WALK THE WALK: Pall bearers, led by Simoes and Horace Reid escort Burrell's black-green-and-gold-draped casket at Wednesday's service.
IT was only fitting that René Simoes, the coach who guided Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz to their historic qualification for the FIFA World Cup in France in 1998, was among those delivering tributes at the thanksgiving service to mark the passing – and salute the life and legacy – of Captain Horace Burrell, the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) president, whose relentless drive and determination played a pivotal role in making the World Cup dream a reality. The service was held on Wednesday inside the National Arena.
“He was a natural leader, a visionary and football lover and a good son to Jamaica. This is how many will remember him,” said Simoes, who has fond recollections of Burrell making the trip to Brazil and convincing him to come to Jamaica to work with the Boyz. For Simoes, Burrell ranked among the most intriguing people he’s ever encountered.
“Those who had the privilege of being in Captain’s inner circle knew he was a man of first class and enormous kindness. He was not a perfect man, but he was top of the line,” recalled the thickly accented soccer icon, who was also a pall bearer at the funeral. “My family and I have heavy hearts, but his friendship will always remain with us.”
On June 6, Captain Horace Burrell, at age 67, lost his battle with cancer and drew his last breath in the United States, where he was being treated. Dr. Tiphanie Burrell-Piggott, his first-born and only daughter, and son Romario, were by his side during those final moments. “He taught me how to be a proud Jamaican man. He believed that anything worth pursuing was worth pursuing relentlessly,” Romario told the rapt congregation. “I owe it to him to never stop chasing my dreams, and we owe it to the Captain to never stop chasing ours.”
Game-changer, nation-builder, philanthropist, sports administrator par excellence – just a few of the superlatives cited as the glowing tributes flowed inside the Arena. While former Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller remembered her cousin as “a giant of our times” whose commitment to football enriched the game in the region, Sports minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange (pictured above with Simoes) called him “a patriot” who was determined to take Jamaican football to the highest level. CONCACAF’s Victor Mantagliani, meanwhile, acknowledged “his extraordinary passion for the game.”
It bears repeating that Captain Horace Burrell was a man of achievement. He founded the Captain’s Bakery in 1995 and went on to establish Captain Aviation Services in 2008. He occupied the JFF presidency from 1994 to 2003 and again from 2007 until his death earlier this month. While the Jamaican government has bestowed on him the National Order of Distinction (Commander Class), FIFA has honoured whim with their prestigious Order of Merit.
During Wednesday’s thanksgiving service, officiated by Rev. Adinhair Jones, Wilmer Jackson and Al Miller, PM Andrew Holness read the First Lesson, followed by Opposition Leader Dr. Peter Phillips, who delivered the second. Musical tributes came from Ken Boothe, Carlene David, Ashé, Dwight Richards, the JCF Choir and Ernie Smith, among others. An offering was taken up to benefit the Jamaica Cancer Society and the Reggae Girlz.