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Farewell, Luton - Nation grieves passing of former Reggae Boy Shelton

Published:Saturday | January 23, 2021 | 12:13 AMLivingston Scott/Gleaner Writer
Jamaica’s captain Luton Shelton celebrates after scoring the winning goal in the country’s historic 2-1 FIFA World Cup win over the US at the National Stadium in September 2012.
Jamaica’s captain Luton Shelton celebrates after scoring the winning goal in the country’s historic 2-1 FIFA World Cup win over the US at the National Stadium in September 2012.

Jamaicans were left in shock yesterday with news of the passing of former Reggae Boy Luton Shelton.

Shelton, 35, died at home after ailing with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) since 2017. ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control.

Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) General Secretary Dalton Wint and Harbour View FC head coach Ludlow Bernard said Shelton’s passing marked a very sad moment in the nation’s football.

Wint said he had hoped the speedy forward would not have passed so soon.

“We all knew he was ailing, but we were hoping and praying he would stay around for a much longer time,” Wint told The Gleaner.

“He has done so much for football and he is still the leading goalscorer for the men’s national team. So we are saddened by the passing of this young man because he was still a young man.”

More than a player

For Bernard, the news hit him hard, as he said that Shelton was more than a player to him.

“For me, personally, I have lost a son, somebody who was very dear and close to me,” Bernard said. “I have been working with him since he was 12 and we never lost contact with each other.

“But we weren’t expecting it so quickly, so when his mom called me, I was lost for words. It struck me very hard. He is going to be sadly missed by everybody, but it was a joy working with him and knowing him.”

Bernard noted that since the former Wolmer’s Boys’ School star was a young player, he had an appetite for goals and brought that wherever he played throughout his career.

“He was always an aggressive forward ... . He was always passionate and emotional about goalscoring and he thrived on scoring goals,” he said.

During his career, Shelton played for Sheffield United (England), Valerenga (Norway), Karakukspor (Turkey) and Volga Nizhny Novgorod (Russia) and he always showed his scoring prowess.

“He came back to Harbour View FC and quite significantly, in his last game for Harbour View, he scored his last goal for the club and in his career,” Bernard pointed out.

Wint concurred said that the player was always a goalscoring threat wherever he played and likened him to former Arsenal and France star Thierry Henry.

“Apart from Henry, I can’t remember a player with such raw pace. He contributed significantly to us winning the Caribbean Cup a few occasions and he always did well in World Cup qualifiers. The last World Cup qualifier, I watched him played against Panama in Panama. He didn’t score, but the pressure he applied to Panamanian defence, that match was unforgettable,” he recalled.

Shelton’s legacy

Both Wint and Bernard also believe the player’s legacy will live on for a long time.

“He made his mark in the annals of Jamaican football and his name will never be forgotten and his legacy is here for all to see,” said Bernard.

“He is still the leading scorer for the men’s national team, so that is something he will be remembered for. Even when it (record) is broken, people will always make reference to that,” said Wint, adding that the JFF will be having discussions on how to mark the passing of the prolific goalscorer.

Shelton is the only man in football history to have scored four goals on his international début.

In June 2008, he scored five goals in two 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying games against The Bahamas. In the first match on June 16, he scored two goals as Jamaica won 7-0 and scored a hat-trick two days later as Jamaica won 6-0.

He was Jamaica’s top goalscorer in their Concacaf qualification campaign for the 2010 FIFA World Cup with seven goals.

On 31 January 2010, Shelton scored against Canada to equal Paul Young as Jamaica’s all-time leading goalscorer with 28 goals. Then on November 27, 2010, he became the nation’s all-time lead scorer with 30 goals after scoring two goals versus Antigua.

He also scored one of the goals as Jamaica registered their first-ever win (2-1) over the USA in a World Cup qualifier in 2014.

He ended his career with 35 international goals.