Greater care in handling our living legends

Saturday, November 18, 2017

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Mr Theodore Whitmore is among the truly great servants of Jamaica's football.

Hence, his recent national honour — the Order of Distinction.

Much is made of his contribution as national coach, and more particularly of his extraordinary success earlier this year in guiding a squad — of which not much was expected — to the final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Beyond that, though, Jamaicans hold Mr Whitmore in even higher esteem for his role as a player during the Reggae Boyz epic FIFA World Cup campaign of the 1990s. That ended with a 2-1 victory over Japan as both teams exited the tournament in France at the first round stage.

Jamaicans still feel a special thrill in recalling Mr Whitmore's two goals with either foot, which enabled the unfancied Reggae Boyz to win a match on what is still their only trip to a senior World Cup finals tournament.

What most people are unlikely to remember is that it was also Mr Whitmore who started the ball a-rolling way back on 31st March, 1996. He scored the goal which gave the Reggae Boyz a 1-0 victory over Suriname in Paramaribo — the very first game of the qualifying campaign.

For good reason, many consider Mr Whitmore the most influential player in that Jamaica side which fought its way to France.

An elegant midfielder, with an eye for goal and a powerful shot in either foot, he was also blessed with magnificent technical ability and tactical awareness.

Mr Whitmore's silky first touch and magical ball skills caused nightmarish problems for those tasked with tackling and marking him. Furthermore, his passing was of the highest quality.

He was an attacking midfielder roaming the centre of the field, just behind the forwards. But such was his skill at holding the ball, Mr Whitmore provided vital breathing space for his defenders.

For him, losing the ball or giving it away was an unforgivable sin. Often, unable to find what he considered a safe passing option, Mr Whitmore would spin in circles, the ball seemingly tied to his feet, until the safe passing option presented itself.

Above all else, perhaps, Mr Whitmore was the ultimate team man. Other great ball schemers in the history of Jamaican football, and even during that France campaign, sometimes got caught up in petty squabbles with coaches and management to the detriment of the team. Not Mr Whitmore. For him the national team came first.

We have said all of the above in the context of reports of Mr Whitmore, the national coach, being blocked in his attempt to enter the Montego Bay Sports Complex last Saturday to watch ISSA/FLOW Super Cup matches.

It reminds us of several years ago when Mr Courtney Walsh, the legendary West Indies fast bowler and former captain, was prevented from entering Sabina Park — at which an End is named in his honour.

We are not certain of what really caused the mishap in Montego Bay last Saturday. We hesitate to believe that security personnel could have known they were dealing with the national coach of Jamaica's football and one of the sport's living legends.

For certain, though, all sporting bodies, their auxiliaries, business partners, and sponsors should use this episode as a springboard to ensure such embarrassments are prevented, g oing forward. Also, it seems to us, a formal, public apology to Mr Whitmore is very much in order.




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