Randolph Harris, a man who has dedicated his life as a visionary leader in the growth and development of Barbados’ football, is happy with the contribution he has made over the years.
In a wide-ranging interview with Barbados TODAY, Harris who was elected to the post of Barbados Football Association [BFA] president six years ago, said if anyone had told him a year ago he would become Caribbean Football Union president managing 31 member associations around the region, or even vice-president of Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football [CONCACAF] for that matter, he would have laughed.
Having retired last week from his life-long job [30 years] as a sales manager of BICO to concentrate more of his time to the sport he loves dearly, what appeared to have been a distant dream has become Harris’ reality and joy. He previously hosted FIFA president Gianni Infantino in 2017 and earlier this year FIFA’s first female Secretary General, Fatma Samoura, who was present at the official opening of the regional office in Barbados three months ago.
“I really didn’t think about being a part of the union because of the amount of work that we had to be doing here in Barbados. But it has happened and I think it is a plus, not only for Barbados, but we are now in a time where things are really looking good for football, both from a FIFA standpoint and a CONCACAF standpoint. So, I am happy to be around at this time and I am looking forward to some good things happening for football in the region.”
The 63-year-old began his love affair with the sport in the 1970s as a BFA floor member in 1977. He hasn’t just been a successful football administrator but someone who has played the game when he represented Christ Church League as a player. In 1981 he guided Paradise Football Club [who won the Stag Beer Champions Cup Knockout last week] to Division One promotion as coach and manager, and to add further to his illustrious career, at one point Harris was even an active referee.
Harris is a testimony of what it means to remain strong in the face of adversity. He became the youngest General Secretary in the BFA’s history at the age of 28, but then stumbled along the way when he was banned for five years from all forms of football in 2003 by FIFA for taking the local football body to court over a dispute surrounding election procedures.
But like the Phoenix, Harris rose above his tribulations in 2010 when he became a floor member on the executive council of the BFA before taking over the helm of local football which has moved from the position of not having a proper coaching facility or adequate coaches to what can be described as a state-of-the-art home at the Wildey, St Michael AstroTurf and numerous qualified coaches to teach football at various levels across the country.
“I believe that I have been lucky with football. I have been a general secretary at a very young age, and I would say that I have made a contribution to the game in Barbados. And there have been times things went bad, being banned for five years, but basically, I assess the sport and I always knew that I could help because I was very interested in assisting the sport because I saw the talent. It has not always made me happy [the game] but I persevered and the people who supported me didn’t want me to give up and I suppose that was a little encouragement to stay, and now I have found myself as president of the Caribbean Football Union,” Harris said.
Responsible for organizing the BICO competition in 1979, the Carib Beer CBC tournament referred to as BESS [Barbados Entertainment Support Services] in 1989 and the pulsating LIME Pelican Football Challenge in 2011 and 2012, three of the best football tournaments in Barbados’ history, Harris said the BESS tournament would always remain the most outstanding and memorable experience for him.
“We had a tournament called the Carib CBC tournament but people used to call it the BESS tournament because we did it as a business called Barbados Entertainment Support Services, and we were able to revolutionize competition in Barbados. People really enjoyed that tournament; we couldn’t even hold them [people] at the Stadium and we had to close the gates for the final. After it became popular, we started to get undermined and there were a lot of things put in place to make sure that we couldn’t continue. But I would say the final of the first BESS tournament gave me the greatest joy,” Harris reminisced with the brightest of smiles.