(Continued from Amandala of Wednesday, October 22, 2014)
Before venturing further into any discussion of the sixties and beyond, perhaps we should take the opportunity to briefly recount a noble effort made by some of our sporting elders a couple decades ago, resulting in the first ever Belize National Sports Hall of Fame induction in 1993. In that first effort, which covered the period from 1923-1960, top athletes were nominated from 8 different sporting disciplines, and through a weighted voting mechanism by members of the Hall of Fame Committee, the top vote getters were selected to be the first inductees into the Belize National Sports Hall of Fame.
C.B. Hyde was the chairman of that committee, and, while the National Sports Council has informed us that the records were all lost or damaged through the leaking roof at the building inside the MCC Grounds, we have recently stumbled across the personal file of the chairman while clearing away stuff from his old residence, and it is perhaps the only remaining copies of that outstanding process that should be documented for posterity, and as a blueprint for future Hall of Fame efforts.
Amandala did publish the names of those first inductees (for football, basketball, track & field, boxing, cycling, softball, cricket, and tennis), but since we are talking football right now, we will here recount the names of those first football inductees into the Belize National Sports Hall of Fame back in 1993. (The FFB has started an effort in September of 2013 towards an FFB National Football Hall of Fame; but work was suspended some months ago.)
The 15 members selected for FOOTBALL in that 1993 Belize National Sports Hall of Fame were (and from the notes, it is clear that the names appear in the order of top vote getter on down the line): #1 ORTIZ GLADDEN; #2 JIM FABER; #3 WILLIAM LIGHTBURN; #4 DENNIS HALL; #5 OLIVER GIBSON; #6 DELFINO MARCELLO; #7 JOE MENDEZ; #8 MIKE ROSADO; #9 CHARLES BANNER; #10 LLOYD DAVIS; #11 RAYMOND YOUNG; #12 FRANCISCO GONZALEZ; #13 GEORGE LOCKE; #14 CORNELIUS MICHAEL; #15 HAVELAND NEAL.
Apparently there was a previous effort at the Belize National Sports Hall of Fame in 1980, but it had foundered for one reason or the other. However, the new initiative started in August of 1991 involved a series of meetings and organized effort by a number of individuals who served on the committee; and they produced a work they can be proud of, and which should indeed be documented in our National Archives.
In the various minutes of meetings of the committee, names of members who attended and contributed to the effort included: C. B. Hyde (chairman), Ms. Yolanda August (secretary), Owen Sonny Meighan (member), Hubert Bradley (member), Noel Noralez (member, Director National Sports Council). Other sporting individuals who were called to assist the committee in the selection process included: Clinton Castillo, Phillip Hall, Roy Canton, Ceito Gough, Telford Vernon, Bertie Ellis, Eddie Hyde, Calbert Gill, Collet Gill, Mrs. Brenda Gabourel Johnson, Peter Bryant.
A second induction ceremony was reportedly planned a couple years later, but Ministerial, and thus financial, support was lacking for this effort, and thus the Hall of Fame second batch of nominees were never officially inducted.
The names of the first football inductees may not be familiar or inspiring to current football fans, and this is understandable. It was the expressed intention of the Hall of Fame Committee that subsequent induction ceremonies would be held on a regular, if not annual basis; and this would eventually cover more recent times where fans would more easily relate to the names chosen to be honored.
Indeed, in the preamble of the “Hall of Fame Draft Proposal” it listed some of the main reasons for establishing the Hall of Fame, e.g. (i) “The accomplishments of outstanding individuals in sport should be given recognition in a permanent form;” and (2) “It is necessary to have the exploits of outstanding sports persons of the past on record so that there are standards by which their current counterparts may be measured and marks set for them to strive to equal and surpass.”
Into the 60s
In the late ‘60s and 70s, the Belize City competition represented the highest level competition in the country. Aside from Stann Creek’s Queens Park Rangers, which was one team, financed and equipped in a semiprofessional manner to travel and play against top opposition, the Belize City competition entertained teams from across the country. At different times there were Libertadores, La Victoria and San Joaquin from Corozal; BSI Sugar Boys from Orange Walk; Rocking-R, Avengers and Esperanza Eleven from Cayo; R.A.C., Salada Eleven and Citrus Eleven from Stann Creek. The road being so bad at the time, I don’t recall if any teams from Toledo were able to participate in the Belize City competition, until road improvements in the mid ‘70s made it feasible. In fact, to compensate for this in the early and mid-sixties, then District Officer David Cruz is said to have organized a special competition for those southern district teams that found it difficult to travel all the way to Belize City; thus the Western District teams that participated in an annual Inter-District tournament involving teams from Stann Creek, Toledo and Cayo. The story goes, that it was on one of those trips to Toledo, where the over-confident Cayo Western District squad was thrashed by a young Toledo team, that they returned to Cayo to lick their wounds, and out of that process, and their resolve for redemption, that the Mighty Avengers was born. (See “A chat with veteran footballer Gerald “Speedy” Henry in Amandala of February, 2012.)