Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Follow The Trace | Eternally grateful to 'Cappo'

Published:Tuesday | June 13, 2017 | 6:00 AM

I remember vividly, as a young schoolboy footballer, secretly envisaging myself playing in the World Cup football finals for Jamaica. At the time, it was a mere dream that was so unrealistic, I chose to keep it a secret from my peers for fear of being ridiculed.

With each passing week, month, and year, the reality gradually hit home that comparatively, I was not exceptionally good as a player, and that the opportunities to facilitate my imaginary journey were never actually in place, thus my secret aspiration was really nothing but a youthful pipe dream.

With my football-playing expectations now firmly in check, I resigned my ambitions then to someday seeing a Jamaica national football team playing on the massive stage of the World Cup Finals. Within a few years of resettling in my lane, a then barely prominent ex-army man and local football administrator named Captain Horace Burrell, the then relatively new president of the Jamaica Football Federation, announced that he was heading to Brazil to acquire the services of a national coach to qualify Jamaica for the next World Cup Finals in France in 1998.

 

Unthinkable journey

 

Like everyone else at the time, I found the entire line of thought laughable, but the Captain made the trip and duly returned with a then unknown Brazilian named Rene Simoes. The unthinkable journey had officially begun. It was a long, winding and convoluted ride riddled with challenges, doubt, and controversies; but with the captain steering the ship, and Simoes as his co-pilot, the historic journey culminated in one of Jamaica's greatest sporting moments.

It was the late Sunday afternoon of November 16, 1997, when the vision of the captain officially became a reality, as the Reggae Boyz secured the one point needed in the home game against Mexico to book their tickets to the World Cup Finals in France.

The memories of that day inside the National Stadium remain some of the most cherished of my entire life. Those precious moments, and the many more that ensued, including three subsequent age group World Cup qualifications, all resulted directly from of the vision, foresight and fortitude of Captain Horace Burrell.

No one who knew, worked with the Captain, could honestly say they never had disagreements with him, whether personally or professionally. 'Cappo' was a relentless go-getter, who never took no for an answer and most certainly stepped on a few toes along the way.

I had many minor and a few major disagreements with the Captain, most recently with his administration's attitude towards young, local-based players, but in perusing his body of work, there can be no doubt that he was the most successful, and indeed the greatest ever, leader of Jamaica's football.

The criticisms about what some said were his arrogance and pride, with an exaggerated sense of self, were not justified to my mind. After all, the Captain was a brilliant leader, top-flight international administrator, and a successful businessman. These are real achievements that no black Jamaican needs to be humble or apologetic about.

Captain's success as a visionary and a leader of men should be an inspiration to every ambitious Jamaican, young or old, black or white. There has not been another leader in sports, definitely not in football, who can walk in the shoes of Captain Horace Burrell.

He had style, swag, and, most importantly, substance. There was no mountain too high, nor obstacle too difficult for the Captain to get over, with the one exception being his mortality. Even then, he fought like a soldier to the very end. Rest in peace, Cappo.