By Neto Baptiste
Minister of Sports, Daryll Matthew, has added his voice to the list of dignitaries to pay homage to the country’s technical director for football, Rolston “Debu” Williams, who died on Wednesday at Mount St John’s Medical Centre.
Speaking on the Good Morning Jojo Sports show, Matthew, who is also a former president of the basketball association, remembered his first encounter with Williams as a coach in the national basketball league.
“Obviously, he was a coach in the Ministry of Sports, but one of my first interactions with Debu was in basketball because he used to coach the Asot’s Arcade Yogi Warriors team from Parham, and if it’s one thing with Debu I liked is that he was always consistent. He was passionate about what he did, passionate about how he expressed himself and he was never afraid to let you know where it stood on a matter. As recently as two weeks ago, we had a staff meeting and he was quite expressive, quite vocal but that was just the nature of the man and I think the sporting fraternity is the worse off for his passing; he has left some very big shoes to fill,” he said.
Reports are that Williams was admitted to the Mount St. John’s Medical Centre on Monday after he complained of numbness in his legs. Further reports indicate that the coach was in good spirits the evening before his passing, the news of which on Wednesday morning sent shockwaves through the sporting fraternity both here and across the region.
National youth coach George Warner, who worked alongside Williams in the past, fought back tears as he highlighted what a significant loss the nation had suffered through his passing.
“Debu, basically, was a real mentor towards me; also and we had a lot of good moments pertaining to when we traveled with the national teams. We used to share rooms together and if Debu caught any little play coming across his head at any time, it could be two o’clock, three o’clock or four o’clock [in the morning] you would hear Debu say ‘George, you sleeping,’ and I would say ‘no’ and he would say ‘I just found this play’ so we are missing a real giant of a man when it comes to football,” he said.
Also adding his voice to the tributes is head of the Villa Lions Soccer Academy and a former national defender Sowerby Gomes.
Gomes, who was actively working alongside Williams to formulate a national programme for football, said the coach contributed immensely to the development of the game.
“He contributed so much to the development of our youths all across Antigua and Barbuda. Debu was a coach who loved his craft, he was very passionate about it, and he was a very principled individual. As he was nicknamed Debu we had a meaning [for each letter of his name]: D; he was very determined, E; he was very emotional in whatever he did, B; he was very bold in his actions and Debu was unmatched in his style of coaching and we found it rather unique,” Gomes said.
Williams served as head coach of the senior national football team back in 2004 and 2012 when led the nation during the Caribbean Football Union’s (CFU) Caribbean Cup Championship.
He also led Parham to back-to-back Premier Division titles in 2001/2 and 2002/3. Parham also won in 20010/11 and 2014/15 under his tutelage.