The Rural Cricket Association, Fred O. Moody; President The British Honduras Football Association, Russel S. Grant; and Secretary The British Honduras Football Association, P. S. Hall.
The booklet listed a schedule of matches to be played from “5th to 19th September, 1962” in cricket and football between teams from St. George’s College Old Boys and Belize selections for each sport.
The first half of the booklet was dedicated mostly to cricket, and the second half to football. Focusing our attention here on football, there were 23 names listed for the football selection under the caption “PLAYERS FOR BELIZE.”
Players listed for FOOTBALL were – “G. Hyde (Diamond A); J. Young (Dunlop); A. Williams (Dunlop); A. Bent (B.E.C.); C. Neal (San Luis); G. Hernandez (B.E.C.); K. Gardiner (Landivar); E. Gill (Landivar); J. Staine (Princess Royal Youth); R. Barrow (Dunlop); S. Flores (Police); A. Vernon (Landivar); E. Staine (B.E.C.); G. Gunn (Dunlop); R. Rosado (B.E.C.); L. Garbutt (Dunlop); G. Ellis (B.E.C.); E. Wilson (B.E.C.); F. Clarke (B.E.C.); D. Fairweather (B.E.C.); N. Robinson (Dunlop); W. Labriel (Dunlop); N. Gill (Police.)”
In the beginning
“A Short History of Football in British Honduras” appears on page 63 of the souvenir booklet, presumably written by then Association Secretary, Phillip S. Hall. This gives an idea of the early developmental stages of football in Belize. The following quotes are directly from page 63 of that booklet:
“Soccer or Association Football first made its appearance in Belize in the early 1890’s. There were no real organized teams and competitions. Expatriates and British Hondurans who studied abroad and learnt football in the course of their stay, played against visiting navy or merchant ships. There still lives someone who played as early as 1896 none other than the Hon. H. I. Melhado, O.B.E., J.P.”
“The first organized teams were the Colonial Football Club and the St. John’s College Club, who played matches from time to time. It was not until 1919 that the present League was formed with H. W. Beaumount, President; W. M. McField, Secretary; and E. O. B. Barrow, Committee and a competition started in 1919 –1920, among clubs as the Preston, the Rovers, the Wesley Old Boys, Oxford, Surrey. About this time the Royal Sessex Regiment came to B.H. and it may well be said that they were responsible for improving the standard of our play and produced splendid players as G. Canton, M. M. Staine, N. Slusher, H. Bucknor, K. Hulse, L. Davis, C. Michael, W. Hoy, T. Vernon, H. Ifield, G. Bradley, Stanley Hulse, Harold Staine, K. Hulse, W. Lighburn, Chico Gonzalez, Roland Reneau, Donald Daly, Ortis Gladden, Robbie Bevans, Mike Rosado, Rumple Arnold, Oliver Gibson, Chip Chanona, Dennis Hall, Lloyd Davis, Jim Faber, Percy Fairweather, Curl Young, R. Card, Roy Cattouse, and many others.”
“Other outstanding figures that were connected with the game were F. R. Dragten, A. J. Hunter, G. Peterson, Supt. Aberham and Major Shute.”
“The Prestons emerged the best team out of this contact and ruled football for some seven years. Except for two seasons they did not play when the Surrey and Rovers won respectively. After the Prestons the Crimson became Champion for two seasons 1929-1932 followed by the Excelsiors 1932-1934, then the Arsenals who won for four seasons.”
It is not clear exactly when the “Royal Sessex Regiment” came to Belize; if their arrival precipitated the formation of the league, or the league was formed shortly prior to their arrival. It does appear that their arrival date, if not before, was not long after the first competition in 1919-20.
Some of the names mentioned above could have covered a wide period of time, as I recall meeting a Mr. Ortis Gladden, who was a foreman on the waterfront back in 1974, and he looked to be probably in his early sixties then. And Telford Vernon (if it is the same T. Vernon mentioned) is presently about 83 or 84 years old, which would put his birthday around 1923; he certainly couldn’t have encountered the members of the Sessex Regiment, unless the Regiment remained stationed in Belize continually from the time it arrived. This may have been the case, as in recent times in the sixties and seventies it was traditional for City teams to make trips to Airport Camp on Sundays to play against the “British Army”, whose garrison remained stationed in Belize consistently until Independence in 1981, and intermittently thereafter.
According to my father, C. B. Hyde, a contemporary of Telford Vernon (who, incidentally, became the first Commissioner of the Semi-Pro League at its inception in 1991), the players listed in the preceding paragraph were from different eras of football. Some were from the Preston era of the 1920’s, while others were from the 1930’s and 1940’s. He remembered some of the names mentioned and the teams they played for, which would help to place them in proper chronology.
Next, the booklet has a listing on pages 64-65 of “Football Winners Over The Half Century” up to the year of publication, 1962, as follows:
To be continued