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Clyde Best Centre of Excellence a great honour

It is an honour to have the Bermuda Football Association’s Centre of Excellence named after me, but all of this would not be possible without the help of many, many people along the way.

The first would be the Father above, without him none of it would have been possible, as well as my mom and dad for giving me the opportunity. My dad always knew that I was going to play sports and he paved the way for me in that area.

All the people I played with I’m indebted to mention them as well as every player I played against because I got the chance to play at the highest level. All the local players who played before me who I had a chance to watch and emulate, people like Earl ‘Townsey’ Russell, ‘Bummy’ Symonds, Ed Benjamin, Fred Trott, Tony Philpott, Eddie Wright, ‘Charger’ Reid, ‘Gappa Wade, Bayfield Clarke, David Landy, ‘Sad’ Brown, Earl Hart, ‘Pepe’ Dill, Kenny Cann and my cousins who really paved the way, Charles Smith, Rudy Smith and Lionel (Baldy) Smith. I will never forget the great ‘Ice Water’ Smith who helped us here in Dockyard when we formed our first team.

Then there was Mr Cunningham, the headmaster of Prospect Boys who kept us on the straight and narrow in high school. It is amazing that the Centre of Excellence is being built in an area I know very well, just a short distance from where I went to school.

At the ground-breaking ceremony on Thursday I had the opportunity to say a few words and thanked the BFA and FIFA and everybody who made the Clyde Best Centre of Excellence possible. I know Richard Calderon had a lot to do with it when he was in charge of the BFA. I just hope it inspires the young people to go as far as they can. I would tell them to go do as far as they can, knowing that you can do anything in life that you want to do.

Former national coach Graham Adams made it possible for me to go to West Ham and I’m sure Phil Woosnam, the former commission of the North American Soccer League and a former West Ham player had something to do with it. He had seen me play for Bermuda against America. Graham was the one who got it going because he saw my ability.

Quitting was not an option but I remember arriving in London with nobody from the club there to meet me because of a mix-up. It was something I wanted to do from an early age and I’m glad I got the opportunity.

Even after I finished playing I recognised the importance of being a good role model and everybody who plays sport, whether they want to or not, is going to be a role model for someone.

These days I’m an often referred to as a trailblazer for black players as I was one of very few black players playing in England’s top division when I first went to West Ham in the late 1960s. But when you start your career you don’t set out to be a trailblazer, it is something that happens over a period of years. It’s fitting that a lot of younger players than me see me that way and it is an honour.

There have been a lot of great players after me and there are going to be a lot of great players still, so it is nice to know that they remember the trail that you blazed for them. I just hope the young kids here who are going to use the facility remember that it is called the Centre of Excellence and that they should strive for excellence always.

In life you have to have dreams but you also have to go after your dreams and not let anyone tell you you can’t do something. We still need to do more in football, and as I say to people all the time you really need to look at your school football because everybody comes from there. If we don’t have good programmes in schools then you will get exactly what we are getting now.

Our Education Department really has to look at it and say we’re going to be serious about our sport and sport is going to be an important part of our curriculum. Once you get a good sportsman you can have a good person for our society. Let’s have sport be a major part of education, not once a month or every two weeks.

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Published May 04, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated May 03, 2013 at 6:30 pm)

Clyde Best Centre of Excellence a great honour

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