Former British footballer at home in paradise
Jonathan Bryant describes himself as “just an ordinary bloke living in paradise”.
The former British footballer is so enthused over the life he leads in this “paradise” that he is making plans to give back in a big way.
Bryant had been visiting Barbados for almost 20 years, having fallen in love with the island from the first time he came. Somehow nobody believed him when he would repeatedly say he was going to live in Barbados eventually – not even his wife. She said it would never happen.
“I’ll believe you when I see you put the tickets on the table”, was her response to her husband’s pronouncements.
He did put the tickets on the table on October 19 last year and four days later Bryant, his wife and their two sons were on a plane heading for Barbados.
In the years of visiting Barbados, Bryant struck up friendships on the golf course, including with Sir Garfield Sobers and Desmond Haynes. Through these friends he met many others in the sports field and watched golfers, athletes, footballers and other sportsmen and sportswomen in action.
He was impressed with what he saw. “When I first came here I met a couple of young athletes. I just felt they did not have the opportunity because of the infrastructure in Barbados,” Bryant said during the interview with the Weekend Nation beside the large swimming pool at his well appointed Sandy Lane home.
“The problem is there is lots and lots of talent in this island in sports. Typically, [this is] what happens: anybody with any talent in sport, if they are spotted by an English premiership football club or an English college, they are plucked and taken away. That takes something away from Barbados.
“I thought that was a shame and I just did some more digging into what was going on. Whether it is right or whether it is wrong, the people believe that not enough is given back.”
As he looked out towards the azure Caribbean Sea on a sunny day, Bryant remarked: “I have been fortunate in my life. But that was not all the time. I had my moments where I had been penniless. But things are good now. So I wanted to do something special out here.”
Bryant is also concerned about the future for young Barbadians.
“Other than tourism there really isn’t any industry left on the island. Once you have built all the houses and there is no more land, what do you do?” he said.
He saw “huge” potential problems ahead. That is why he has been supporting the Carlton Club, because he believes that club emanates from a community where many young people benefit from membership. His generosity in cash and advice is known by people in sports administration, as well as by thesportspeople themselves.
He attended the Sentabale Polo Cup match, where Prime Minister David Thompson spoke about the importance of developing sports tourism and he pondered on the message.
“I actually think that there is a real opportunity on this island to build that into more than just words.”
Bryant is taking action. He is moving his business interests to Barbados, and through 8000inc, one of the businesses he founded, he plans to do even more than he is already doing. He is already committed to the Amateur Athletic Association of Barbados, the Barbados Golf Association, the Carlton Club and to developing centres of excellence with former West Indies opening batsman Desmond Haynes.
8000inc will be opening a store at the upscale West Coast development Limegrove later this year, and Bryant said ten per cent of every dollar spent in the shop will go towards the sports he supports.
So elated is Bryant about the life he is able to enjoy in Barbados, being able to share a golf game and socialise with two of Barbados’ cricketing heroes, that he remarked: “There is nowhere in the world that you can get up on a Thursday (the one day he takes off in the week) [and] saunter 500 yards to one of the best golf courses in the world, on the best island in the world and play golf with Desmond Haynes and Sir Garfield Sobers. I still can’t believe it. It just gives me a thrill.”
This leads him to talk about his two big dreams.
“I have two dreams . . . One is to build a Desmond Haynes Sporting Centre of Excellence, a purpose-built facility which will have corporate offices and the equipment for his coaching, as well as football equipment.
“You take the National Stadium . . . You have a world champion . . . The running track is not good enough . . .
“My other dream is I want to rebuild Barbados’ cotton industry.”
It disturbs this self-proclaimed “Barbadian” that “this island produces the best cotton in the world and it is sent all the way to Switzerland to come back here as cloth”.
He estimates the bales of cotton flax lying useless around the island number more than 100, and he confesses having a personal interest in seeing local processing of the cotton cultivated in Barbados. The clothing on sale at 8000inc, the sports wear and casual wear lines, including shirts and men’s trousers, is largely cotton-based.
Bryant once played professional football for the Cheshire football club Crewe Alexander, but developed arthritis and was forced to end his career prematurely. He holds a BSc.(Honours) degree in advanced medical microbiology and advanced medical biotechnology, and worked in these fields, while as he said “making some investments that turned out all right”.
Now that he has adopted Barbados as his home, he is committed to putting his money behind Barbados’ sportspeople.
He reckons that he is “unbelievably” fortunate.