BELIZE CITY, Mon. Aug. 17, 2020– I’ve been delaying the start of this story for a long time. It’s a challenge to try and be impartial and completely objective, when you have been up close and directly involved with the subject of our discussion in so many situations over the years. But I’ll try. Because I must give maximum respect and recognition to one undoubtedly bound for Belize’s Football Hall of Fame while he still engages in a three-week battle for his life on a hospital bed in New Jersey, where he has resided for the last two plus decades.
Gilroy “Coro” Usher is a Plaza product, and most of his glorious football career in Belize was spent representing the Cinderella Plaza area on teams from the junior, senior and finally the semi-pro league, including, during that period, a number of international appearances both with the Belize National Team, and as Belize’s representative in the Concacaf Champions League competitions.
I first became aware of the youngster, pointed out by some of my then Charger teammates, which would be around 1975 or’76, when Charger had burst on the 1st Division scene; and, though I was not then a regular starter, it would be normal for fans to gather around the players warming up before games or discussing the day’s events following the long whistle at the end. I distinctly recall someone making the remark, indicating a young teenager still in shorts from playing a preliminary 2nd Division game, “dat da di lee Coro;” and I soon gathered that the youth was making a strong impression on older players at the games. That “di lee Coro” appeared to be “promising” may be an understatement, for in a few short years the name of Coro Usher would become synonymous with the very best of football coming out of the Plaza area, and indeed on the national level.
With his family home on Baymen Avenue practically overlooking the MCC Grounds, and also a stone’s throw from the little piece of real estate referred to as the Plaza Playground (now the Noel Ferguson Park), it was natural that the young Coro would gravitate to the game of football, which was not only played at the highest level each weekend at the MCC, especially on Sundays, but also featured some intense rivalries in small-sided games at the Plaza field, where most of the star players on Plaza-based 1st Division teams also honed their skills in bet games on Saturday afternoons. On regular weekdays, practices used to take place at the old BEC field; but in later years, when some youths from the area attended Technical College, and BEC field was no longer available, permission was granted by principal Owen Morrison for the senior team to use the Technical field as their regular practice grounds, provided that they maintained good discipline from all who joined in the action.
In the modern era of the mid-1970s onwards then, the base practice grounds for Plaza teams was on the Belize Technical College (now ITVET) compound, which once accommodated two football fields, though not of regulation size.
From his hospital bed in New Jersey, where he receives oxygen to compensate for lung failure, Coro related that his entry into 2nd Division (junior) football was with a team sponsored by the McField owned gas station on New Road.0 Mac’s Strikers became Belize City 2nd Division football champions. Rising star striker Maurice Jones did not finish the season with Mac’s, according to Coro; as he walked out when a team vote allowed Coro’s elder brother, Anthony “Telos” Usher, known also as “Preacher Boy”, to start in a game, despite not working out with the team. Telos, a former regular starter, had been away on study leave. In Reesho’s absence, Coro assumed captainship of the team, which became Fort George Strikers in the next season; and they were 2nd Division champions again, this time undefeated, with Coro and Maurice “Pocket” Matthews being the leading scorers. Meanwhile, Reesho had been drafted by the powerful senior division team J & E. That would have been around the 1975-76 season, which marked the second consecutive season championship for the famous Berger 404 squad,
The next season, 1976-77, saw Coro leading his teammates into the 1st Division under the name of their new sponsor, Roses (from Roses Paper Products). Maurice Jones stayed with most of the players from J&E, who were now playing under the name of White Label, and they became 1976-77 champions, beating Charger, 4-2, in the final, after Charger had led 2-0 in first half. Meanwhile, Coro’s Roses, with Robert “Baby” Flowers, Malcolm “Buddah” Hemmans, Romaldo “Rammy,” Walter “Wildbone” and “File” McFarlane, along with Valentine Ferguson (younger brother of Charger’s Noel “Flying Fargo” Ferguson) in goal, gave good account of themselves.
Following the White Label championship in 1976-77, Coro and Reesho were reunited under the Belprint banner, and it marked a remarkable period in MCC football, where the boys from the Plaza “had the number” on the “Lake.” Despite never figuring in the championship race in the latter 1970s, Coro recalls that, except for a 5-2 loss by Roses to Berger 404, his Plaza team never lost a match to the 404 boys from the Lake at the MCC. And it was during that period in Belize City football that the kid we had once referred to as “di lee Coro” had grown into a major force in Belize football, a headache for opposing defences, and more and more referred to by teammates and fans as “the midfield general.”
During the 1980s, despite frequent trips to the US, Coro’s fame grew in Belize football, receiving Best Midfielder honors in his Milpros’ 1983-84 City championship, and being instrumental in securing Belize’s first successful advance in Concacaf play in 1989, when Coke Milpros defeated Nicaragua’s Diriangen General.
In Belize’s first ever Semi-pro League competition in 1991, a spectacular late goal by Coro sealed the 1-0 sudden death semifinal victory for Cemcol Milpros over San Pedro. And most Milpros fans forever regretted the substitution for Coro with the championship game tied at 1-1 early in second half against La Victoria, who went on to win, 3-1. Indeed, after the game, renowned Victoria defender Reggie Williams was heard to comment that he breathed a sigh of relief when Coro was taken out of the game. Such was the measure of respect he had garnered, that Plaza stalwarts were not hesitant in passing on the title of “The General,” once held by veteran legend Malcolm “Buddha” Hemmans, to Gilroy “Coro” Usher, another legend in the making. Respect, General Coro!