Humble Ramoon shares his glory

Lee Ramoon seems too nice to be a celebrated footballer. He’s not self-centred and aloof. Nor does he have an over-inflated opinion of himself..

For someone who had just played with one of the greatest footballers of all time, he was obviously elated but seemed pretty nonchalant at the same time.

Ramoon and son Davante

Ramoon and son Davante Photo: Ron Shillingford

But this is the manner of the man who keeps his head when others are losing theirs and rarely gets carried away with his emotions on the field.

That’s probably why I’d never met him in my year here and didn’t even know what he looked like until some old shots surfaced last week, yet had heard his name constantly in football circles. Ramoon doesn’t blow his own trumpet. Others do that for him.

The 42-year-old striker is a regular guy with an exceptional talent to play football well and had he been born in a bigger football-playing country may have become a top pro too.

The game between a Cayman Select and Romario’s All Stars on Sunday may have finished 2-1 in the visitors’ favour but the result was irrelevant. Everyone was a winner. Even in his finest hour, Ramoon deflected the glory from himself.

‘It was nice to play with the great Romario and also alongside my good friends Theodore Whitmore and Pele Wilson who I’ve known over the years of my career,’ beamed Ramoon after. ‘It was great to have them here on this special occasion.

‘The highlight of not just today but over the years has been the support from the fans.

‘Cayman football has come a long way. We’ve had our highs and lows and I think we’re at a mid-point now and we need to get the game back up.

‘I think we have a great start to that with the Centre of Excellence coming on board. I think that’s a break for fellas who want to come on board, to show them that it’s all about hard work and something to participate in to be great footballers.’

The Cayman side was a mixture of three generations; past, present and future. Of the past players, Ramoon ensured it was a family affair. His brother Paul McField played, as did his brother Anthony Ramoon and there was also cousin Lloyd Ramoon. Ricky Seymour, Neil Murray, Ardin Rivers and keeper Cecil Walton were other past internationals to turn out.

Lee Ramoon has two children, son, Davante, 10 and Raven, 16. ‘Davante is playing football but Raven is more intellectual. I tell him that it’s not an easy road, it’s hard work and if you want to be a footballer you have to put the effort in from dusk to dawn.’

Romario’s visit was fashioned by Jeffrey Webb, Cayman Islands Football Association president. They’ve played and grown up together and there is evidently a mutual respect.

‘Jeff has a lot of vision for Cayman football. The Centre of Excellence has been 10 years in the works and it’s only just coming on board now.

‘That’s what it’s all about, having a vision. We have to keep that vision going. It’s all about the youngsters now. They have some way to propel and to take it to the next level.

‘We’re supposed to be looking at 2014 now in terms of the World Cup.

‘This was my end of commitment to the national team but I’ve always been involved in coaching and will continue to do so.

‘I’m coaching George Town Under-14s and senior team and will continue to play. I have a lot of experience to pass on to youngsters coming through my ranks.

‘I’m not as quick as I used to be but in terms of touches and passing the ball that’s what it’s about.’

As a striker Ramoon scored many goals in the many games he played. He lost count after 100. It could be over 200. Only the most meticulous of record keepers could fathom the exact number.

Webb enthused: ‘When the football association puts on something to honour someone we have to do it the right way. We have high standards and high expectations and we’re very proud of Lee.

‘He is a great ambassador for this country, a magnificent servant of Cayman and it’s only fitting that he gets the type of reception and honour that he deserved.

‘Of course, the overall goal was to honour Lee and raise funds for our Centre of Excellence. This weekend was a tremendous success.

How does Webb top this? ‘Well we’ve had Pele here before which means now we’ve had two out of three all-time legends here, the third one being Diego Maradona.

‘To have Romario here to lend his name to our cause is great. He kept on saying to me: ‘Anything you want to do with the kids, I’m there.’ Once it’s for children he supports it.’

Romário de Souza Faria thoroughly enjoyed his visit, as you would expect. Cayman has it all; natural beauty, world class facilities and a diverse community that can make anybody feel at home.

Apart from his wife getting a touch of food poisoning, everything went smoothly.

The little Brazilian was all smiles from start to finish. No surly behaviour normally seen from millionaire footballers, just an easy going nature and willingness to accommodate.

He was ecstatic to help raise $160,000-plus for the Centre of Excellence. No amount of photo or autograph requests were too much.

Romario, 42 too, has an affinity with children because if not for football he knows he may have been stuck in the poverty of his childhood too.

Through coach Thiago Cunha, who interpreted for him, Romario said: ‘I had an excellent time. I’m always supportive of people in Cayman. I really enjoyed the game and I think it was nice for everybody.

‘The game was unbelievable because I saw a lot of young guys playing for the Cayman national team and they have a good team.’

Now Romario has finished playing competitively having scored 1,000 goals in his glittering career, the last milestone he achieved recently. The penalty he scored for the All Stars was his 1,006th but it won’t count as an official one because the match was not an official one.

He is a goodwill ambassador for FIFA, the world governing body now. Brazil have secured the World Cup finals in 2014 so he will be doing a fine marketing job in the meantime.

‘I enjoy going around the world, playing exhibition games, just like I did here,’ he added.

As for wanting to coach the Brazil national team, he is not interested. Cuhna said: ‘He told me that he feels he doesn’t have the talent for coaching.’ Ah well, he can’t be brilliant at everything.

‘Romario is my friend, a very correct guy and he will do well as an ambassador,’ added Cunha. ‘I’m sure he would love to come back to Cayman one day.’