Cougars pay tribute to Salaam
Wali Salaam, a stalwart of Devonshire Cougars teams in the 1990s and 2000s, died this week after a bout with cancer.
Shawn Smith, a former Cougars captain, remembers Salaam, who would have turned 46 today, as an outstanding midfielder who represented Bermuda as a junior.
The pair played in the same Cougars team in 2001-02 who won their first major domestic title, the Martonmere Cup, under coach Albert Smith, beating North Village 3-2 in the final. Salaam was captain that season.
“I played with him and his brothers [Dwayne ‘Liquid’ Bean and Jamal Salaam],” Smith recalled.
“I grew up with the family, he was the youngest coming through into the team and he earned his keep pretty much.
“He first played as a striker when he first came through, dubbed as a super-sub after coming off the bench and scoring goals.
“Then he dropped back into midfield, where you really saw his true character as far as dominating the midfield; very physical.
“We knew he had been sick, I’m close with his middle brother Jamal, but he did come around a bit.
“He actually came back and played a couple of Masters games last season. His passing is very untimely, definitely a shock.”
Smith also played a season with Salaam at North Village in 1992-93 under coach Wendell “Joe” Trott after Cougars were relegated to the Second Division. The other Cougars players joining Village were Phillip Clarke, goalkeeper Leon Place, Stephen Coddington and Paul Simmons.
Most of the players went back to Cougars the following season, to help them in their successful push for promotion, finishing the league unbeaten as they won promotion with BAA, who beat them 1-0 in the 1994 Shield final. Brian Anderson was the Cougars coach that season.
“In the Second Division was when he broke into the team, right behind me,” Smith said of Salaam, who played alongside Dwayne Bean, Dapo Frederick and Devon Brangman up front, and Dale Russell in midfield. Clevie Campbell and Philip Clarke were also a part of the successful Cougars team in the 1990s.
“It’s been a long struggle, it seemed before as though we could never assemble a good crop of players,” Salaam told The Royal Gazette in 2002 after the Martonmere Cup success. “The harmony of this team is unparalleled.”
Salaam’s funeral will be held today at Masjid Muhammad on Cedar Avenue at 3pm.
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