(Letter to the Sports Editor)
THE Thomas United Football Club (TUFC) was started by Mr. Johnson, a teacher, on April 1, 1960 at Thomas Lands YMCA, Kingston, and is Guyana’s second eldest club, after the Georgetown Football Club (GFC).
But let me take you back in time with regard to the brief history of football prior to that era. As usual, there was a clash in the ’50s between the association and the players which led to no more games being played at the GFC ground, Bourda.
Thus emerged the genesis of the Softshoe League; no boots with pegs, with teams such as the Wolves, Bourda Colts, Juventus, Juicee, Eastern United, Red Banners, Continental which was the precursor to Thomas United, and others of note.
Matches were played at Parade Ground where an Ovaltine beverage tin was passed around for donations to offset expenses. Those matches ran for 60 minutes; no substitutions, that meant if one of your men was injured, you simply played short.
Out of this era came such greats as Compton Julian, ‘Beef’ Francisco, Amigo Dyal, ‘Patsy’ Peters, Winston Callender, Herby Jordan whose shot was so thunderous it rocked the Northern goalpost and forced the keeper to decide to hastily opt out of goal. His power was matched only by Clement Henry.
Daredevils in goal were such heroes as Birdet Marshall, Baije Devonish, Maurice Hicks and the ‘Black Octopus’ Ted Nurse. This is not to say there were not many other brilliant players and household legends.
Things have a way of working themselves out, and so that crisis was soon resolved after some years.
And so Continental morphed into Thomas United (TUFC).
Over the years the club has had to face some challenges, among the strongest of which was the non-support of government and corporate businesses for football, a grassroots sport. In all fairness the sport was supported in the fifties by businesses as the names of clubs would indicate.
Today it is evidentially different, contrary to what took place in the ’60s with Thomas United ruling the roost in the Under-16 tournaments, over the last decade the club has not put enough emphasis on the development of young players, though members such as Gordon Henry, Haji and Ovis Fraser made it to the National U-20 teams.
One thing that did affect the club was in 1999, after an attempt at fraudulent elections by the Guyana Football Federation (GFF), the club morally supported a Court injunction against GFF President, Klass, and his executive.
TUFC’s then president was allegedly banned from football activity by the infamous Jack Warner.
From Under-16 to Senior level TUFC has had many glorious achievements, winning the League last in 1992 with the stylish international winger Abdul Conteh from Sierra Leone and GT Cobras, and runners-up in 1999 to Santos; the Mayor’s Cup in1998 and runner-up to Beacon in the 1995 Kashif and Shanghai Tournament.
Prior to that, TUFC has provided the most players to the national squad over time, with as many as seven in the starting lineup. With Deon Barnwell being the highest goalscorer in international tourneys, much can be said for the prowess of TUFC’s players.
For those with updated nostalgia, mention must be made of stars like Earl O’Neil, who holds the record for having played 72 matches for his country, Ken Gibbs, Richard Hing, Clement and Ovid Henry, Lloyd King, Ruddy Walcott, ‘Moneyman’ Forde, Philip Daniels, Roy Martin, Ion ‘Lashman’ Williams, Dion and Chris Barnwell, Keith London, Shawn O’Neil, Colin McNicholl, Godfrey Poulis, Errol Solomon, Keith Goppy, Mark Ellis and the inimitable Jermaine Browne.
The club plans to start at the very beginning once again, combining some of the experienced old stagers with new blood that is currently in training. The style and method of play have changed drastically, and we tend to favour the short passes used by Spanish teams. It will take some time but we’ll get there. All the talent is available in the depressed localities.
We’ve always advocated that clubs need their own grounds to train on. We had refurbished D’Urban Park and League games were actually played there. Poor drainage has plagued this facility, however. This means relocating to the National Park.
What is important is a vibrant executive; that is a well-functioning one. Not to mention that discipline, which TUFC has always exhibited among its players, is a key and fundamental principle, an ingredient which will be inculcated at all times on and off the field.
Added to these, Dion Barnwell and former National and GT Cobras’ Orin Agard will be involved in the coaching aspect of development along with myself. I have myself been trained as a FIFA coach thrice and as a sports administrator at the University of Guyana through Miss Seward of the UK.
Among activities planned for the 52nd Anniversary will be a Church Service to be held at half-time during the semi-final at GFC on the February 22, and again at Linden at the MSC on March 8 at the final. During the break between the games at the final the old stalwarts will be presented to the people.
Then there will be the football tournament called the Mashramani Challenge Cup, hosted in conjunction with Winners Connection of Linden under the auspices of Gerald Whittington.
The old stalwarts are of the opinion that having virtually neglected its nursery is the main reason for the decline of the club, along with officials not showing enough interest and not giving enough of their time towards the development of the youth.
Also the club having moved from its main base in Lodge Village in the ’70s to Parade Ground and the National Park may very well have contributed significantly to loss of interest on the part of the youth. The high cost of transportation was indeed a deterrent to membership.
These are the views of O’Neil, who feels the club must go back to its roots and neighbourhood playing fields.
As for the present impasse between the GFF and the GFA, one wonders if a greed for money and a lust for power, coupled with political control, are not at the root of the problem.
Members of either body should not belong as serving members to clubs, and should exhibit impartiality. The bickering and mutual attacks serve no useful or decent purpose, and at the end of the day it is the players who suffer in the long run.
Let football play, they say, as they are totally fed up with things as they are at the moment. What they bemoan, as well, is the neglect of past superb players such as Birdet Marshall and Godfrey Poulis, both of whom are blind, and Compton Julian, now living as a derelict on the streets.
A distinction must be made, though, between non-serving members and those who never had any involvement with the sport, as the latter tend to bring very little to the game.
(Letter to the Sports Editor)