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Clyde Best film hailed as a showcase of resilience and excellence

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Clyde Best, right, with several former Somerset Trojans and Bermuda team-mates during the presentation of a documentary Transforming the Beautiful Game: The Clyde Best Story at the Clyde Best School of Excellence yesterday. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The story of Clyde Best’s journey from being a little-known Somerset Trojans and Bermuda footballer to one of the few Black players in the English game in the early 1970s, will be told in a feature-length documentary to be launched in 2024 entitled Transforming the Beautiful Game: The Clyde Best Story.

The necessity of the film was discussed at a gathering at the Bermuda Football Association’s aptly-named Clyde Best Centre of Excellence, attended by Best himself along with standout players of his era, along with several members of the Trojans youth programme.

A number of government officials were also in attendance including David Burt, the Premier, as well as sports minister Ernest Peets along with Vashun Blanchette, the Somerset Cricket Club president. The Government is also supporting the project by providing funding.

“The story of Clyde Best is a story of strength, courage, bringing about change and making history,” Burt said.

“The son of Bermuda’s soil bravely left the confines and comfort of his island home to take his place in history as one of the first Black players in top-flight English football, and following that was also a pioneer of football in the United States.

“His strength to overcome the adversity he faced and in doing what few before him had done, have been a source of inspiration for the generations of Black athletes that have since followed, not just in Bermuda but around the world.

“Clyde Best’s presence on the football field here in Bermuda, then in England, then in the United States has certainly helped to break down racial barriers and instil confidence in the people of the African Diaspora that they, too, had a place on the football field and in professional sport.

“After his historic career, like a true son of the soil, he returned to help develop and build a platform through football here in Bermuda sharing his knowledge and his skill with our local athletes.”

Clyde Best, front row, fourth from right, shares the spotlight with several former Somerset Trojans and Bermuda team-mates during the presentation of a documentary Transforming the Beautiful Game: The Clyde Best Story at the Clyde Best School of Excellence yesterday. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Award-winning international film producers announced this week that a feature-length documentary depicting the life of the football legend is underway.

Through exclusive interviews and unseen footage, the documentary will touch on topical themes including racism in sports, combating discrimination and systematic change.

Dan Egan, the film producer, was also at yesterday’s launch and is looking forward to the documentary.

“We hope to have it out at the Sundance Film Festival by 2024,” Egan said.

“It’s amazing to see support here in Bermuda is overwhelming. We’re going to use a lot of archival footage from the BBC as well as the NASL. The teams are supporting the project so we’re excited about that.”

While it is known that Best was one of the first Black players in the English first division, the story of how he was able to overcome racial discrimination to become the most prominent Black player in the 1970s has never been told on film.

Through interviews with Best and other footballing greats, the film will use his inspiring journey to open a larger narrative of racial equality in professional sport.

When asked to provide a quote for the announcement of the documentary, Best used a simple sporting term: “If you can’t win, don’t lose.”

It spoke to the humility of the man who won admirers during his eight years at West Ham United, leaving in 1976 to play in the North American Soccer League.

Best expressed his gratitude to the audience.

“It’s a pleasure to see all of you here today to honour me, I am really proud and privileged,” Best said.

“I love you all, thank you for being in my life and me being in yours.

“I will never forget you. From being in the national team and the friendship the guys gave me as a young person being in the national team with a bunch of men is something I will never forget.”

Clyde Best presentation at the Clyde Best School of Excellence. The announcement of the production of "Transforming the Beautiful Game, The Clyde Best Story". (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Former West Ham team-mate Harry Redknapp said Best made a big contribution as one of the first Black players to make his mark at a top English club.

“You can’t overestimate the impact he had on the club,

English football and society,” Redknapp said. “He was a role model for so many following in his footsteps.”

Producer Julie Anderson is an Academy Award-nominated film producer, director and development executive whose work has featured on HBO, HBO Sports, CNN and ESPN.

Anderson underlined the importance of telling Best’s story.

“Clyde Best is the Jackie Robinson of professional football, yet few know of his history. Like Jackie, Clyde faced enormous adversity and torment with grace and dignity. It’s time that his story be told,” she said.

Best played 221 games for West Ham from 1968 to 1976, scoring 58 goals as a striker. Following his English career, Best was one of the high-profile athletes brought to the United States where he scored 53 goals for the Tampa Bay Rowdies and the Portland Timbers. During his career he played with and against high-profile players including Brazilian great Pelé.

“The film takes an international view of the state of racism in football,” Egan added.

“From the high-profile Premier League and recent online social-media racial abuse to the Black Players Coalitions of Major League Soccer in the United States.

“All of us involved with this project are excited to showcase Clyde’s incredible impact on the world’s most popular sport, and society in general.

“The story is historically important and particularly relevant in these socially turbulent times.”

More information on donations for the project can be found on www.ClydeBest.com

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Published March 30, 2022 at 7:46 am (Updated March 31, 2022 at 8:04 am)

Clyde Best film hailed as a showcase of resilience and excellence

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