The efforts of passing on the skills of football to the youngsters of River Road and surrounding area have paid off for former National Footballer, Francis “Muddy Belly” Phillip who was recognized last week Thursday as being the CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank Unsung Hero for 2012.
The veteran footballer was rewarded for engaging the children of River Road and Darbeau in the Wembley Football Academy since April 2008.
The Unsung Hero told a presentation ceremony at the Grenada National Stadium that when he started the programme it began with five of his nine children.
However, today it has grown to close to 30 children between the ages of five and sixteen years of age.
“The children give me a joy when I coach them,” said the Unsung Hero who has played for several years with Queen’s Park Rangers.
Phillip said he decided to run the programme without a charge to the children of the area.
“Every time somebody bring his children the first question that is asked is what is the cost? What is the cost Mr. Phillip? I always say to them it is a free school,” he quipped.
However, he said he is disappointed when some parents use the programme as a drop-off point for their children on Saturdays.
He made a clarion call for parents to stay around to see the growth of their children in the programme rather than just dropping them off and not returning in time when the activity ends.
“I like to see parents, especially when we’re going out and play, right there, cheering on their child,” he said.
The football coach expressed his gratefulness to Victor Daniel and D’s Sports Shop on St. John’s Street in St. George’s for supplying them with uniforms.
He said although they received the uniform almost three years ago, they are still owing $1,000.00 to the Sports Shop.
The Unsung Hero also publicly acknowledged the support he receives from his wife.
He said instead of remaining at home on Saturdays to assist with the house chores, he is out, first making preparations for the day’s activities before going out to meet the children.
Phillip also thanked the Grenada Football Association (GFA) for supporting the academy by providing them with balls and other gear.
The new “Unsung Hero” who comes from River Road started playing football at a tender age. He first represented Grenada in British Honduras as a member of the National under-19 team in 1978 and later made it to the National Senior Team.
Phillip was also a member of the Grenada over-40 team.
He also had the task of coaching his former team, Queen’s Park Rangers for more than 13 years.
The 2012 Unsung Hero mainly played in the defense and mid-field positions on the field of play.