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Football flashback – Recalling some stars of the past, towards a Belize Football Hall of Fame

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Apr. 2, 2020– The country is on lock-down with a State of Emergency, including night-time curfew, with all sporting competition and activity on pause due to the silent battle against the COVID-19 Pandemic. It is surely a time for reflection and reminiscing, and some of that is being done in major publications as well as on our local social media, especially Facebook, where already there have sprung up debates on the relative rating of star players in years past.

The National Sports Council archives currently include a Belize Sports Hall of Fame, where the names of outstanding athletes were listed covering a period from the inception of organized sports in British Honduras in the early decades of the past century until 1960. Some sports covered in that effort included football, basketball, boxing, cycling and softball. The work of that Sports Hall of Fame committee continued to cover the period from 1960 to 1990; but unfortunately, their efforts were aborted when funding from the ministry was not approved.

A few years ago, an effort was made by the Football Federation of Belize (FFB) to launch a Belize Football Hall of Fame; that committee was headed by FFB President Emeritus Delhart Courtney. That committee had hit a snag, where debate centered on the number of names to be listed in the first edition of the Football Hall of Fame. The proposed number of ten (10) was opposed from this quarter as being too small a number for a first batch, considering that it would be covering a period from 1960 to the present. FFB building renovations led to a suspension of meetings; and that was that.

By its very nature, a Hall of Fame cannot include all the athletes who played or were good in any particular sport. In every sport, there are those who are not so good, good, pretty good, very good, outstanding, and the adjectives go on. And there will always be disagreements, as we all have a right to our point of view. So, a voting system is usually the best way; and periodic additions (annually, or every two, three or more years, as is seen fit) are made, where new members are inducted into the Hall of Fame. It’s a chance for fans to honor the stars that gave them joy in competition, and for young fans and players to get acquainted with, and have respect for those that came before them.

So, we do need a Hall of Fame in Belize; for football, for basketball; for softball; for cricket; for boxing; for billiards, darts, etc., and indeed, every sport that fans feel worthwhile to give honor to their stars.

Belize’s problem is that we have been Self Governing since 1964, and Independent since 1981, but we still haven’t found the interest, effort and energy/resources to set up, in each sport, an official Hall of Fame, supervised and sanctioned by the governing body of the particular sport.

In the absence of that, different individuals and groups have occasionally offered their take on a Hall of Fame for different sports; and the effort is much appreciated by fans and certainly by the athletes so honored. Also, for some years now, selected outstanding past athletes, who no doubt carry Hall of Fame credentials, have been included for honors at the annual September celebrations ceremony at the Bliss. But these efforts, though worthy of great praise, are not all encompassing, and the official mission is still to be accomplished by the relevant sport association.

Even the NBA and FIFA have their debates on who is the G.O.A.T.; and there will always be differences of opinion in the ranking of our sports stars. Sometimes, when we reflect on great players of the past, we remember some one time, and another time some other names pop up in our memory, and we say, “How could I forget so and so?”

As the field gets narrowed down with numbers, there will certainly be debates and only voting will decide how many and which players will get entry on a given date, and which not to the Hall of Fame. But in the early going, there are some names that just, absolutely CANNOT be left out of any list that boasts of the name, Hall of Fame. Again, that is an opinion.

I do not presume here to have the authority for any definitive Hall of Fame list; but I am very confident that, from veteran fans and players still around from, let’s say, the 1950s to mid-1960s, there are probably close to ten (10) football players already that absolutely must be in any self-respecting Hall of Fame. And if you start thinking about it, those veterans still around, the same can be said for the period mid-1960s to late-1970s. (It is hard to settle on a cut-off period; and I chose this method because the massive exodus of Belizeans/athletes to the U.S. following Hurricane Hattie in 1961, resulted in a dramatic change of scenery in the sport in the latter half of the ‘60s.) We could then go on from the early 1980s to 1991, when amateur football ended; and then the semi/professional era, the 1990s, the 2000s, and the 2010s decade up to the present 2020.

Belizean talent

We won’t drop any names just yet. What we want to reflect on right now is the amazing abundance of talent in this little Belize, in every area of sport.

In the “old days” of the 60s and 70s, before football took control of the MCC and the season thus lasted almost year-long, it was easier for multi-talented athletes to shine in different sports, because the football season was shorter, running from mid-September to about mid-February, when cricket took over the field. Basketball used to be at Holy Redeemer Parish Hall, then the tennis court after Hattie, then St. Ignatius Court, before moving to Bird’s Isle, and finally to the Civic Center; and I think in the sixties it started in December or January. Athletics took center stage in September, with a big meet on the Tenth afternoon; and there was also a traditional marathon race on Holy Saturday morning. To this day, I don’t think the great Bob Lightburn’s Half-Marathon record has been broken on Belizean soil.

There are some interesting parallels in Belizean athletic talent back then and now.

In that first period mentioned above, up to the mid-1960s, fans talk about some football stars who also competed at the highest level in other sports. And I have noticed a similar trend even today among primary school sports. Often, when you look at the reports of primary school football games, and I have attended a few, we notice that the same youngster who is the top goal scorer, he is the same lad who is leading his school’s basketball team; and then when they begin the softball season, the same fellow is the pitcher for his team, or a leader on the volleyball team. It brought me back to the one Wilfred “Palma” Davis, with whom I had the pleasure of being a football teammate on Diamond-A around 1973. A legendary goalkeeper from the Dunlop 1959 champions, I had also seen Palma perform in senior basketball at St. Ignatius; and he was the pitching ace for a baseball team, Flyers, I think, in a baseball season around 1964 or ‘65 at Rogers Stadium. A naturally gifted athlete, Palma made goalkeeping look easy because of smart positioning, and he had great hands. To me, it would be a colossal blunder for any Football Hall of Fame not to include Palma (Wilfred Davis). But also, how can you even think of leaving out “Mr. Ball,” the great Angus Vernon; or another great goalkeeper, Charlie Gardiner, who some say was as good as, or better than Palma; and then there is his brother, the super-talented Keith Gardiner, center forward for many championship Landivar teams, as well as once being the national table tennis champion, and also a stalwart player for the once-champion Unity cricket team. And we haven’t talked about Nelson “The Roo” Robinson yet; or Louis “The Mugger” Garbutt. And then, who is crazy enough to leave out the general, the legendary Gilbert “Pine” Hernandez from any Football Hall of Fame. Did somebody say Gilbert “Chico” Ellis, like Pine and Palma a star on champion Dunlop and then BEC teams, while Chico also starred on their cricket team, as well as being a fixture in the CYO basketball tournaments? You see the trouble? We are just brushing the surface, with more ground to cover in Belize City and the “out districts” for that period ending mid-1960s, which, for example would definitely have to include Dangriga’s legendary Ivan “Tubuk” Martinez; and you brothers from the “districts” could continue the list.

‘Ballers of yesteryear

So, we won’t fool ourselves with any attempt here at naming a Football Hall of Fame. What we propose to do, football being such a part of our culture and history, is just to help you reminisce on names you might recall from “back then;” and at another time we can look to review them and maybe carry it to the next level.

Here, I would like to invite you older fans to add names of players you think worthy to mention as being among the better players of the different periods as listed. We have started each list; you can continue. By the time COVID-19 is out of our picture, the FFB should be able to take over the steering wheel and guide us to an official Belize Football Hall of Fame.

This is a work in progress; and you, the fans have a crucial role to play.

Late-1950s to Mid-1960s
Angus “Mr. Ball” Vernon
Wilfred “Palma” Davis
Gilbert “Pine” Hernandez
Louis “Mugger” Garbutt
Gilbert “Chico” Ellis
Nelson “Roo” Robinson
Charlie Gardiner
Keith Gardiner
Ivan “Tubuk” Martinez
Randolf “Tiempo” Barrow
Russel “Bullet Bob” Saldano
Denton “Sharkey” Fairweather
Ernest “Reds” Wilson
Claude “Razor” Robinson
Mid-1960s to Late-1970s
Albert “Pappy” Smith
Cristino Jorge “Maya” Ortega
Gerald “Speedy” Henry
Edward “Thor” Middleton
Samuel “Pilis” Neal
Daniel “Nayo” Waight
Theodore “Bones” Lennan
Stanley “Rice” Robinson
Raymond “Steela” Garbutt
Fred Martinez
Mike “Lacio” Martinez
Alton Mossiah
Locario “Malanga” Mayen
Florentino “Tino” Coyoc
Calbert “Pomo” Usher
Wallace “Rungu” Glynn
John “Gas” Dougal
Kenrick Jones
Adolph Jenkins
Anthony “Patatu” Cutkelvin
Clarence “Willie” Williams
Phillip “P.C.” Eusey
Randolph “Coco” Young
Clinton “Baba” Frazer
Elston “Bouza” Stallard
Elridge “Postman” Latchman
Serapio “Big Mole” Alvarez
Raymond “Lee Mole” Alvarez
Norman Castillo
“Negro” Hall
Johnny Martinez
“Rummy” Martinez
Tony West
Tan West
Calbert “Culebra” Neal
Herbert Trapp
Rupert “Canalete” Anderson
Daniel “Don-D” Lino
Anthony “Garrincha” Adderley
Cristobal Mayen
Eugene Guild
Michael Hyde
Solomon Usher
Harrison “Plum Jaw” Joseph
Charles “Paco” Lewis
Maurice “Reesho” Jones
Evaristo “Harrier” Rosado
James Adderley
Juanito Ayala
Alger “Blaka” Bradley
Donald “Dover” Lightburn
Frederick “Doc” Archer
Russell “Cheezy” Hulse
Wayne “Hogman” Olivera
Rudolph “Peru” Olivera
Francis “Rojo” Arnold
Albert “Bi” Arnold
Kenrick”Dusty” Panton
Russell Vellos
Rudolph “Toad” Bowen
Eugene “Cherry” Cherrington
Leslie “Tucumcari” Rogers
Michael “Suffudge” Rushford
Harry “Straddle” Cadle
Fabian “Pharoah” Rivero
Earl “Mandingo” Barnett
Phillip “Ripper” Coye
Gileon Smith
Goldburn “Hashi” Ferguson
Noel “Flying Fargo” Ferguson
Valentine Ferguson
Raymond Davis
Charles “Baabu” Humes
“Jumping Jack” Sutherland
Harrison “Ile Man” Flowers
Larry “Charro” Bennett
Anthony “Horsey” Cooper
“Mundo” Myvette
Eric “Kizarro” Kisling
Ruperto “Frogman” Alvarez
Allison “Harrier” Laing
Gregsy Jones
Buck Torres
Paco Torres
Jorge Contreras
Joe West
Jacinto “Tash” Gutierrez
Charles “Chuck” Gutierrez
Enrique “Rico” Carballo
Ervin “Stud” Hendricks
Arthur “Turo” Roches
Roy “Brazilian” Velasquez
Nolbert Moss
Henry Moss
Richard “Chicken” Cacho
Dean “Sarge” Lewis
Timothy “Timo” Flores
Robert “Rabu” Garcia
Rodwell “Roddy” Leslie
Terrence Genus
Oscar “Mas” Marcello
Enrique “Ricky” Gongora
Vandley “Teacher” Jenkins
Karl “Bunu Cal” Robateau
“Chicka” Smith
Felix “Di Flea” Lino
Philip “Buck” Palacio
Orin “Coco” Orio

Early-1980s to Semipro 1991
Jervis “Rookie” Lambey
Gilroy “Coro” Usher
Anthony “Telos” Usher
Christopher “Greek” Luben
Oncell “Massive” Lopez
Mark “Tapad” Haylock
Errol Muslar
Ronald Greaves
Jorge Espat
Norman “Lion” Orosco
Arthur “Goatman” Leslie
Maurice “Pocket” Matthews
Goldburn Myvette
Kenrick “Crane” Major
Egbert “Chana” Kisling
Wayne “Bom” Jones
Benjamin “Don’t” Mejia
Evan “Chubby” Jones
Maurice “Magic” Francis
David “Manu” McCaulay
Joel Jones Dougal
Leroy “Plantain” Terry
Eugene Guild
Earl “Seven Ton” Jones
Harry “Bounce” Myvette
Juvencio “Bud” August
Edwin “Bri Bri” Hill
Erwin Contreras
Benedict Lopez
Kent Gabourel
Amin Cano
Kent “Gigante” Skeete
Kenneth “Cap” Hoare
Wayne “Minni Man” Reynolds
Winston “Mob” Humes
Rudolph “Supa” Humes
Frank Sharp
Alberto Yam
Rodrigo Yam
Reggie Williams
Elvis “Cricket” Crawford
Dalbert “Chill Pill” Lemoth
Colin “Bi Man” Francis
Steven “Crane” Michael
Orville “Spider Man” Burgess
Marvin Ottley

1990s decade
Norman “Tilliman” Nunez/Pipersburgh
David “Manu” McCaulay
Charlie Slusher
Eian “Coco” Henry
Peter Jones
Deron Jones
Hilberto “Hilly” Muschamp
Robert Muschamp
Freddy Tun
Donny Tun /
Estevan Hall
Pedro “Pelon” Barrajona
Dean Flowers Hendricks
Oliver Hendricks
Christopher Hendricks
Orlando “Landy” Vega
Rufino Lin
Anthony Michael
Edmund “Buzzard” Pandy
Orlando Pinelo
“Coco” Rodriguez
Delmar Sutherland
Bent Burgess
Erwin “Bird” Flores
2000s decade
2010 to present
To be continued…

(N.B. Please send your additional suggested names by period
(e.g. 1950s to mid-1960s) to [email protected])

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