My father was Speaker of the House from 1979 to 1984. But I know for sure that he was the Chairman of the National Sports Council in 1983, because that is when he closed down the MCC Garden for a year in order to upgrade its surface for higher quality football.
(That 1983 football season was played at the National Stadium, and what I remember most about that season was a game in which Stann Creek’s Walker Kuylen (who, I think, died in a traffic accident years later) suffered a massive head injury in a head-to-head collision with Belize City’s Crane Major.)
I don’t know how long my father was prominent in the Sports Council, but I am sure he was still there when Belizeans voted out the People’s United Party (PUP) and replaced them with the United Democratic Party (UDP) in December of 1984.
The new UDP Prime Minister, Dr. Manuel Esquivel, appointed a man from Orange Walk Town, Hon. Elodio Aragon, as Minister of Sports from 1984 to 1989. When he returned to power in 1993 after being voted out in 1989, Dr. Esquivel appointed another Orange Walk man, Hon. Reuben Campos, Aragon’s bosom friend, as Minister of Sports.
My father did a lot of work on a National Hall of Fame for sports while he was at the Sports Council, which was housed in the old Civic Center on Central American Boulevard. It appears to me that most of his work has been wasted, and I submit that Aragon and Campos were not interested in supporting the Hall of Fame because the list of honorees was very much dominated by Belize City.
In the 1950s and 1960s, people like Leslie Sharp in Stann Creek (Queen’s Park Rangers and RAC) and Jalil Bedran in Cayo (Rocking R and Avengers) sought to build football selections to compete with the Belize City juggernauts in the capital city’s competition.
This is a long story, and David Cruz, Sr., has a wealth of information which should be made public, at least for historical purposes. But, the media bosses in this country are not much interested in sports, and certainly not its history in Belize, because the giant transnational, Coca Cola, has pinpointed sports as its marketing vehicle here over the last six decades, and that’s all there is to that.
The point of this particular column is that Orange Walk was a total nonentity in Belizean sports until my childhood friend, the great Errol Cattouse, moved there in the early 1960s and almost single handedly raised Orange Walk’s basketball to a competitive level.
Recently I saw for the first time in print (I believe it came from New York’s Wellington Ramos writing in this newspaper) the story of a football game between Orange Walk and Stann Creek in the 1960s when the Stann Creek people believed that Don D and Rambibi of Stann Creek “sold” the game to Orange Walk. The story had been in Dangriga’s streets all these decades. Orange Walk, beloved, was not competitive with Stann Creek in football in the 1960s. That is for sure.
I think Orange Walk’s Hon. Kevin Bernard is the new PUP Minister of Sports. I am in retirement, and more than that, I have told you before that I don’t want to say, write, or do anything at any time which would embarrass Hon. Cordel, the ruling PUP’s Deputy Leader, because I have to accept the responsibility for his entry into electoral politics in 1994.
Sports was a vehicle through which the minority African American population of the United States, which had been enslaved until the U.S. Civil War between 1861 and 1865, elevated its status. Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champion of the world, was a spectacular human being. He was an incredible personality who became heavyweight champion of the world in the early twentieth century, when African Americans were routinely and casually being lynched throughout the Southern states of America. But, there is no record of Jack Johnson’s ever backing down from any white man. And, he lived openly with white women.
I would advise the new PUP to find some kind of consultant position in sports for Clinton “Pulu” Lightburn. Yes, the man may be considered controversial by some citizens, but there is a story which explains the rough road Clinton has travelled since he ruled Belizean basketball and was the idol of Belizean youth during the 1970s. That story has to do with the aforementioned marketing decision by the trillionaire soft drink multinational. And I’ll leave it right at that.
In closing, I would say that the first so-called “out-districts” which became competitive with Belize City in football were Stann Creek (with help from Honduras) and Cayo. The people of Orange Walk are a proud and honorable people, and I mean no disrespect. Colonialism made it so that Orange Walk Town was like a village until the Tower Hill sugar factory was built. Since then, Orange Walk Town has become big time. This is real.