The Man Behind The Music (fourth in a seven part series)

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The Man Behind The Music (fourth in a seven part series)

The Man Behind The Music (fourth in a seven part series)

This is the fourth of a seven-part feature, commissioned by Red Stripe, celebrating the life and legacy of the Honourable Robert Nesta Marley, OM, on the 71st anniversary of his birth.

Great music legends are remembered for the creativity of their lyrics, the passion they exude, and the wonder they inspire. For Jamaica’s most revered reggae icon, Bob Marley, his extraordinary talent was not confined to the musical stage. Marley was indeed more than a musician par excellence. His life off stage was filled with family, friends and football.

Under the tutelage of a former Jamaican national striker, who played at both professional and international levels, Marley carefully honed his skills as a footballer. His love of the sport is duly recorded in numerous photos of Marley playing with band members and his sons.    “Besides music, football was him passion. Any country wi went, wi have to find a park or a field fi play,” said Allan ‘Skill’ Cole. Having met Marley during the mid-1960s in Trench Town, Cole became the singer’s confidant and personal trainer.

According to Cole, in the early days Marley was not much to look at in terms of football. 

“Him wasn’t all that composed, kinda wild but him was a good listener an’ wi start work on him control with some juggling an’ it work out. Him become a better player,” said Cole. 

Marley’s training was similar to that of any professional footballer, and those in the know say that level of training takes great commitment. 

“Juggling develops ball control and the player’s first touch and that’s very important. As for the diet, it’s critical to adopt a healthy lifestyle,” Jerome Waite, coach of Red Stripe Premier League 2015 Champions Arnett Gardens.

There was no doubting Marley’s passion for the sport. 

“It was a discipline. Train in the morning, football in the evening. Him drink (natural) juices, eat a lot of greens, peas, beans, fish...no meat,” said Cole. 

So strong was Marley’s love for the game that he refused to neglect his training while being treated for cancer. Cole, Marley and his doctor would participate in regular juggling sessions.

Riding on through the pain

Marley also shared his love of the game with his children and spent time talking and sharing life lessons with them. 

“He said ‘Stephen, money can’t buy life’. Then he said, ‘Ziggy, on yuh way up, please tek mi up. On your way down, don’t let mi down’,” said wife Rita Marley in a 2001 Jamaica Observer interview. Both sons adopted their father’s athletic passion and became competitive footballers. 

Marley’s love for football is celebrated every year with the Masters & Celebrities One Love Football competition. Now in its 35th year, the 2016 competition was launched on February 2. The match, featuring marquee players from the Red Stripe Premier League and several public personalities, is scheduled to kick off on Wednesday, February 10, at the Arnett Gardens Sports Complex in Kingston. Start time is 4:00 pm.

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