Western Grandstand : Captain Burrell, a hard-nosed patriot
Despite the many times I have used this column to criticise aspects of Captain Horace Burrell's stewardship as president of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), I have always respected his love for Jamaica and his unwavering zeal to give our football global respect.
While there were times that Burrell picked on me publicly about stories I wrote bashing the JFF, we got along fairly well.
In fact, after any critical articles in this column on a Saturday, I could always look forward to a telephone call from him on a Sunday morning, giving his perspective on concerns I had raised.
Often, when he called, I would have no choice but to laugh because he would usually
start out jokingly by saying something like, "Good morning, Adrian. Which one of yu girls me tek away now? I see you come down hard on me in the paper yesterday ... . I thought you were my friend."
A typical call from Burrell would last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, or even longer. He was always quite respectful, but nevertheless unrelenting in making his point. He would simply not stop explaining his position until he got a concession, agreeing that there was some merit in what he was saying.
I cannot remember a single conversation with Burrell that did not end amicably. In fact, on many occasions, I would poke fun at him saying, "Capo, how dem seh soldiers don't cry and yu are always crying about articles you don't like?"
He would just laugh and say: "Adrian, we are all in this thing together ... . We all love football, so we just have to work together."
Interestingly, since the 1998 World Cup campaign, no new campaign ever started without Burrell sending me a full national team kit - jersey, shorts, and sweat top and bottom. It all started when he saw me at a game not wearing the national colours and said, "This don't look good. It should never happen again."
I have criticised Burrell many times in this column because I honestly believe that after we qualified for the 1998 World Cup, he squandered a glorious opportunity to build on that success. I believe with corporate Jamaica hungry to be identified with the success at the time, he should have used that opportunity to transform the National Premier League from an amateur league to a professional league with their support.
It seems that Burrell was hampered by the fact that the principals of some of the major clubs, especially those based in the Corporate Area, were not keen on relinquishing any of their power or control to a third party, and as such, the path to getting corporate Jamaica on board in club football was not getting the required support.
Another area of disagreement I had with Burrell was with regard to his sponsorship of the various parish leagues. I felt that it was unethical because it would give the impression that he was buying the loyalty of the various parish associations. However, he would always defend his action by saying that if other sponsors came forward, he would gladly back out, but until then, he felt that he had an obligation to ensure that domestic football was being played in all the parishes.
The last substantial disagreement I had with Burrell was with regard to the JFF handing over the Red Stripe Premier League to the PLCA, which I feel is dominated by individuals who are more interested in their personal interest than the development of our football. While he never said it, I believe that he was also of the view that the PLCA was a stumbling block to taking our club football to the next level.
In my book, Burrell was a good man - a visionary and a patriot. Outside of getting us to the 1998 World Cup in France, he was one who used his global contacts to create opportunities for our football and our footballers.
In light of the many positive things he did for our football, I do hope that history will be kind to him.