Other sporting bosses say they were inspired by Captain Burrell

Observer staff reporter

Monday, July 03, 2017

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By what they all say, it's clear that Captain Horace Burrell's excellence in sport and life in general has left an indelible mark.

Though the late president of the Jamaica Football Federation had his most striking imprint on the nation's football, his impact was obviously felt outside of the football domain. As testimony, he also served as a vice-president of the Jamaica Olympic Association for many years, and was a big brother to heads of other sporting disciplines, by their admission.

A number of sporting association heads who turned out to National Arena on Wednesday to bid their final farewell to this fine son of the soil, recalled some of the uplifting conversations with the man whose vision and thinking served as inspiration.

Burrell lost his battle with prostate cancer in the United States on June 6. He was 67.

Warren Blake, president of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association, recalled fond memories of his former cadet squad mate.

“I met Captain Burrell while still in high school because I was also a member of the cadet corp and he was a drum major in Clarendon College. And we became great friends from then and remained great friends since, and I am saddened at his passing.

“He was tenacious, kind, and had a passion for football... he had a vision for extraordinary success and he dreamt big. Captain had presence. When he believes in something he will see it through to the end, and he had a way of making things happen around him so people see his forthrightness and think it's aggressive, but that was just the Captain, and you could not help but love him,” Blake told the Jamaica Observer at the thanksgiving service.

Former Netball Jamaica president, Marva Bernard recalled Burrell's knack for mentorship and his ability to draw people to him.

However, it was the gentleness behind his tough exterior that really caught her attention.

“Captain was a remarkable visionary, but one thing that will always stick with me about Captain is his vulnerability and humanness. Leadership is a lonely road, and no matter how people are around you they can't be with you all the time. And I called him one morning when the Reggae Boyz had a crucial game against USA to wish him luck; and he said Marva I am alone in here and this call means the world to me,” she said.

Bernard added: “He said 'I know if they don't do well the guillotine is coming after me, and I am sitting here so alone', and he thanked me for the call and we won. But, for me, it was as if I was looking in a mirror when the Sunshine Girls have a big match to play.

“I was able to give that comfort to Captain and I got that from him, because when I come back from a world tournament and I don't win, Captain would call me and say, Marva, hang in there.”

For Mark Bloomfield, president of the Jamaica Basketball Association, it was Burrell's ability to withstand criticism and overcome challenges that has left an indelible mark.

“Captain has always encouraged me. There are days when things are tough in a minor sport and the time that I have had to speak to Captain he has always used his experience and the challenges that he went through with a big sport to kind of serve as a motivator.

“He has taught me to work hard and as a president, you have to give yourself to the sport. But you have to continue to live because, at the end of the day, the sport is bigger than the individual,” he told the Observer.

“I admire him because of his dedication and commitment, despite extreme criticism and challenges; he has never turned his back on the sport. He continued to serve and give not just only to the sport of football, but his lifestyle has certainly served as a motivator — so we have lost a great man,” Bloomfield added.

Meanwhile, Cricket West Indies President Dave Cameron pointed out that Burrell imparted many lessons to him, particularly believing in and going after your dreams.

“The nation has really lost an exemplary leader and someone who has left a legacy for us sports administrators to follow... somebody who was a visionary and very strict, but at the same time had a very big heart. We are poorer from his passing, but we are also happy that he led the way he did and has left a lasting legacy,” Cameron noted.

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