When I was a boy, I heard of him, the same way that I heard of champions like George Headley, Herb McKenley, Arthur Wint, and Alfred Valentine, and when I became a young man, I finally saw him play, although he had passed his best and retired by then.What I saw, however, convinced me even then of what I had heard and read before from many people. He was the best footballer Jamaica had ever produced; he was an all-round sportsman beyond the ordinary; and he was, without a single doubt, the greatest all-round sportsman Jamaica had ever produced.Lindy Delapenha, schooled at Central Branch Primary and St Aloysius Primary, Wolmer’s Boys and Munro College, was a little man, but a multi-talented and skilful one. In fact, by showing his football prowess by the time he was 12 and representing Wolmer’s in Manning Cup football, in many ways he was a child prodigy.Before he left Wolmer’s for Munro, he had represented the school in football, cricket, track and field, and boxing, and while at Munro, he paraded his skills for all to see, and to enjoy, representing the school and winning ‘colours’ in football, cricket, tennis, boxing, gymnastics, hockey, and track and field.In 1945, in his last year in school, he did the unthinkable, and he did it on two occasions.GREAT FEATSFirst, he led Munro to the Boys’ Championship title, and he did it almost single-handedly.In the two-day event, he ran a total of 16 races, eight heats and eight finals, and finished first in the 880 yards and the mile, second in the 220 and 440 yards, the 120 yards hurdles, the long jump, and the sprint relay, and third in the 100 yards.The second unthinkable thing came in the Olivier Shield final against Calabar. With 10 minutes to go in the match, Calabar were leading 4-1, and with Delapenha on the warpath, it was soon 4-4 before, with one minute to go, Munro won a penalty and sealed the issue from the spot.That remains, to this day, one of the finest climaxes to any football match in this country, or indeed anywhere in the world.Although Delapenha played all-schools football and cricket and will be remembered as the most gifted schoolboy sportsman, even better than Franz Alexander and Micky West from Wolmer’s, his legacy is football, whether it is flying down the wing and ‘centreing’ the ball for hungry strikers or driving through the middle and peppering goalkeepers with stinging shots.His football exploits saw him becoming the first Jamaican and one of the first black men to play professional football in England when he joined Portsmouth in 1948, and later Middlesborough, where he was the leading scorer for a few years, and then Mansfield Town.Before returning home in 1964, he played for Hereford United and Burton Albion.Lindy Delapenha was an avid golfer in his later years, and he also played it well.I will always cherish the days he played for Boys’ Town and for Real Mona United in local football, however, and I will always remember his still twinkling feet and those delicately and accurately placed shots from the penalty spot.It is a pity they never twinkled a lot for Jamaica. He was the best, bar none.
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