Robin Hood 1 Devonshire Cougars 1
The death of Robin Hood forward Mazhye Burchall in a motorcycle crash overshadowed his side’s scrappy draw against Devonshire Cougars in the Premier Division on Saturday night.
The opening game of the Premier League season started in a sombre mood, with players from Hood and PHC Zebras, Burchall’s former side, gathering on the pitch for a prayer vigil, which was followed by a minute’s silence during which his jersey was placed on the centre circle.
Play was also halted in the 21st minute as a symbolic gesture in acknowledgement of Burchall’s jersey number.
There had been doubts whether the match would be played in the wake of the tragedy, which happened in the early hours of Saturday morning.
“It was a tough decision but everybody wanted to play and felt that Mazhye would have wanted us to play,” John Barry Nusum, the Hood coach, said.
“Sometimes football can be the remedy for life’s ills. For us, it was a couple of hours to get away from the thoughts that had been in our heads all day.
“You could see we were in our own heads and a lot of things we were doing [on the pitch] were out of character.
“There were a lot of emotions, so we will take the draw and go from there. We will grieve and go through the process.”
Lejuan Simmons gave Hood the lead in the first half with a superb solo effort before an own goal by midfielder Phillip Parsons handed Cougars a point late on.
Antwan Russell, a close friend of Burchall and former PHC player, was handed the captain’s armband and wore his late team-mate’s jersey, which was retired after the match.
“Twan is like [Mazhye’s] big brother,” Nusum said. “Everywhere Twan went Mazhye was there and for us that’s going to be the last time that No 21 is worn.”
Burchall, 20, joined Hood from PHC at the start of last season. “He was my first signing,” Nusum said.
“We talked about different things that summer and I knew I had a gem, and the PHC guys said the same thing.
“It was a great pleasure to coach Mazhye. He was one of those players you love to coach because he listens and takes it in. I never had to wonder if he was going to be able to give me 100 per cent.
“He was the smallest guy on the field but would go into every tackle as if he was the biggest.
“He was very humble and you never heard him brag about himself. He just did the business.
“He’s a big piece of my puzzle, as a coach, that’s going to be missing and it changes the way we play because a lot of what we do goes through him with his movement.”
Nusum said he had high expectations for Burchall.
“This hurts me because last season we talked about what his next level was,” he added. “That’s where the conversation was going. I didn’t want him to be in Bermuda. I wanted him to go to the next step [turn professional] and it’s sad that we didn’t get to that point.
“He had a lot of promise and it’s sad we are having this conversation. We just have to make sure we uplift his name.”
During the pre-game vigil, Cecoy Robinson, the PHC captain, spoke of the deep passion that Burchall had for both the game and both clubs.
He said his club have dedicated the remainder of their season to the late Bermuda Under-20 international, who played his final match last Thursday during Hood’s 7-1 victory over Somerset Trojans in the Dudley Eve Trophy at Goose Gosling Field.
Robin Hood (4-3-3): D Eve — C Castle, J Bather, D Andrade, J Pereira — A Nelson (sub: L Symonds, 46mins), P Parsons, T Goater — S Smith (sub: E Outerbridge, 83), L Simmons (sub: D Williams, 75), A Russell. Substitutes not used: T Bean, J Nusum, C Ricca. Booked: Parsons.
Devonshire Cougars (4-4-2): C Hardtman — L Tota, Zekiro White, Zeko White, T Woodley — D Simmons, N Carmichael, D Daniels, Moses Steede — J Mouchette (sub: N Simmons, 68), Mark Steede. Substitutes not used: C Matthews, O Bascome. Booked: Daniels, Tota.
Referee: A Augustus.