IT'S no surprise former Kingston College (KC) player Douglas “Dougie” Bell remains a legend in the annals of schoolboy football, especially since one of the most successful local coaches regards him as arguably the best player he has ever worked with.
Bell, now 53 years old, received that compliment from the legendary George “T” Thompson during his days at KC in the 1970s and his name will forever be in the echelons of schoolboy football.
It is not often a centre-half is as revered and some 38 years after leading KC to the 'triple crown' in 1975, sweeping the Manning Cup, Walker Cup and Olivier Shield, Bell is back in the island on a short visit.
“It's a tremendous feeling and it shows that people recognised what I did... I left school over 30 years ago and to be still remembered, it speaks a lot and I'm grateful for that,” he told the Jamaica Observer on Friday while attending the launch of the Douglas Forrest Invitational Track and Field meet.
Bell's playing style was often compared to that of the great German sweeper Franz Beckenbauer due to his calmness, reading of the game and accurate passes from the heart of the defence where he often starts the attack.
“My strength was the mental aspect of the game. I was able to see things much quicker than guys my age at that time, so I had a slight advantage where I could see the play developing two or three touches before, and that's the main advantage I had at that time,” he revealed.
As was documented in the KC Times magazine in a tribute to Thompson, Dougie said one of the biggest compliments he received was when he asked the former why he didn't give him instructions before matches like he did the rest of the players and the legendary coach replied, “I have nothing to tell you.”
Bell is from the famous footballing Bell family that includes Winthrope or “Jackie”, Howard, Vernon and Neville “Bertis” which has contributed much, on and off the field, to local football.
Dougie, who played for KC from 1973 to 1978 before taking up a scholarship to the University of Alabama where he majored in Business Administration, currently lives in the New York and works for the government.
“I left KC in 1978 going to '79 and I went abroad and completed my studies. But as far as preparing for life, KC and George Thompson did that for me. All I had to do was follow the instructions and the plan was already in motion,” said Bell.
But as successful a schoolboy footballer as he was, Dougie has one regret, and that is not contributing more to the national team.
“I played with my brother Howard and my other brother Jackie was the coach and we went to Cuba. It was a brief Jamaica career because at that time there wasn't anything,” said Bell.
“I am very happy for the players today, but it hurts that I couldn't have done more for my country because certain things weren't in place, so I wasn't able to do it,” he added.
His idol and bigger brother Howard was also a renowned schoolboy footballer who terrorised defender in his days at KC and whose 22 goals from just 10 games in the 1970 season was a record at the time, breaking Trevor “Jumpy” Harris's haul of 21.
But it didn't last long in the 12-match season as Howard failed to score in the remaining two matches during which KC won the Manning Cup and Richard Davis of Wolmer's eventually surpassed him with 23 goals.
Howard confirmed that Dougie's ability to read the game was his biggest asset.
“He was composed and a very good reader of the game. He was skilful but didn't need to show his skills because he was so accurate passing out of the box.
“He was one of the best and potentially he was on his way to greatness as he walked into the Jamaica team as a youngster,” Howard noted. But that potential greatness was curtailed in the pursuit of education.
Quizzed as to which of the Bells was the best player, Dougie was in no doubt. “I can't vote for myself,” he said with a smile. “I have so many brothers, but my idol, my hero is Howard Bell….just to even mention his name is an honour for me. He was a very special player and a very special person to me. I love him dearly,” he emphasised.
The player who thrilled and won so many admirers from a defensive position said he would love to give back to his country one day.
“The option is always there and if I get the offer I know I can contribute. Just look at my brothers; it speaks for itself. Just look at what “Bertis” is doing right now over St George's. There is no reason I can't do the same,” he said.