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Profound lessons from a footballing legend

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Growing up during the 1980s, like most other young men, I was addicted to both local and international football. We spent almost every free moment we had playing football, talking about football or watching football live or on television.

Back in those days we had only the recorded football show on Saturday evenings in which to view English football. There was no internet, nor was there any dedicated football channel.

During those times, we all had our favourite teams and favourite players. Internationally, I favoured Brazil on a World Cup level, West Bromwich Albion and Manchester United on an English level, and locally my teams were Wolves and Devonshire Cougars.

That naturally resulted in my having no love whatsoever for any other local football teams.

Very recently at a social event, I found myself in a large crowd at the Warwick Workmen's Club, the occasion being the wake of a Warwick icon, Betty Ann Louise Ming (née Swan). There I found myself in a room full of PHC members and former players.

Attempting to mind my own business, I watched a replay of the West Ham United football hooligans attacking a bus full of “peaceful” Manchester United fans. Suddenly, I felt someone tapping me on my arm.

“Hey, I know you” was his initial remark.

“What you doing up Warwick?” was his second remark.

In my head, I am thinking, “Oh boy, here we go now and it's not even Cup Match.”

As I turned around to face my interrogator, I saw that is was not just any simple Warwick person, nor your run-of-the-mill pokey Bermudian. Not by a long shot.

The person was one of Bermuda's most prolific football players who has become one of our legends. I was just tapped on the shoulder by Sammy “The Snake” Swan.

After collecting my thoughts, my initial reply to him was, “Are you sure you know me?”

His answer was: “Yea, I know you. You're the guy in the papers every week.”

Suddenly a flood of memories came rushing into my mind:

• The many years of listening to his name on the radio during live broadcasts

• Reading the sports page every Monday with his name mentioned

• The countless hours I spent in high school arguing with PHC fans

• The amount of young ladies in high school that used to have a crush on him

It was all too much and caused me to sip some more of the “lemonade” in my glass.

For about 15 minutes, he and I had a conversation that would serve to be a milestone day in my life. I began to speak about a particular game back in the mid-1980s that stood out in my mind. I can recall sitting at home listening to veteran broadcaster Rick Richardson on the radio covering an FA Cup final between PHC and Wolves at the National Stadium.

This was an historic game, as at the time Wolves were a Second Division team going up against PHC, who were then one of the First division powerhouses, with Kenny Burt in his prime.

PHC went on to win that game by a narrow margin.

Then, like the skilful footballer he is, Swan switched up the direction of the conversation on to social issues. Like a winning coach, he looked me in the eye and began to gesticulate with his hands how we all have a position to play to move Bermuda forward.

His words were to the effect that every team have people up front, in the middle, down the back and in the background. In his words, the key to success is each person knowing their role, playing their role and assisting others in their role.

One of the thoughts he drilled in continuously was that we must all sit down and have a plan and adjust as need be, but continue to follow the plan.

“Without a plan, we won't move forward, mate” were his exact parting words to me.

I left there with some profound thoughts circling in my head for a few days:

• The importance of having a plan

• The importance of everyone playing their role in that plan

The most profound lesson in my mind was how important it is for our elders to continue to walk up to persons in the community and to take a moment to share their life lessons with them.

Thank you, Sammy Swan.

It makes up for the month's worth of allowance I lost on that Wolves-PHC final 30 years ago.

Knock, knock: former PHC Zebras player Sammy “The Snake” Swan makes his acquaintance with our humbled columnist (Photograph supplied)
Glory days: Sammy Swan was a fan favourite during his time with PHC Zebras (File photograph)

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Published May 20, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated May 20, 2016 at 9:08 am)

Profound lessons from a footballing legend

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