Jamaicans love football and always follow World Cup tournaments cheering for different teams like Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Italy etc. Jamaica was always trying to qualify a team for the World Cup tournament without success.
In 1994, retired Jamaica Defence Force soldier Captain Horace Burrell was elected president of the Jamaica Football Federation. His stated and seemingly impossible goal was to get Jamaica to the World Cup finals in 1998. Many like myself thought that 2002 would have been a more realistic goal
Local football experts always believed that for Jamaica to reach the World Cup finals, a coach with international experience was required. To this end, Captain Burrell went to Brazil and found Rene Simoes.
Together, the team of Captain Burrell and Coach Simoes were able to successfully sell their shared vision to Jamaica’s private sector. Unprecedented financial support flooded into Jamaica’s “Road to France” programme.
On November 17, 1997 the seemingly impossible dream came into reality. On that date, Jamaica became the first English speaking country to qualify for the World Cup.
Captain Burrell’s visionary thinking also translated into a successful business, Captain’s Bakery and Grill which sponsored football competitions. He also had a helicopter transport company Captain’s Aviation.
My only regret is that Captain Burrell stayed on to preside over subsequent failed World Cup qualifyingcampaigns when it might have been wiser to hand over to somebody with newer ideas.
Captain Horace Burrell died on June 6 of cancer in Baltimore, Maryland where he was undergoing treatment for cancer. He was 67 years old. Walk good Captain.
(c) A. Pierre Sobers