Mr. Quinto on the right and his friend Mr. Simon Quan on the left. (Photo courtesy of Ms. Connie Quinto’s Facebook page)

Contributed By Evondale Coburn

Several weeks ago I posted on my timeline chronicling the Old Parr basketball teams. The sponsor of that team was Mr. Gonzalo Quinto. Mr. Quinto is known by many Belizeans for the above introduction but there are also many Belizeans, especially the younger generation who know little about Mr. Quinto and his Chinese friend Mr. Simon Quan.

Mr. James Lee and several others were responsible for sponsoring and popularizing the game of Volleyball in Belize. Before I get to the volleyball piece I would like to highlight a couple of Mr. Quinto’s work and generosity which I believe he would not object to being promulgated. During our playing career, after every game and whether we won or lost (we did not lose many) his Canton Restaurant on New Road was closed to the public and opened solely for his players, their wives, girlfriends and most loyal fans who accompanied us after games. We were afforded whatever we wanted to eat and or drink all at his expense. Additionally we were each given a stipend as appreciation for our efforts. All we wanted to do was win for him and watch him flash his infectious smile as he hoisted the championship trophy four times out of five years before I migrated to the US. We were respectful and appreciative of his generosity. Small gestures like this had a profound effect on a poor boy from Plues Street. I’ll explain in closing.

Gonzalo Quinto & Sons’ main store is located next door to the Central Police Station on Queen Street. Daily, at the end of the work day, the police courtyard at the front of the station house was transformed into a volleyball court complete with referees and officials. This may have been around 1967 (I stand to be corrected).

Mr. Quinto and his Chinese friends formed the core of his team with the late Camma and Kent Myvett as regulars on their team because of their height and kill abilities. The other teams were made up of players from the community who learned the game along the way. Some of these players were Jimmy Harris (he was a well-respected traffic policeman who rode one of the signature Triumph motorcycles in the department), Jimmy “Capito” Lawrence, Pappy Nunez, Junie Myvett, Thor Middleton, Ned Lord, Anthony “Pro” Myvett (brother of Kent Myvett) and his cousin Gilbert Gomez, and Beebs Menzies, to name a few and several other members of the police force.

There were other players involved but I’m unable to recall names at the moment. It was a treat and also impressive to be at courtside and watch the Chinese players return powerful kill from the opposing team on their fingertips quietly setting Camma or Kent for their kill at the net. Jimmy Harris had the most powerful kill that I have seen at the time and Camma had the best control kill. There were some intense and heated arguments at times, but they never got out of control because everyone was aware of where they were located.

The games were open to the public so passersby would stop in and watch, sometimes to standing room only. You could hear the ooohs and aahs as the Chinese players moved with coordinated precision to set up their plays. The games would continue until late into the night. Some of the movie-going audience from Majestic Theatre would stop by to enjoy the games after the show (two for the price of one). Eventually the game became more popular and subsequently Mr. Quinto and his friends were instrumental in organizing the first volleyball tournament held at St. Ignatius. At this time most of the players who played basketball on St. Ignatius court also played volleyball. The weekends were reserved for bet games. Football in the back (where the bell was located), basketball and volleyball on the court sometimes simultaneously (half-court basketball on one end and volleyball on the other), cards, dominoes, dice, marbles, top, caparuche, roller skating, hand ball, but I digress, you get the picture. Mr. Quinto and his friends deserve most of the credit for making volleyball happen. (If anyone has information to the contrary please enlighten me).

In closing, team-sports allow an individual to develop intangibles that are applicable to your everyday life in order to be successful. Discipline, leadership, teamwork, perseverance, dedication, conflict resolution, social interaction, practice, preparation and execution, listening and following instructions. I’ve always listened and paid attention to my parents, teachers, friends, and people like Mr. Quinto who worked hard and displayed high standards, integrity, support and affection to others. I’ll say this reluctantly because it’s not about me but I sucked it all in and applied what I have learned which allowed me to retire twice and now enjoy the fruits of my labor. I did not want to let any of these people down because they expected excellence.

Mr. Gonzalo “William” Quinto, you are a great Belizean! Thanks for investing in a group of unknown kids from humble beginnings. Many of us became household names in our neighborhood and Belize because of your confidence in our abilities as athletes. It was money well spent. I overstand [sic] why you are a successful businessman. UTMOST RESPECT to you Sir!!

Note: The Photo is courtesy of Ms. Connie Quinto’s Facebook page. Mr. Quinto on the right and his friend Mr. Simon Quan on the left.

The Belize Times