WHEN BOB MARLEY used to tour, he would demand that there was ready access to a football field at all times, and would carry a soccer ball around to play against fellow musicians, players or even journalists.
He once told a reporter, “If you want to get to know me, you will have to play football against me and the Wailers.”
At the height of his career, Jamaica’s most famous footballer was Allan “Skilly” Cole, who became Marley’s road manager for much of the 1970s.
It was also during a football game when Marley had one of his toe nails ripped off that he discovered he had a type of malignant melanoma that would see him pass away at age 36.
As for his skills on the pitch? That one is up for debate. By one account, he could’ve been a professional footballer:#
“Trying to get the ball off him was just hopeless. Because Bob was the person he was, the ball always came to him. He was the midfield general, if you like, and they called him Skipper.”[i]
Although another claim suggests it might’ve just been more passion than talent. According to a Brazil photographer who witnessed one of Marley’s pick-up games:
“That game was actually short. Everything was quick, thank God, because the game was horrible. Bob was really bad. He simply couldn’t play. From 1 to 10, I would give him 1.5.”
I wouldn’t put anything past Marley. After all, he’s the one who said you have to be skillful to play it. A man of his words, I presume.
[i] Of course, his son Rohan Marley — who has five children with Lauryn Hill — also pursued a career in football, the American version. He played alongside Ray Lewis at the University of Miami before a short stint in the Canadian Football League. And even got his own feature in Sports Illustrated in 1993, titled “Hurricane From The Caribbean”.
This post originally appeared on Alex Wong’s site stevenlebron.com