BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Sept. 19, 2019– On Tuesday of this week, we learned of the passing of legendary Belizean footballer, Raymond Benjamin Alvarez, known to football fans as “Lee Mole,” “Ramon,” and “El Toro.” He was the younger brother of another departed legend, Serapio “Big Mole” Alvarez, who was the first captain of the famous Independence football team of the 1960s that also featured another legendary baller, Louis “Bembe” “the Mugger” Garbutt. Both the Mugger and Big Mole are deceased, passing a couple months apart in June and August of 2013, respectively. That same year, a great friend of the Mugger, legendary goalkeeper Nelson “The Roo” Robinson organized a “Mugger Day” to honor him and recall the memorable exploits of the great Mugger. The Roo himself passed in May of last year, 2018; and now, Lee Mole has left us. Big respect to our football greats of yesteryear, who must certainly be inducted into the Belize Football Hall of Fame, whenever it is officially launched.
Incidentally, there has been an official Belize Sports Hall of Fame, which was launched back in 1990 and covering the major sports up to around 1960. According to C.B. Hyde, the Hall of Fame Committee included a number of prominent and knowledgeable sporting individuals, and their list of honorees is lodged with the National Sports Council. Regrettably, this Committee reportedly had compiled a second list of proposed Hall of Famers for the period 1960 to 1990, which would have covered a lot of names familiar to the present generation; but the then Minister of Sports requested that, due to the cost, the list should be reduced from the proposed 40 individuals, and the Committee refused to cut anyone. Thus ended that initiative.
Whenever it is officially launched, at this sports desk, and with the blessing of Evan X Hyde’s “Sports, Sin & Subversion,” I do declare without reservation, that El Toro has our vote to be among the members of the Belize Football Hall of Fame.
I have memories of Lee Mole that stand out and can’t be forgotten. When he was the sweeper on Independence, before becoming famous as a striker later in his career, I particularly noted that whenever he would kick out the ball, it always landed at the feet of his wing or midfield teammate. It was like he had a radar on his right foot, and it stuck in my mind, his outlet passing accuracy.
Lee Mole, when he later became a forward player with San Joaquin and Berger 404, was also known as an intimidator and “physical” player who terrorized some defenders with his “bully reg” tactics, thus the “El Toro” moniker. But he was actually a very intelligent and skilled baller, who knew the advantage of aggression, learning from his forerunner, the Mugger, on some defenders.
As a midfield player, who prided myself on disrupting and stealing the ball from many an attacker, I personally experienced immense frustration when facing the oncoming Ramon, who ran flat-footed and straight-up like the Mugger, almost on his heels, but with the ability to change direction in a blink, and once on the run with the ball, it seemed that one man, at least myself, simply could not stop El Toro. Perhaps a part of his mystique was the ever present elbows sticking out left and right, that defenders had to always be concerned about, while his impeccable dribbling skills thus enhanced his effectiveness on attack.
Lee Mole was both a smart footballer and a “money player,” who rose to the occasion in big games. Like the Mugger, he seemed to thrive on the energy and excitement of fans in big games.
For me, the two most memorable games with Ramon Alvarez, were one as his teammate on Diamond-A, and the other as his opponent when I played center midfield with Charger against Berger 404, which featured El Toro.
Landivar was the defending champion around 1973, and was known for the most stingy defence, rarely allowing more than 1 goal, and posting many a shutout. Charles “Baabu” Humes was their center forward then, and he often scored the only goal of the game in the last fifteen minutes, when the opponent was tiring, for a 1-nil Landivar victory. On this occasion, Diamond-A manager, the X had planned an immediate “blitzkrieg” attack, which featured Ramon along with another legend Albert “Pappy” Smith of Avengers fame; and in the first fifteen minutes of play, Diamond-A had shaken the Landivar net 3 times, unheard of in those days. Diamond-A eventually won the game, 3-2. I think I watched that game from the bench as a youngster.
In the other memorable game for me, I was center midfielder on Charger around 1975-76, and it was “Fire on the Barracks” against reigning champions Berger 404. Nil-nil at the half; and just before we took the field to commence the second half, a commotion at the gate, where all eyes trained on two individuals entering and running past the Guinness Pavilion and around the wire fence and soon, through the wire fence and onto the field to join the rest of the 404 team. Reports spread around the park like wild-fire; a Maya Airlines plane had just brought in Lee Mole and Mandy Gomez from San Joaquin to join the match with Berger in second half. The game “played;” and the nil-nil drama heightened into the last 5 minutes of the game. A few feet above the left side of our eighteen, I approached the oncoming Cristobal Mayen with an intention to stall him or deflect his pass; but before I got near, Stobal sent a ground pass to his left, my right, across the top of the eighteen to the right side, where the oncoming Ramon Alvarez hit it squarely with the inside of his foot, hard enough for the low grass cutter near the right goal post to escape the outstretched hands of a diving Noel “Flying Fargo” Ferguson in the “murder” goal for Charger. 1-nil, Berger 404. A game I can never forget, though I was on the losing end. It was Belize football at its best; and fans will never forget, “from Stobal to Ramon.”
(Gilbert Rushford, older brother of “Suffudge,” insists that he was the 404 goalkeeper on that day, as Karl “Bunu Cal” Robateau was out with an injury.)
I have another memory of Lee Mole, that few may have noted. As a Tally Clerk at Customs between March and June, 1976, I had occasion to observe the loading of delivery trucks at the Queens Bonded Warehouse with goods destined for the various business houses – Brodies, Santiago Castillo, Ismael Gomez, etc. These trucks often had a driver accompanied by two or three loaders, young men whose task was to receive cartons of condense milk and various other imported grocery and dry goods. At the time, Lee Mole was still an active football striker; but I noted that he was usually alone along with the truck driver, and he would load the truck alone, lifting the cartons from the trailers and tossing them up onto the bed of the truck, for the driver to arrange them neatly in rows. The thought occurred to me, that Lee Mole was “working out” all day, before going to football practice in the evenings. He was therefore strong, in arms, shoulders, legs, all around a powerful player, who still had exceptional ball control and a soft, accurate passing touch.
For sure, his courageous spirit, impressive football skills, and winning attitude had something to do with the historic success of the Belize selection mentioned in “Sports, Sin & Subversion” that went undefeated on a trip through Mexico around 1977.
Having retired to his farm in Corozalito on the old Maskall Road, Lee Mole would occasionally drop by Nova Shrimp Farm in Ladyville in the late 1990s and early 2000s to secure some of the discarded shrimp heads, which he said he used to feed the pigs on his farm.
Lee Mole had been ailing for a number of years with diabetes and related problems, including failed eyesight. Our sincere condolences to his wife, Eleanor, his children and other relatives and friends. Funeral services will reportedly take place on Tuesday, September 24, at St. Martin De Porres at 2:00 p.m. The body will be received at 1:00 p.m.
Respect and R.I.P., the great Raymond “Lee Mole” “Ramon” “El Toro” Alvarez.