Sports

'Coolie Pele' basks in Bell/Ziadie football honour

Sunday, October 22, 2017

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The 31st staging of the annual Bell/Ziadie Memorial Football Festival was held on Heroes' Day at Winchester Park, with hundreds of patrons turning out to see a true football feast.

On the same day that one of the heroes of Jamaica's 1998 France World Cup team, Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore, received a national honour for his contribution to Jamaican football, some of his peers including Ian “Pepe” Goodison and Walter “Blacka” Boyd displayed their skills on the pristine grounds of St George's College for their adoring fans.

The Bell/Ziadie football festival is famous for bringing out big names, but also for honouring those who have served the sport in one way or another. One such honoree on Monday was Derrick “Shastri” Denniser of Boys' Town and Kingston College fame. The former national footballer was delighted to be honoured for his contribution to the sport he so dearly loves.

Other honorees at the festival were former FIFA Assistant Referee Anthony Garwood, Reverend Deacon Trevor Graham (St George's College Old Boy), administrator Jerry Reid and former Arnett Gardens national player George Henry.

“I feel good; I actually played with Dennis Ziadie on a Jamaica team, (but) Jackie (Bell) was a little before me... this being National Heroes' Day, I feel like a hero. It is really a good feeling that I amhere (and) God has blessed me with health and strength… I no longer play, but I still enjoy the game.

“My mind goes back to memories today and it's an enjoyable day. I thank the organisers for including me on a list of honorees which has included some illustrious recipients, (so) I am honoured to be listed among those,” said an emotional Denniser, also known in his heyday as the “Coolie Pele”.

But while happy for the personal honour, the former national striker believes that Jamaica's football will continue to struggle until the basics of the sport are given the attention needed.

“One of the first things that Dennis Ziadie sought to address was the quality of the playing surface, and until Jamaica improves the quality of the playing surfaces, then all the other hurdles won't be overcome. We must get the playing surfaces right,” Denniser insisted.

“There are many other factors — the quality of the refereeing, the level of fitness (of players) the infrastructure, the tactics. But the first ingredient, and it is no coincidence, law number one — the field of play. Until we can get the field of play to an acceptable level, we will be just wasting our efforts and our time,” he added.

The winning team at the football festival this year was Chris Martin's “A Team” that won all three games they played. For Martin, it was very important to be a part of a very worthy cause.

“It's very important to me and it's very important to my friends, the A Team. As you noticed, this is the Bell/Ziadie Memorial Trophy, so to win this is a joy for me and my friends, and at the end of the day, it is for a worthy cause; they are two stalwarts in Jamaica's history,” said Martin, who is a leading exponent of Jamaica's dancehall genre.

— Dwayne Richards

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