Football fraternity mourns passing of Reggae Boyz's all-time leading goalscorer Luton Shelton

observer writer

Saturday, January 23, 2021

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Luton George Kieshawn Shelton, Jamaica's senior men's football team's record goalscorer with 35 strikes in 75 games, passed away yesterday after battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) for more than four years, and since then tributes have poured in from near and far.

The 35-year-old was hailed as “disciplined and committed” by Clyde Jureidini, general manager at Harbour View Football Club, the only local club he represented, while Ludlow Bernard, his first coach, remembered his “exceptional attitude” and how “he knew what he wanted from he was very young and was determined to excel”.

It was a brutal week for Harbour View, Jureidini told the Jamaica Observer as they mourned the passing of player Akeem Priestly's mother on Sunday, former player Andrew “Coggy” Williams on Monday and another former player, Andrew Fuller, on Thursday. He added: “We also lost Danny Lyn of Constant Spring who we were very close to.”

Jureidini and Bernard told the Observer in separate interviews they often had to order Shelton to leave training as, after games for Wolmer's Boys' School in the Manning Cup or even for the national team, he would head directly to Harbour View and to take part in the training session if there was one taking place.

Shelton started and ended his club career with Harbour View FC in the Jamaican Premier League, and also represented Helsinborg in Sweden; Sheffield United in England; Valerenga and Karabukspor in Norway; and Volga Nizhny Novgorod in Russia.

News broke in 2017 of Shelton's illness that causes the motor neurons inside the spinal cord to die and over time cause muscles to degenerate, progressively eliminating the ability of the affected person to move, speak, swallow and, eventually, breathe, and sparked an outpouring of well wishes and donations towards his medical bills.

The Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange expressed deep sadness at Shelton's passing. “I am really saddened at Luton's passing. I was hoping he would have made a turnaround although his illness was one that was a great challenge. I continued to hope and pray for him.”

In October 2018, Minister Grange presented Shelton with a cheque for J$5 million from the Sports Development Foundation towards his medical care. “I will surely miss him. I know the entire sports fraternity will miss him and they are mourning as well. Let us remember his family in our prayers.”

Shelton, who etched his name in the football record books after he became the only person to score four goals on his international debut for the senior Jamaican team in 2004, played for the national team at every level from Under-17, Under-20 and Under-23.

Michael Ricketts, the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) president, said he was “deeply saddened by the news,” as “just two days ago I had asked the team manager at the JFF about his welfare and we were making arrangements to go see him”.

Ricketts offered condolence to Shelton's family, adding he was “someone who would have distinguished himself as one of the most prolific scorers that Jamaica has produced; he played 75 games for the senior men's team and scored 35 goals, that is a goal in every other game, no ordinary achievements; and may he rest in peace and light perpetually shine on him.”

Shelton lived in the community of Tivoli Gardens but did not play for the team, Bernard pointed out, scoring his only goal against them in his final season, 2016-17, when he returned to play for Harbour View who won the game 2-1 in February 2017.

A tribute from Harbour View said: “Our hearts cry on this sad Friday afternoon of January 2021, as we received news of the passing of striker Luton Shelton at his family home as he fought the ALS disease since being diagnosed in the summer of 2017.

“Our heartfelt condolences to his wife Bobbette, his children, his family, friends, and the football fraternity. He represented as Reggae Boyz captain, leader, and a professional in Jamaica, Concacaf, and elite clubs across Europe. He scored Fifa World Cup qualifier goals against USA, played Gold Cup games, and racked up 75 caps for Jamaica.”

The tribute added: “International football came calling early and he embraced it with scoring a world-record four goals on debut. From there he never looked back as the goals flowed in buckets to surpass then-leading national goalscorer Paul “Tegat” Davis, to hold the current record of 35 goals,” calling him “a champion at HVFC”.

The Kingston and St Andrew Football Association (KSAFA) extended its “deepest condolences to the family of Shelton and the Harbour View Football Club family”, describing the former Reggae Boy as “a true ambassador”.

Despite playing just one season for Sheffield United, Shelton was described by a British publication as a “cult figure” for his debut showing against Manchester United.

He was part of the “Blades” team that was relegated from the Premier League that season, The Sun said, and “featured for them the following term in the Championship, ultimately making 25 outings in a red and white shirt, finding the net four times in all competitions, before leaving for Valerenga in Norway”.

Sheffield United, who have since returned to the Premier League, also paid tribute and tweeted: “The condolences of all at the Blades are with Luton's family at this difficult time.”

The Sun also said former club keeper Paddy Kenny was among Shelton's former teammates who paid tribute to the late footballer.

He tweeted: “Just heard the sad news that my former teammate Luton Shelton from our days @SheffieldUnited has died. 35 years old is way too young for a young man. Life is too short so appreciate every day.”

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