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Somerset honours its sporting heroes

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The Somerset community paid tribute to some of its outstanding athletes when Sandys 360 held its first Wall of Fame induction ceremony on Saturday night.

Former professional footballers Clyde Best and Randy Horton, past players of the Somerset Trojans in the late 1960s, were among the inductees who also included Norbert Simons, a past Carifta Games athlete and track and football coach and administrator, Olympic sailor Alan Burland, diver Katura Horton-Perinchief and the members of the outstanding Somerset Bluebirds women’s softball team, the first team to win the triple crown for two years in a row.

Sandys MP Walter Lister represented Sports Minister Glenn Blakeney and presented the awards to the inductees as Sandys Middle School M2 students Jesse Washington, Michael Dill, Michael Glasford, Jalen Wales and Gabriel Fox highlighted the accomplishments of the athletes.

Mr Best remains a popular figure in the Somerset community 40 years after he broke racial barriers to become one of the first black players to establish himself in England. He joined West Ham United in 1969 and played 218 games and scored 58 goals in seven seasons with the club until 1976. He is still considered a trailblazer for black footballers in the UK and was recently featured on a CNN documentary on racism in English football.

“It’s humbling and I’m glad I was able to do it for the community because I believe in the community,” said Mr Best. “I believe more of us have to start doing things in our community and if the community flourishes everything else flourishes.”

Taking the focus off himself, Mr Best praised the Sandys 360 initiative and urged more people to get involved.

“I think it’s important we start doing more community things, people going into the community and trying to make a difference. We’ve got so much going on in Bermuda right now that we have to start doing the right things, especially for the young people who are going to be our future.

“We have to find places like this where the young people can go and play different sports. It’s a lot cheaper to put together a place like this than to incarcerate them at Westgate.

“I think we definitely need a couple more of these facilities. We need one in St. George’s and we need one in Hamilton somewhere. When you look at the YMCAs they have in America, we can be doing the same thing. All of us benefited from people looking out for us.”

Mr Best is best known for his football exploits, which also took him to Holland with Feyenoord and then to the North American Soccer League with Tampa Bay Rowdies, Toronto Blizzard and Portland Timbers, but he was also a promising cricketer in his teen years, good enough to become one of the youngest Cup Match colts at age 15 in 1968. He played again for Somerset the following year, just weeks before making his West Ham debut against Arsenal on August 25.

Mr Burland, who grew up in Ely’s Harbour, developed a passion for sailing from a young age. He formed a good partnership with friend Chris Nash and they competed together in local and overseas competitions in the late 1970s, eventually competing in the 1984 Olympics, after winning the pre-World championships in Australia and the major US National Championships in the build-up to the Olympics that same year.

The pair finished fifth overall in the Olympics, just missing out on a bronze medal. Mr Burland’s achievements saw him named Bermuda’s Athlete of the Year in 1984.

“This is a tremendous honour for me but we did it as a team,” said Mr Burland. “Chris was with me through the entire build-up to the Olympics. I owe a big thanks to Chris and to Ed Williams who helped start the Tornado class here and to Glenn Astwood who acted as a sparring partner and helped us tune up for the Olympics. It takes a community to help athletes do well. It was a tremendous honour to go to the Olympics and it’s an honour to be here tonight.”

Katura Horton-Perinchief was also an Olympian, diving her way into history by becoming the first black woman from any country to compete in Olympic diving when she represented Bermuda in the 2004 Games in Athens, Greece. She was the first Bermudian diver at the Olympics since Mickey Johnson and Francis (Goose) Gosling competed in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.

Randy Horton, her uncle, representing Somerset Cricket Club in both cricket and football before going on to play professional football in the United States with the New York Cosmos, where he was named Rookie of the Year in 1971 and MVP in 1972 when he finished as the top scorer in the NASL.

He was later traded to the Washington Diplomats in 1975 and played for them for two seasons. Returning home, he captained the Somerset Cup Match team to a historic victory in Cup Match in 1979, ending a 20 year unbeaten streak by St. George’s.

Norbert Simons had the honour of representing Bermuda at the first three Carifta Games in 1972, 1973 and 1974 in the 200 and 400 metres and 4x100 and 4x400 metres relay. He won a gold with the 4x100 relay team and a bronze with the 4x400 team at the 1974 Carifta Games in Jamaica. Mr Simons also became an assistant coach with the Carifta team and is still involved as an assistant coach of Pacers Track Club and will act as an official at the upcoming Carifta Games, 40 years after his first appearance as an athlete. He is also the Director of Youth and Sports.

Dr Melvin Bassett, managing director of Sandys 360, which was celebrating its second anniversary, spoke of the need to recognise the achievements of outstanding athletes like those honoured on Saturday night.

“We’re very pleased, this being our inaugural induction of West End former athletes and we hope this induction ceremony will be continued annually,” said Dr Bassett. “There is a lot of room on the wall and maybe next year we’ll be paying tribute to some of our outstanding educators, as we also have the Sandys 360 Enrichment Centre.

“The awardees are certainly deserving, in our judgement, and are all from the West End, and are excellent role models for our young people.

“This facility has been designed to try to reach out to our youth and the very fine M2 students who were used tonight are part of our SAAL (scholar, athlete, arts and leadership) Academy. The reason we invited representatives of the SAAL Academy was for inspiration and just seeing Clyde Best, Randy Horton and Alan Burland was designed to inspire them.”

Useful website: http://sandys360.bm.

Clyde Best was overcome with emotion as he received his award on Saturday night at the Sandys 360. (Photo by Akil Simmons) March 24,2012
Wall of Fame Induction Ceremony: Katura Horton(Photo by Akil Simmons) March 24,2012
Wall of Fame Induction Ceremony: Norbert Simons(Photo by Akil Simmons) March 24,2012
Olympic sailor Alan Burland (Photo by Akil Simmons) March 24,2012
Rose Hart, member of the Somerset Bluebirds women's softball team received the award on behalf of her team (Photo by Akil Simmons) March 24,2012

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Published March 26, 2012 at 2:00 am (Updated March 26, 2012 at 10:22 am)

Somerset honours its sporting heroes

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