The football fraternity was plunged into mourning yesterday following the untimely passing of Richard Fakoory, this country's 'gentle giant in football' at the age of 71.
Fakoory who has dedicated his entire life to the development of the youth through sports, particularly in basketball and football, died at the Westshore Medical Hospital at about 4:45 am yesterday morning, mere minutes after sending a WhatsApp message to his Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at the T&T Pro League Julia Baptiste, to remind her of business related to the Youth Pro League.
An autopsy performed yesterday revealed that death was due to a massive pulmonary aneurysm.
Fakoory was the chairman of the T&T Pro League, taking over for Sam Phillips who resigned last year, and was also an executive member of St Ann's Rangers, a club he founded and managed for many years up until a few months ago.
His passing came a day after he had emergency surgery for a blockage in his abdominal, which was successful.
The football and basketball fraternities took all of yesterday to digest the shocking news of his death.
Baptiste, with whom he shared a close friendship as colleagues in the pro league, was lost for words. "It was only about minutes after 4 am that he sent me a Whatsapp message about letters done for the Youth Pro League, and then to hear soon after that he had passed. It's difficult to deal with this loss, but I will always remember him as someone who loved the game of football, someone who loved the youths and was passionate to help" Baptiste said.
She added, "Fakoory was also someone who wasn't afraid to speak his mind when he felt he should. But above all, he was genuinely a nice person, down-to-earth, passionate about helping the young people in the country and a true friend."
Fakoory and Superstar Rangers
Fakoory's entry into the football fray began some 40 years ago with Superstar Rangers which won countless titles in the Northern Football Association (NFA). The St Ann's based club also participated in the Semi-Professional Football League and later the Professional Football League which started back in 1998. However, Fakoory was anything but bothered by the winnings in the country's top-flight or second-tier football leagues, and found happiness in unearthing young talent, nurturing them, providing them with the tools to survive, and ensuring they become decent citizens, although it had cost him a fortune.
President John-Williams sends condolences
President of the TTFA David John-Williams expressed his sympathy to Richard’s wife Angela and his two children Kyle and Rachel.
He said “I am indeed extremely shock upon hearing this sad news. Richard was a stalwart and lifelong servant of football and sport in T&T. It is a tremendous loss for sport in general and I wish to extend deepest condolences to his wife and family.”
He noted "The members of the TTFA and the football fraternity are deeply saddened by this news. Richard’s love for the game and his gentle soul will forever remain in our hearts. May God give him eternal rest and his family the strength to bear this great pain."
Basketball ref Cowie reflects
Meanwhile, Kwame Cowie, member of the Association of Basketball Officials of T&T (ABOTT) and referee said, " I recall the days of the original Super Ten Basketball Tournament that had Richard at the helm. In fact, he was the face of the tournament and would demand the highest standard from all participants. Even though I was not a senior member in ABOTT at that time, I was quite familiar with the arrangements that at times involved Richard offering complete referee’s kits inclusive of jackets."
"He was the only organizer in the sport that offered protection to ABOTT members, such that players would be fined for showing objection to any calls made by us. It was obvious that his objective was all aimed at improving the overall image and standard of the sport, to the extent that players could be fined for wearing dinged white or dirty socks," Cowie explained.