Western Grandstand : Respect is due to Gene Grey’s contribution

December 17, 2016
Then Chief executive officer of the Captain's Bakery, Captain Horace Burrell (right), presents the Captain's Bakery Trophy to Mark Wiliams (left), the captain of Wadadah FC, following his team's success over Negril FC. Sharing in the moment is Orville Powell (second left), the president of the St. James Football Association.

It has been more than a year since the passing of Gene Grey, the much-revered former owner/manager of Wadadah FC.

Except for the tribute paid to him at his funeral, the football fraternity has done nothing of significance to show respect to the massive contribution he has made to the development of national football.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Grey was the undisputed face of St James. In addition to bankrolling Wadadah's climb to the top of national club football, he brought respect and prestige to the parish's football by recruiting some of the nation's best players to parade their skills in the St James domestic leagues.

There was a time when Wadadah had seven players on the national team at one time.

St James residents Clive Wedderburn, Dean Wilmott, Anthony Corbett, Dave Brooks, Anthony Donaldson, and Andrew Sinclair became household names in western Jamaica.

It was Grey who basically brought the good life into club football in Jamaica. All his players were paid, and those who were not based in St James lived in small hotels and guest houses for an entire season. Many of them had rental cars at their disposal for most of the season. He was the man who introduced the concept of professional football to Jamaica.

St James was not the only beneficiary of Grey's generosity, which extended to even needy players from other teams.

He would gladly jump to the assistance of even the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) whenever there was a need for his assistance.

Back in the 1990s Grey once came to the rescue of the JFF when he financed a game in which Jamaica played host to Cuba in Montego Bay. The Cubans were hosted in Grey's flamboyant style.

When one looks at the long list of players who flourished on account of Grey's involvement in football, it could be said that, had it not been for the opportunities he created, players like former national captain Mark Ledford, Allan Aarons, Devon Rickettes, Durrant Brown, the late Winston Anglin and goalkeeper Stenett Saams might not have had the opportunity to represent Jamaica.

It therefore must be an insult to Grey's memory that, after all he is done for St. James and Jamaica's football, neither body has seen it fit to find an appropriate way to honour his contribution.

I am using this opportunity to call out people like JFF vice-president Bruce Gaynor and JFF boss, Captain Horace Burrell, to use their much-vaunted positions to fix a major oversight.

Former Wadadah top defender Michael Harriott, who is now based in Canada, is planning to stage a six-a-side tournament in Mount Salem (Wadadah's home base) to honour Grey, and while it is a gesture that should be applauded, I wish it was something on a much grander scale.

I believe the attitude of organisations such as the St James FA and the JFF stinks when it comes to showing respect to persons who have given distinguished service. I am yet to see any formal recognition paid to Robert Paul, Hope Sterling and Burchell Henry, all formerly of the Western Hotel Sports Association, who were great facilitators in the Jamaica's successful Road to France 1998 campaign.

It is a good thing that Orville Powell, the owner/manager of Montego Bay United FC, is not one who thrives on accolades. Because, if he did, I am sure he would probably be worried that in time to come, his contribution might be slighted in much the same manner as is being done to Gene Grey.

Hopefully, one day the JFF and the St James FA will develop the decency required to show respect to the contribution of the true pioneers.

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