Unlocking ability

Stabroek News
November 25, 1999

"Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear;
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
The little Tyrant of his fields withstood;
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood."

Thomas Gray
Elegy Written in a Country Church-yard

The New World group in the early sixties contained many a would be Pele who tried their hand, or should it be their feet, on the football ground in various friendly matches, often on sea wall pitches. Solomon, Best (not Georgie), Fitzpatrick, Moore, Trotz, King and others, whose ability to lovingly describe a Garrincha banana kick was in inverse relationship to their ability to do it, posed as forwards, backs and goalkeeper. In one game on a wet and slushy day the goalkeeper, who shall be nameless, let in six goals and it was remarked, unkindly, by his colleagues at the end of the game that his gloves and shorts were still fairly clean.

The gentlemen who were kind enough to accommodate them in their footballing fantasies came mainly from the Northern Rangers Football Club, a Kitty based club in which there were many players who played the game with considerable competence, in particular Winston Callender and Jimmy Shuffler. The club and its many associates included some memorable and Runyonesque characters with wonderful nicknames such as three o'clock, said to be related to the hour at which that gentleman occasionally worked (a.m.) and goat, the provenance of whose name one hesitated to enquire into too closely. In the course of time matches were sometimes arranged against visiting soldiers and others and it was not unknown for national players like Amigo Dyal and Pat Britton to be discreetly recruited to lift the level. The dissident (or is it diffident) intellectuals got to know the Kitty boys who were sometimes unemployed and in most cases even less motivated than themselves.

The group broke up, the football ended. Many years later, the receptionist at a legal office rang one of the lawyers, an old New World man, to say that Mr X was there to see him. The name was not recognised though the nickname would have been. However, he said he knew the lawyer in the past and was sent in. It was a Kitty footballer from the old days. But that is where the similarity ended. The man who entered was a self-confident, highly motivated individual who vividly described his emigration to America, getting a job in New York and eventually a flat of his own and fighting in Vietnam. He had plans for the future. In the space of perhaps ten years the man had metamorphosed to a high achiever who felt the sky was the limit.

It was a transformation. What had happened? Was it all context? It was the same man but he was a hundred times more focussed and motivated than before, A talent that might have been unrealised had become fully mobilised. It was a moving and enlightening experience. It showed that almost anything is possible. One thinks of the Einsteins, the d'Aguiars, the Carters, the Headleys that have lain dormant and fallow. Unlocking the ability and motivation of people is at least partly what real development is all about. It's like a massive industrial relations problem, if you can give people hope, wake them out of their negativity and despair, get them interested in the big and real and very difficult challenges of development anything can be achieved. The tragedy is that we know and understand so little and that so much talent and energy is "born to blush unseen".

A © page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples