Calls for ‘Sir Clyde’ gain traction
When it comes to securing a knighthood for Clyde Best, top footballers Shaun Goater and veteran pro Randy Horton are on the same team: make it happen.
The death this month of Cyrille Regis, another football laureate who praised Mr Best as a trailblazer for black footballers, underscored the magnitude of his perseverance through racist abuse.
It follows a New Year's Honours List that raised eyebrows in some quarters for its lack of diversity.
But for Bermudians to pay tribute to Mr Best, mid-May marks the deadline for the 2019 New Year Honours, while mid-November is the cut-off for next year's Queen's Birthday Honours.
Mr Goater said: “Clyde Best deserves this. Just thinking of Cyrille Regis, we don't honour people when they're alive.
“We can make this catch on. Hopefully it does. It's amazing what he endured.”
Mr Goater called Mr Best “a role model for black players”. He added: “He was of a time and era when I was young. I didn't realise the scope of what he'd done until I came to England.
“Certainly being aware of the challenges he went through, which were ten times worse than what I went through, I am all for him being Sir Clyde. He's a humble person and he deserves this. Hopefully it can happen.”
Famously unassuming, Mr Best himself said it was “nice to know that you've got people backing you and understand the plight you had to go through”.
He added: “I not only had to do it for myself, but for others in England at a time when racism was at its peak.
“I don't see why having a title should change you as an individual. My mother told me years ago that if you treat people the way you want to be treated in life, you won't go wrong.”
Mr Horton, a former sports minister and professional footballer for the New York Cosmos, said he would back a campaign “absolutely — 2,000 per cent”.
Nominations can be made at any time, and links to the Foreign Office's Honours nomination form are provided on the Bermuda Government's online portal.
Mr Horton spoke in the wake of a Royal Gazette editorial pressing for the island's public to lobby the honours committee, starting with Sebastian Coe, chairman of the sports committee that would take recommendations forward to 10 Downing Street and, ultimately, Buckingham Palace for Royal Assent.
But Mr Horton added: “I think we should do it from here. We should not need Sebastian Coe; it doesn't have to be someone from the UK. There is no reason why it shouldn't be pushed for from the highest level here.”
He looked back on England during the 1960s when nationalism and racism were emboldened by the growth of migrant communities from former British colonies in the Caribbean, India and Pakistan.
“You didn't just get it from spectators, but from players as well,” Mr Horton said. “That was before Fifa came out with their policy against racism.”
The former House Speaker has called for a Best knighthood “twice on the floor of the House”, he said: in 2009, after Best took the football award at the Annual Caribbean Awards Sports Icons, and again in 2012.
“I spoke to why he should be knighted for his major contribution, not just to the actual playing of the game but the manner in which people were treated.”
Mr Best was an “idol” to Mr Regis as well as the likes of Laurie Cunningham, Mr Horton said.
“He set the stage for them, not only in the first division, but to go on and play for England. “Clyde was not even from the UK. To be there and go through what he did, a lot of people would have given up, or responded in such a way that they would not have been able to play. It was amazing how he handled it. We tend to honour people only when they die.”
He recalled watching a West Ham against Fulham game during a London trip while he was minister, when a younger neighbour in the stands was “beyond himself” to learn that he had not only played with Mr Best but coached him.
“In London, for young black kids at the time, when Clyde was playing, no matter which team you were for, you wanted to be like Clyde Best. He was big, strong, fast, [had] a great shot and headed the ball like nobody else could, and he was around guys like Bobby Moore and Martin Peters, guys who played in the World Cup.
“I remember coaching him just before he went to the UK. He just went on and did what he did. Clyde Best led the way, and he took it all.”
According to Government House, Bermudians have been knighted along two routes.
Knights Bachelor are knighted by the monarch rather than through one of the orders of chivalry, such as Sir Austin Ward in 2006, Sir Richard Gorham in 1995, and Sir John Plowman in 1979.
Others have achieved recognition within the Order of the British Empire, such as Dame Jennifer Smith in 2005, Dame Pamela Gordon Banks in 2004, and Dame Lois Browne-Evans in 1999.
Progressive Labour Party MP Christopher Famous, who had queried the dearth of black candidates in the New Year Honours List this month, called for other sports figures to back the campaign for Sir Clyde.
“Clyde Best has been a pioneer for black football, and with the untimely passing of Cyrille Regis, it's only just that someone of Clyde Best's stature gets recognised,” he said.
“Morally, he has my support. Official nominations should come from his peers — the people who know him intimately.”
Candidates for honours can be nominated at any time, with forms available at gov.bm/ governor-bermuda.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office form is used for recipients living outside Britain.
There are two Foreign Secretary’s Diplomatic Service and Overseas Lists each year, published on the New Year Honours List, and the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in June.
FCO guidelines stress that nominees should never be informed by those considering putting them forward for honour. Individuals only, rather than groups, can be nominated for honours,
Details are also given on the British Government site at gov.uk. Acknowledgement will be provided of the nomination’s receipt — but the site cautions that the wait for further responses can take 12 to 18 months.
Sebastian Coe is the chairman of the eight-man committee responsible for sports nominations, which can be lobbied to secure the top recognition for Clyde Best.