Lindy Delapenha to receive English Premier League medal posthumously

JAMAICA’S legendary sportsman, Lindy Delapenha will posthumously receive an English Premier League championship medal, for helping Portsmouth retain the title in 1950, at a time when he was the first black foreigner to play professional football in England.

More than two dozen English title-winners are set to belatedly receive the coveted League Championship medals — in some cases more than half a century after they contributed to title triumphs and some after their deaths, the Liverpool Echo reported last week.

In Delapenha’s time, the number of games to qualify for a medal was 14, or a third of the season. But football authorities, EFL have now decided to fall in line — retroactively — with Premier League requirements which stipulate that players are required to make a minimum of five appearances to be given medals.

At least 26 players from title-winning clubs like Everton, Manchester United, Manchester City, Leeds, Liverpool, Wolves and Portsmouth will now qualify, Echo said.

Former Echo sportswriter Ken Gaunt, who has been trying to trace the ex-players, was quoted as saying: “These players may have only played a few games but they could have played a crucial role in their clubs becoming champions. It is important that their stories are told and that they are recognised properly.”

The publication mentioned Lindy Delapenha, “the Jamaica-born winger who helped Portsmouth retain the title in 1950”, noting that he passed away four years ago at the age of 89 “but his family could still accept a medal on his behalf”.

Delapenha could have been great in any of almost a dozen sports, including football, boxing, cricket, tennis, track athletics, hockey, gymnastics, golfing, swimming and diving.

He is widely credited with setting the stage for large numbers of black British players to go into professional football in that cradle of world-class soccer.

After his phenomenal performance as a schoolboy athlete at Munro College, Delapenha was sent to England with the hope of being signed to an English football club. He took with him the unbelievable feat of participating in 16 events over a day and a half in Boys’ Championships here, forcing the authorities to change the rules to say that no single athlete should take part in more than four events in any one championships.

While Delapenha was serving with the British armed forces in the Middle East after the Second World War, an English football scout saw his soccer artistry and powerhouse kick that was later to dominate newspaper headlines in a country not yet at the time ready to hand out accolades to blackness.

If the records are to be believed, and they are not yet challenged, Delapenha is not only the first Jamaican to play pro football in England; he is the first black overseas player and only the second black man to play League football in England.

And in the way fate makes a mockery of men, he would savour the sweet taste of revenge against Arsenal — the mighty Gunners who had refused to sign him, — and then felt the sting of his boots when he engineered their defeat at Middlesborough some years later.

Between 1948 and 1960 he played League football for Portsmouth, Middlesbrough and Mansfield Town, often as the first black man to do so.

Choosing to stay with football, he turned down an invitation to run for Britain in the 1948 Olympics and otherwise might have etched his name alongside Arthur Wint and Herb McKenley in the annals of Jamaican sports history.

When he hung up his boots and returned to Jamaica in the 1960s, it was to become one of the legendary sports commentators of the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC), the radio and television complex that was established to reflect the national image to the young nation.

With Roy Lawrence, he would take credit for bringing international football to the JBC screens. Notably, he organised JBC coverage of the biggest games to be hosted by Jamaica up to that time — the Commonwealth Games of 1966 — after only three weeks at the station.

Lloyd Lindbergh “Lindy” Delapenha was born on May 20, 1927 in Spanish Town and died on January 26, 2017 in Kingston.

— Compiled by Desmond Allen and Kevin Wainwright

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