Mar 03, 2021 Sports
Kaieteur News – It is with a heavy heart and streaming eyes that I make this announcement to the football fraternity and the wider communities within this global village of ours. Well known Berbice football icon, Mr. Neil ‘Grizzly’ Humphrey passed to the great beyond on February 28th, 2021. We found a little solace when it was reported that he passed quietly in his sleep.
I take this opportunity, on behalf of the football fraternity, to join the Humphrey’s Family and the rest of Guyana in paying tribute to the late local football icon. I agree that God created us all equally but in persons, whose athleticism stood out like ‘Grizzly’, meant that he added some special ingredients.
As a sports enthusiast and sports administrator I shared my passion for cricket and football almost equally. To date I am both an administrator of cricket and football. It is in the capacity as a Football Administrator that I pen this tribute to the passionate local Legendary Football Icon, the late Neil ‘Grizzly’ Humphrey, upon learning of his recent passing.
Neil Humphrey, who recently (this February) celebrated his 65th birth anniversary much like the Alphonso’s, Jones’s, Inniss’ and later the Forde’s, was born into a footballing family that passed down through several generations.
In two previous tributes both Michael King and Granton Inniss, they remembered him as being one of the main contributors in a national schools championship when the Berbice team that they were a part of dethroned Georgetown in the early 1970s.
For inter-school exploits, I recall being in the defense of a Martin Inniss led Mission Chappell School team that drew first blood against the domineering Vryman’s Erving School team and was in total control until the second half.
At that point, the diminutive but robust ‘Piggy’, at that time the more popular knick name for Neil Humphrey and the even more diminutive Roger Alphonso came off the bench and the two combined to destroy our midfield and breached our defence on four occasions in that final championship match, on a field which now houses the NA Multilateral School.
Neil played for the Cougars Football Club, a club which was dominated by the Alphonso’s and Humphrey’s, ‘Grizzly’ stood head and shoulders with them. He was also a member of the National Football squad of that 1970s era, joining an illustrious group which included fellow Berbician’s, Oral Samuels, Skip Price, Roger Alphonso and others that followed.
“Grizzly’ also played a very solid role in Berbice’s dismantling of Inter Mongotapoe 2-0 during an early 1980s tour of Suriname. Neil ‘Grizzly’ Humphrey later got together with other aging players and formed the Hearts of Oak Football Club.
Although the new club was geared towards organising veteran football, ‘Grizzly’ took on the part of massive coaching sessions for youths in schools for both genders and organised annual Primary and Secondary School tournaments.
These competitions were later used as memorial tournaments in memory of his late father, Mr Hilbert ‘Beef’ Humphrey, who was still actively playing inter-ward football way past his 60’s, prior to his passing. Those school tournaments were curtailed due to covid-19.
‘Grizzly’, through the Hearts of Oak Football Club also held an annual “Teach Them Young” football camp, for just about two decades.
This camp was second to none and would usually culminate in a tour to engage teams in other jurisdictions. Incentives are distributed to the many youths who attended. This camp was also curtailed last year, 2020, by covid-19.
Humphrey was also very passionate about female participation in sports and their participation from the broader society included those that were incarcerated in the women’s prison. Through his advocacy the female inmates were able to receive football training as part of their recreational schedules.
He also had the distinction of being Head Coach for the 2012 inaugural Ministry of Culture Youths & Sports Guyana Girls team, basically a New Amsterdam selection that toured Suriname in a meeting of the Inter Guiana’s tournament. I think that he would agree that was his most disastrous undertaking. However, it was good for the experience.
Neil ‘Grizzly’ Humphrey was much more than just football development, he was also very much involved in community development and character rehabilitation, which clearly emanated from his overall interaction with people of all disciplines within our society and community, especially the prison system and the All Saints Presbyterian Church. Both for which he performed invaluable community services for.
Like many persons in the sporting world, as a sports administrator, I will forever remember his exploits on and off the football field which rightfully earned him a place alongside other local Legends/Icons of the sports arena and education departments.
As a player, Neil Humphrey’s dexterous two footed skills along with pace and natural power, accentuated by his girth, allowed him to take on all comers when negotiating the midfield. This helped to earn him his pseudonym, ‘Grizzly’, the name synonymous specifically to his football prowess but which stuck to him throughout the years.
As an educator/instructor he worked along with the school’s Sports Departments to bring CXC students up to speed with their Physical Education Curriculum and even further assisted the examiners with the practical and theoretical exams.
Neil ‘Grizzly’ Humphrey aka “Piggy” was truly a Football Legend in his own right to his many fans across Guyana and within the Diaspora. We the executive and members of the Berbice Football Association and our families pray for the Lord God Almighty to grant his soul eternal rest. S.I.P my long-time friend, Champion Neil ‘Grizzly’ Humphrey and thanks for the many
Joseph E Simon,
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