Bibi was a teen star

Jamaica captain Ricardo ‘Bibi’ Gardner will be one of the top players to watch when he arrives in the Cayman next week to participate in two friendly international games.

They are part of the Cayman Islands Football Association’s continuing efforts to raise funds for the new Centre For Excellence in Prospect.

Gardner a Bolton Wanderers midfielder/defender, started his career while attending Wolmer’s High School in Kingston. At 14 he exploded onto the football scene for the renowned Jamaica Premier League team Harbour View Football Club.

As Gardener continued to take the football fraternity by storm he ascended into the realm of the national team during the Reggae Boyz campaign and was on the historic team which made it to World Cup Finals in France 1998.

His spectacular performance at this level drew the attention of football scouts and since July 1998 he has been a permanent fixture on the Bolton Wanderers team and the Jamaica national team playing in the position of a defender for both teams.

After that World Cup campaign he was transferred to Bolton for the equivalent of $1.4 million.

In 2000 Gardner suffered a serious set back resulting from cruciate ligament knee injury and was out of the game for some months.

Still only 30, he is injury free and patrols the field in an overlapping role and is regarded by many as one of Bolton’s most loyal and optimum assets.

In 2006, Gardner became the first Barclays Premiership player to be voted ‘Player of the Round’. Gardner was among five players nominated for the award after his sterling performance against Arsenal who lost to Bolton 1-0 in the fourth round.

Gardner will always be remembered in the role he played alongside Jamaica’s head coach Theodore ‘Tappa’ Whitmore in the World Cup. Their performance brought Jamaica a historic victory over Japan, 2-1. Tappa scored both goals.

Jamaica finished third in group H behind Argentina and Croatia but could not advance.