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Digicel's master stroke

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Telecoms company Digicel deserves high praise for its decision to appoint Mr Ricardo Fuller as its schoolboy football ambassador for the Digicel Manning Cup.

As we understand it Mr Fuller will be mentoring and monitoring Manning Cup players during the upcoming season. At season's end he will be asked to select a Digicel All Star XI with the players receiving special recognition for their outstanding performance.

It seems to us Mr Fuller is ideally suited. He is among Jamaica's finest footballers – one of only a few to have played in the English Premier League.

A native of Tivoli Gardens in West Kingston, Mr Fuller will readily relate to the numerous talented young 'ballers' from very humble backgrounds in this country.

He first came to prominence at Camperdown High School as a dazzling dribbler – a talent which earned him the nickname 'Wily Boo' – and prolific goalscorer.

He moved on to Tivoli Gardens Football Club excelling in the Jamaican Premier League before being traded to Crystal Palace in England, campaigning for many years with distinction in that country.

Still a teenager at the time, Mr Fuller missed out on the Reggae Boyz historic qualification to the 1998 World Cup in France. And though the betting was that he and a bunch of highly talented age-group contemporaries would have made it to the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cup tournaments, it never happened.

There were other disappointments as well. He often had to fight his way back from serious injury, among the most serious while he was still at school – a setback which triggered fears his football future was still at risk. Back then, and in the years to come, he consistently showed the resilience and determination to get back to full fitness after injury. That inner strength is something all athletes must have if they are to succeed at the highest level.

Those who have interacted with Mr Fuller at a personal level came to recognise him as well mannered, caring and respectful of others. Yet his competitive edge and will to win meant that on occasions he lost his temper on the field and had to pay the price for crossing the disciplinary line.

We dare say, all his experiences, positive as well as negative means Mr Fuller is well equipped to guide young talent.

We note comments attributed to him as he met with young footballers in Kingston earlier this week: “I missed out on the (national) Under-17 programme because I was a little bit lazy. Football is always going to be hard, success is not accident. A lot of sacrifice, it's the love of what you do, never give up,” Mr Fuller said.

For young people, dreaming of a career in football, such advice coming from someone of the standing of Mr Fuller is priceless.