Humans of Calvert County, Sarah Merranko & Anita Santoyo
“It’s important in life. If the Lord has blessed you with an ability, use it to the best that you can. Like I say all I’ve done is soccer all my life.
I knew what I wanted as a 12-year-old so I just went for it. It worked out. Hard work, but anything you do in life is hard. I can’t sit and wait for things, you have to make them happen. And never let anybody tell you that you can’t. Just keep going for it until you get what you want. I think that’s the way life is. If you want to get to a certain point you got to fight for it.
This here is great. We never had this when I came along as a kid. Different nationalities….playing together.
When I played professional, I was called every name under the sun. But I couldn’t think of myself, I had to think of the people coming after me. And when I see people of color that are playing futbol, it makes me feel good, because I know I had a part in that.
Anger, not liking a person because of the color of their skin; if we close our eyes and we speak, we don’t know what’s in front of us. I tell all these kids here, don’t ever let color interfere with what you’re going to do. You gonna do something, go ahead and do it.
My book, The Acid Test, is called that because when I was playing one day, someone threatened to throw acid in my face. So it was a no brainer when it was time to get a name. A Book about my life. Little boy leaving Bermuda to play in England.
That was 1968. I was 17. I had never been on a plane and I had to make my own way. I was by myself because my mom and dad couldn’t go. But I wasn’t really scared because that was the only place I could go to play. England was the best place for me because they spoke the same language, so it was easy. And the club I went to was one of the best because they were one of the first clubs in England to offer players of color an opportunity. That was West Ham United.
Back in the day, England wasn’t an easy place to go to, especially for someone from a different country. As a matter of fact, when I got to the airport, I thought I was in India. A lot of the guys had the turbans on and I’d never seen that before, so I said ‘Christ I must have gotten off at the wrong stop!’ So I asked questions and I made my way all the way from Heathrow right across to the Eastern side of London. So I get there, the club was closed this day because they had played on a Saturday.
Back in those days they never played on Sundays in England, only on Saturdays. So I get to the train station and I got off the wrong train station. So I’m standing outside it’s getting dark, and this man came along and he said ‘hey young fella, what are you doing here?’ I said ‘look, I came for a trial with West Ham, I’m from Bermuda.’ And he said the field will not be open today because they played yesterday. So I’m going to take you to a family that lives down the street with two boys from West Ham.
So I knocked on the door. And this little white lady, she comes to the door, and I was supposed to stay with her a couple of nights…..I stayed with her for seven years! She ended up like a mom away from home. And God bless her. I was so thankful. She was a lady, in the fifties, a white lady married to a black guy, so you can imagine what she had to go through in those days.
I and her son played together on the youth team and her older son played on the first team. It was a good experience and she was great. I say without her, God knows what would happen to me because she toughened us up. If something didn’t go our way, ‘hey you gotta go out there and do it, go and do it.’ Because of her, I think that’s why we were able to achieve what we achieved because she really didn’t look at color. She just treated you right, if you were wrong, she’d let you know. Jesse Charles. She passed away now. I often think of her. I was so fortunate to have met somebody like that.
That’s what it’s all about. How to make it better for the next generation. If I can help in any way, I will.
Sharing, caring, respect, treating people the way you want to be treated. There are people that don’t have. And you have those that have so much and don’t want to share with those that don’t have. So I just hope that one day, the Lord puts a bug in our head where we all wake up and let’s do the best thing we can for people, human beings. If we all help one another, it’s going to be a better place to live.”