They made us believers. We shared in their thrill of victory and their agony of defeat. They inspired us to strive for excellence, and never to quit. They enriched our lives. The ‘they’ of whom we speak, are the footballers and athletes and netballers and basketballers, down through the years, here in our bit of paradise. They made their marks in their chosen sport, and wherever two or three gather to talk sports, the names of our great sportsmen and women will be whispered with reverence, at times, and of course, shouted with the unbridled joy that they once evoked from us when they took center stage at Top Field, YASCO, Blackburne Park, Princess Margaret School grounds, Pilgrim High School playfield, the Antigua Recreation Grounds, Upper Fort Road playfield and so on and so forth. They will not be forgotten.
In that regard, yesterday’s VOICE OF THE PEOPLE (VOP) broadcast was dedicated to the great Antiguan and Barbudan men and women of sports who, because of their exploits on the field or the track, made us better people and did us so proud. One of the distinguished panelists on that broadcast was Mr. Everton ‘Mano’ Cornelius, the president of the Antigua and Barbuda Athletics Association, and gold medalist in the sprint at the CARIFTA games in the early seventies. He also won the bronze medal in the long jump at those same games. Mr. Clancy Mack, an iconic footballer and former national player and coach, (also served as secretary and president of the Leeward Islands Cricket Umpires Association), and Micah Samuel, another football legend and sports official, completed the panel. Micah was once captain of our national under-20 football team. He was also a member of our national football squad and has served for quite a while in the Ministry of Sports. He was once our Youth and Development Officer. Mack and Micah both played for the perennial championship Empire Football Club – the one that claims that the equally-outstanding Supa Stars Football Club, only beat them once in a remarkable and still-talked-about-rivalry that spanned several years. (Wink, wink)
The point is that those football games and Sports Day competitions back in the seventies and early eighties provided us with a sense of belonging (fans were fiercely loyal and proud), and a great deal of first-class entertainment. Arguably, the seventies and eighties were the golden age of football and athletics here in Antigua and Barbuda, what with the tremendous amount of raw talent with which our sportsmen were blessed. We submit that, had our sportsmen and women the opportunities and financing and gear and technology that is now available today, they would have gone on to perform wondrous feats, not only here, but in the international arena.
So who, pray tell, are these extraordinary sportsmen and women? Without further ado, we will list (in no particular order) the names that were called by our esteemed panelists and the callers and WhatsAppers to yesterday’s VOP: Keithley ‘KS’ Sheppard, Alfred Christian, Veron Edwards Jr., Alexander Ferrance, Mervyn Richards, Sir Vivian Richards (in his capacity as a footballer) Junie Michael, Fernando Abraham, Alfred Lewis, William Lewis, Andy ‘Job’ Christian, Daryl Greenaway, Ivor Luke, Winston ‘Pin’ Hewlett, Wesley Challenger, George Henry, Everton ‘Batow’ Gonsalves, Everton ‘Evie’ Richardson, Adolphus Richardson, Alfred ‘Scout’ Christian, Danny Livingston, Terry Browne, Leo Chiddick, Mervyn Tittle, Eddie Potter, ‘Picnic’ Gilead, ‘Epilus,’‘English,’ Robin Bascus, ‘Trouble’ Thomas, ’Boast’ White, Gantone Nesbett, Jerome Tittle, Patrick ‘Sheepie’ Evanson, ‘Pinico,’ Carl Casey, Brandon Christian, Danny Oliver, Wesley Dyer, ‘Pudding’ and ‘Picking,’ Derrick ‘Pretty Boy’ Edwards, Gary Gonsalves, Robert ‘Turtle’ Joseph, Stanfield ‘Shipwreck’ Joseph, Quentin Clarke, Rexy Rose, Les Williams, Nedley Dyer, Humpty Morris, ‘Grainy,’ Malcolm Otto, ‘Ghost’ and ‘Dooga’ Matthew, Peter Henry, ‘Ibo’ Henry, ‘Cockie’ George, Connie Nicholas, Noel ‘Nya’ Roberts, Wayne ‘Dr. H’ Harris and Paget Samuel of Freetown (legend has it that he excelled in every sport).
And the pantheon does not end there. Consider the following: Ruperta Charles, Joycelyn Joesph, Julene Spencer, Dale Jones, Hayden Joseph, Calvin Greenaway, Janelle Williams, Stacy Quashie, Anika John-Baptiste, Heather Samuel-Daley, Tahir Walsh, Daniel ‘Bakka’ Bailey, Cejhae Greene, Sir Lester Bird (Long jumper. Once jumped 25 ft.), Ivor Bird (High jump), Henry Greaux, George Samuel, Dr. Ashoha, Joe Tex, Trevor Athill, Frank Barnabas, Fred Sowerby, Cuthbert Joseph, Granville Flax, Duke Goodwin, Steve Browne, Jr. and Derry Browne (legendary pole-vaulters at AGS), Archie Cranston, Sylvester Henry, Watley Mascall, Edward ‘Bumpie Dawg’ Peters (another great pole-vaulter at AGS), Errol ‘Bumpie’ Nanton (it is believed that he still holds the pole-vault record at AGS), Clifford Jarvis, Bertsfield Martin Brown, Alfred Browne, Cordova ‘Popeye’ Simon and Lester Benjamin.
Of course, as our VOP panelists were careful to point out, many of our sports giants became great as a result of the tutoring and nurturing from many who gave unstintingly to the development of their native ability. Here are some of those who gave so much: Pat White, Fitzroy Brann, Taddy Arrindell, Maclean Matthias (headmaster, St. John’s Boys School), Dr. Alister Francis (Netball), Sir Reginald Samuel (Sportsmaster at AGS), Sportsmaster Englehorn (PMS), Priscilla Fredericks, Nicosi Barnes, Sybil Walling, Joyce O’Donoghue, Karen Joseph and Theresa Emanuel.
Obviously, this list is incomplete, and we certainly regret the omissions. To that end, we will be hosting a Part II in the not-too-distant future. We will also be hosting a Legendary Cricketers of Antigua and Barbuda broadcast with the highly-knowledgeable and much-revered Hugh Gore next week.
We also wish to thank our panelists, as well as Mr. Alister Thomas (a decent footballer back in the day) and all the other contributors who made the compilation of this list possible. And of course, we wish to thank all the athletes, footballers, netballers and basketballers for the special moments and the precious memories!
And whilst on the question of ‘memories.’ Seems, Micah, Mano, and Mack are a bit faulty in their recollection of events. For example, notwithstanding the great championship runs by Empire, Mr. Alister Thomas reveals that Santos Football Club, with stars like the aforementioned ‘Pudding’ and ‘Picking’ and ‘Ticksy’ and ‘Spire,’ easily dished-out ‘plenty blow’ to Empire. Moreover, Micah and Mack are insisting that the venerable Supa Stars Dream Team, regularly got a spanking from Empire. Indeed, Mack goes as far as to say that whenever Empire returned to the Grays Green community, the question from their fans at home was not ‘if’ they won, but by ‘how much’ they won. Mack, with all due respects, “Nutten tall go so!” Similarly, Mano, Micah and Mack are suggesting that, in athletics, the St. John’s Boys School and the PMS, regularly administered beatings to the AGS. Again, gentlemen, no offense meant, but you seem to be having some difficulty with the truth (Smile). My recollection is that between 1972 and 1978 (this writer’s years at the AGS), the ‘Semper Virens’ routinely beat all comers. That is our story and we are am sticking to it! Of course, I am being facetious. We got our fair share of licks, too.
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