Remembering 'Dago' Gordon
IT seems fair to say that, as a people, Jamaicans have a very poor sense of history.
In sport, that inadequacy is as evident as in any other aspect of national life.
So while, as is the case today, television cameras were invariably taking pictures at major events decades ago, very little of that footage has survived from the 1970s.
The thought comes to mind as this newspaper contemplates the life of footballer Mr Herbert George 'Dago' Gordon, who died on November 17 and whose remains were interred yesterday following a thanksgiving service.
The young and not so young can only listen politely, as those of an older generation speak of the skills of a host of fine players who graced Jamaica's football in the 1950s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. Sadly, the visual evidence has mostly disappeared.
Mr Gordon, a product of Denham Town/Trench Town like so many other outstanding Jamaicans of his time, was not only a footballer of great skill, he was a highly talented cricketer.
Mr Gordon was a wicketkeeper/batsman, so good that, as Mr Ali McNab reminds us, the living legend Sir Garfield Sobers told him to "leave football alone".
In later life, Mr Gordon was heard to say that, but for his circumstances and social conditioning, cricket may well have been his chosen sport.
But in football-mad Trench Town of the late 1960s and early 70s Boys' Town — 'Colour Red' — the game was always going to be the future for 'Dago'.
Predominantly right-sided with sublime first touch, cat-like change of pace, magical dribbling skills, and blessed with a devilishly swerving, dipping free kick, Mr Gordon — like the artistic Mr Allan 'Skill' Cole just before him — became a football folk hero at high school. First he dazzled all comers in the Manning Cup for Trench Town Comprehensive High, before switching to Vere Technical High, which in the 60s and 70s boasted some of the great teams of Jamaica's schoolboy football.
For Boys' Town, he was part of a talented trophy-winning team which included names such as Messrs Las Shaw, Derrick 'Shastri' Denniser, Carl Brown, Milverton Brooks, Archie Reid, Winston 'Romito' Hill, et al.
As a young man, he was a central attacker in what was then a predominantly 4-2-4 formation. Those who saw him possibly at the peak of his prowess — 1973-1975 — will recall his unstoppable partnership with the mesmeric dribbler Mr Devon 'Roots' Lewis. Tragically, the latter would become another in the line of Jamaican footballers to fall by the gun.
Mr Gordon's football at Boys' Town would be broken by time spent in the United States. In his periodic returns to Jamaican football in later years, he had obviously lost physical fitness and pace, yet his sublime touch, the capacity to supply the defence-splitting pass and the deadly free kick never left him.
As was the case for all Jamaican players before the 1990s, Mr Gordon's contribution at the international level suffered from the infrequency of competition for the national team and also a football culture immature to the point of being infantile.
Today, he would undoubtedly be a top Reggae Boy and among our leading professionals overseas.
The records show that he scored once for his country in recognised 'International A' competition and seven times in international exhibition games.
Records aside, those who saw him play will always remember Herbert 'Dago' Gordon among the truly special ones.