BELIZE CITY, Mon. May 28, 2018– We first received the sad news on Saturday evening from Yabra football icon, Jerome “Pealoff” Mejia; and this morning, a very close friend of The Roo’s, Bert Dougard visited Amandala to inform us of his passing in Brooklyn, New York. A survivor of heart surgery some years ago, The Roo reportedly took ill sometime last week, and a close relative confirmed to us today that he passed away on Friday night.
As the outstanding goalkeeper for the 1963 Brodies team that dethroned the BEC “Missiles” for the Belize City football championship, Nelson “The Roo” Robinson later became the starting goalie for a number of All Belize selections; but he actually rose to immortality in Belize football lore with a spectacular save in a big game at the MCC Grounds, when fans saw him acrobatically turn his body in mid-air to snatch a curving shot that had seemed a certain goal. It was a save that football fans, those who witnessed it, have never forgotten.
Like many sports stars and Belizeans in general, The Roo had migrated to the U.S. from the late sixties; but in the last couple decades he had made regular visits back home to the Jewel.
With the passing of his lifelong friend and fellow football legend, Louis “Bembe, the Mugger” Garbutt in July of 2013, The Roo spearheaded the launch of what became an annual tribute to the great Mugger; and his tribute was expanded in 2016 to include a memorial for recently deceased mid-1970’s star, Gene Guild of Berger 404 fame. In that “Mugger and Gene Guild Day” held at the Yabra Green, the Roo distributed a football to each of the thirty young participants in a featured U-10 game between Ladyville Rising Stars and City Boys Jr. Younger fans who grew up in the 70s and later in Belize have little idea of who The Roo was in his day, but those kids who each got a brand new football will certainly remember the old timer who showed them love on that memorable day.
In our September 19, 2016, report titled, “Football’s past and future converge for the Mugger and Gene Guild Day at Yabra,” we recount that episode at the Yabra Field:
“In a touchy moment, after the Rising Stars kids had received their footballs, one child was visibly heartbroken because he wanted another color of football from the black and white one he was given. Sulking away while the others gathered for a team picture, he was scolded by others for being ungrateful; but the Roo showed empathy and understanding of the child’s feelings, as he personally intervened, hugged the child and brought him to take the team picture beside himself (the Roo) at the front of the group. (See the Rising Stars team picture above.)”
For those present day ‘ballers who are trying to make their name in the sport, we offer this excerpt from our September 16, 2013, report on the first Mugger Day (held at St. Martin’s Field on Sunday, September 15) titled, “’Mugger Day’ a festival of football memories, love and togetherness.” In that report, another 1960s legend, Randolph “Tiempo” Barrow “recalled a game in Jamaica in 1963, when himself, the Mugger and The Roo were left out of the starting line-up as a disciplinary action (the team manager was Bill Lightburn), for not conforming to some rules during the trip; and it was the cricket contingent members who clamored for them to be put in the game, when the Jamaican team was beating the Belize Selection 3-1 in the first half. Tiempo said the management relented and inserted them in at half-time, and Belize went on to win the game, 5-3. He said that the Belize team won 4 games and lost 1 on that Jamaica trip. A Jamaica selection later completed the series with a visit to Belize the same (or the following) year, and that game was drawn, 2-2. A similar situation would develop some years later when a visiting Mexican team beat everybody, the Belize City champion and a selection; and the committee called on Independence to try and stop the visitors, which they did in dramatic fashion, 4-1, at the MCC.”
In searching for respect to our football greats and inspiration for our youths, the Roo pioneered an effort, a day to remember and honor the legends of our sport; and it behooves the leaders of the football family to pick up the ball and carry forward his noble work. The long overdue Belize Football Hall of Fame would be a good start; but in the meantime, a special day to honor the memory of The Roo will suffice. R.I.P. and Respect, Nelson “The Roo” Robinson.