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Mea culpa, “’89 memories”

FeaturesMea culpa, “’89 memories”

Mon. April 3, 2017–First and foremost, let it be known, it was never my intention in any way to discredit or in any way disparage the enormous contributions of my favorite Saturday morning host, the one and only, the Honorable Tony Wright, our beloved “Mr. T.,” as some fans prefer to call him. Indeed, I would be among the first to say, with no apology, that Mr. T. is without a doubt deserving of the title of “Honorable,” more so than many who occupy the lofty seats in our House of Representatives. Tony’s dedication to Belize and Belizean culture, especially music and sports, is unquestionable and laudable. And I am among his greatest fans. My Saturday mornings are not complete without Mr. T. and the Krem Saturday Morning Show, assisted and often co-hosted with the one and only J.C. Arzu, another Belizean music and culture icon of mammoth proportions. It is indeed a joy and a treat to have both these unsung heroes sharing our airwaves with Belizeans at home and abroad.

Unfortunately for me, and again I beg my brother, Tony Wright, to not hold it against me, as Amandala sports desk operator, I have found myself caught in a trap sometimes, and Mr. T. has apparently felt offended. But that, and nothing can come between us; Mr. T., you know how the game plays sometimes, we don’t even realize we’re hurting our own teammates, and have to “bayg paadn” later.

Mi Wally (Walter Lewis) was famous for that. Mr. T. told us recently, about how Walter was such a great, young striker on their 1960s junior team, Willie Wiley. I only got to know Mi Wally when, as a 16-year old youth, I joined the bench for the Amateur Sporting Club around 1969, when both Tony and Walter were already team members. At that time, in the senior ranks, Walter never looked the part of a top striker, though he was regarded as a player who could take care of himself against tackling defenders, to the point that even his own teammates might get hurt if they were too near “Mi Wally” when he was making advances upon the opponent’s goal. Nevertheless, with regularity, and seldom with any hard shot, Mi Wally would “get his one.” When I met him, Mi Wally was perhaps in the waning part of his career; and, though he was a decent “goal getter,” he never received the level of attention and accolades as other top strikers of the ‘60’s, such as Angus Vernon, Louis “the Mugger” Garbutt, Gilbert “Chico” Ellis, Keith Gardiner, Fred Martinez, Ivan “Tubuk” Martinez, “Maya” Ortega, et.al. (Again, I may be criticized for leaving out some names; which is inevitable in sports. But any input is welcome, and no offense taken; that’s how we can hope to piece together our unrecorded football history.)

I first got myself in an inadvertent “tackle” with Mr. T. like this. Tony had provided our sports desk with a “golden oldie” picture of a champion junior football team, “Willy Wiley,” that Winty J (Vincent Johnson) had mentioned in his football life story we had published in our sports column. The picture Tony gave us listed names of players, but Winty J was not among them. Winty J made it a point, at the next opportunity, a “Jean Guild and Mugger Day” at Yabra Field, to reaffirm his position on the team, when he took a picture with the goalkeeper for the team, one Rodwell “Cactus” Gill, who verified that Winty J was on the team. It was just a little piece of long past history for which our sports desk was providing a medium of clarification; we even noted that teams change from year to year, and so Winty J might not have been with the team then, that Tony was referring to.

Nevertheless, it seems Tony felt I was disbelieving him, or siding with Winty J against him. I can’t win this one. I love both brothers dearly. It was just a process of us trying to clarify our undocumented history, so that we get the facts right. I am also guilty of mistaken memory sometimes. In this case, both men were correct. As Mr. T. explained just this past Saturday, Winty J was not on the original team, which he, Tony, had helped to form. But when their left wing, nicknamed “Patcha,” stopped playing after his brother had tragically lost his life off a BEC sugar barge, they recruited Winty J to fill the vacant spot. At the time of the team picture provided by Tony, Winty J was probably not yet a member of the team. So, how do you like it? Sports just has to have controversy, it seems. Winty J was offended to have been left out of his place on Tony’s team; and Tony was offended at my seeming to support Winty J’s questioning of his team picture and players’ list of Willy Wiley junior team, a team that he, Tony, helped to form. I’ll take the blame; no offense was ever intended. What matters is that now we have the facts of our football history clarified on this issue.

As fate would have it, my rare phone intervention on Saturday morning, March 25, again put me in cross-hairs with Mr. T. In reminiscing on the late seventies/early eighties football, Tony was repeatedly emphasizing that Charger goalkeeper Noel “Flying Fargo” Ferguson was such a short goalie, one of the shortest. As Charger captain for a couple of those years, I felt duty bound to clarify; and I called in to Tony’s show to correct that misconception, explaining that we are all guilty of misconceptions from time to time, when recollecting long past events. But Fargo was definitely not among the short goalkeepers of his time; I said he was around my height, which would make him at least five feet eight or five feet nine inches. Definitely not short. I gave my opinion that the late Ruperto “Frogman” Alvarez and Wayne “Bom” Jones were two of the shortest goalkeepers. Maurice “Reesho” Jones called in to interject that “Puerto” was actually the shortest of the lot; and he was absolutely right. I later confirmed that Bom, who is not doing well right now, is not as short as I had thought; Frogman was definitely shorter. My misconception; we’re all guilty of that sometimes.

But again, I had offended Tony. More than I realized, because I was so focused on clarifying the memory of my past goalkeeper.

To make matters worse, I went and wrote about this and another matter in last Friday’s Amandala, in a page 53 article, “’89 memories.” And, from his comments on last Saturday morning’s show, Tony probably felt I was trying to get on his case, which I was not.

Again, I was just trying to clarify things for the purposes of our football history. Tony’s sports trivia quiz, on the 1989 Milpros goalkeepers, had given me an opportunity to “kill many birds with a stone.” Again, my intention was never to “mash Tony’s corn” in any way. The answers given were quite correct, from a fan’s standpoint, and I did not query that during the Saturday Morning show. But again, as the then manager of Coke Milpros football team, I felt duty bound to one of my players, Wayne “Grumps” Young, to have his place in history not be overlooked. I was not trying to prove that Tony’s winning answer, Carlos Slusher and Marvin Ottley, was wrong in any way. To any fan of the sport, even me, recollecting 1989, those are the two names that rang out as the star goalkeepers of Coke Milpros.

“A bayg paadn” again, Mr. T. Writing that article, I had many objectives, but none of them was to hurt my brother’s feelings. I am guilty of not making that clear enough; and I beg your forgiveness, brother. Like Mi Wally, in my quest of the goal, I trampled on my own teammate.

Here is what I wanted to do in that article. Some months ago, in a football discussion, Sports In Education coordinator Dion “Pussy” Flowers remarked to me that nobody ever explained to him how semipro football got started in Belize. He said that younger players needed to know that, so that they can better appreciate the opportunity they have now, that players in the past did not have. But he said, he himself was too young to know how it all began, and nobody ever explained. I promised to try, and believe me, I have; but every time I start, the story just gets too long, like a book, and I have run up against situations that need research to verify things. When Tony presented that trivia question, I saw an opportunity to clarify some facts, and then give a little highlight of the spark that ignited in 1989, and set off the semipro inferno that led to semipro football in 1991. What was not emphasized enough, perhaps, in that brief highlight, was the critical role played by Amandala publisher Evan X Hyde in that process. We only mentioned Amandala’s boycott of Bowen & Bowen products; but it is a long story. Shucks, this is a book that must be written.

When, after months of trials and tribulations, during which Coke Milpros was banned from football competition in Belize, the ban was finally lifted, it was Coke Milpros head coach, Winston Michael, who, in a meeting convened with past players (who had scattered for nearly a year with other teams in competition) declared that, rather than just returning to football as usual under the BNFA, let’s go semipro. Let us form our own semipro football league, something we had discussed off and on over the years. Winston met with Evan X Hyde at the Amandala office, where yours truly was an employee at the time. It has to be remembered, that at that time, the X and Amandala had a good relationship with then PUP Minister of Sports, Said Musa.

When Milpros coach Winston Michael took a mid-week trip to Belmopan in a WASA vehicle with WASA driver “the Rock”, accompanying him were Milpros manager, yours truly Charles X Hyde, and Milpros captain, Kenneth “Cap” Hoare; and we had a cordial meeting with the Sports Minister, Hon. Said Musa in his Government office. The meeting went well; the Minister gave his blessing to our semipro initiative. I suspect, though I never confirmed, that the X had already sought the support of Musa for our venture. Soon, the BNFA, with then General Secretary, Delhart Courtney, and President, Nicholas Pollard, were on board with the idea; as was Sports Council Chairman, Hubert Bradley. Milpros management had been agitating and organizing, and lobbying the support of top football clubs across the country, including our perennial rivals in Belize City, Belikin and Duurly’s. A Sunday morning meeting was hosted by Milpros at “Red House” on the boulevard near to the Port. Special invited guest was Leslie Sharp; and Bowen & Bowen sponsored the refreshments and BBQ for all our guests that day. The ball was indeed rolling for the formation of the first ever semipro football league in Belize, autonomous, but affiliated to, and under the umbrella of the Belize National Football Association (BNFA), as provided for in its FIFA approved Statutes.

But how did we get there? Indeed, this has been just an outline of the events. Some day we have to make an effort to fill in as many blanks as we can, to record the semipro football story. But it is a big work.

It is also worthy of note, more evidence of the X and Amandala’s driving force behind the scenes, that the very next year, 1992, saw the inauguration of the first ever semipro basketball league in Belize, featuring among the inaugural teams, the young Kremandala Raiders. And soon, another legend was born…

You see what you caused, Mr. T.? Now folks will be demanding a book on semipro football that needs to be written. I can provide some bits and pieces; but a book is a whole ‘nother matter. Nuff love, my brother in sports, the Rt. Hon. Tony Wright, Mr. T.88

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