The Arts Park at Young Circle was definitely the place Labor Day Weekend in Hollywood, Florida as thousands flocked to the 2023 episode of the Maestro Marley Cup. This fun-filled event was one that combined a football tournament by day with a thrilling music festival by night that featured: The Marley Brothers and family (Stephen, Damian, Julian, Rohan, Yohan, Shacia, KJ, Kastin); iconic reggae group – Inner Circle; I-Octane; Queen of Soca – Alison Hinds; dancehall legend – Spragga Benz; latin reggae artists – Locos Por Juana; Dominican Republic’s, Maffio; and Puerto Rico’s Farruko. As always, there were too many notable attendees in the Arts Park to count, but to name a few: Tanto Irie (of ‘Reggae Runnins’ on South Florida’s Hot 105 FM radio); conscious reggae musician/band – M.Pres; former national football league (NFL) standouts – the ‘Pouncey Twins’; veteran Jamaican dancehall deejay – Ninja Kid; Jason Panton – Dubwise Miami; Steve James – Reggaeville; Floyd and Aiesha Barrett – children of Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett (of Bob Marley & the Wailers) ; Kabaka Pyramid – 2023 Grammy award winner in the reggae category; and music mogul and one of this year’s event organizers, Abebe Lewis – son of Inner Circle’s Ian Lewis.
Reggae King, Bob Marley’s Football Love ‘Ever Endures’:
The roots of Bob Marley’s love affair with football can be traced back to the 1960s in Kingston, Jamaica. That decade in Jamaican football—particularly at the high school level—was very special indeed. In the 1960s, Kingston College (‘KC’) was a powerhouse in the sports of football, cricket, and track and field. During that era, some of the most popular sportsmen in Jamaica came out of KC. Arguably, KC’s biggest and most talented top-football star back then was none other than Alan ‘Skill’ Cole, widely regarded as Jamaica’s greatest footballer of all time. Cole described his relationship with the late reggae icon as: “A great, great friend. A confidant.”
‘Skill’ Cole went to KC and, while there, his teammates and contemporaries included the likes: of Neville ‘Sam Brown’ Oxford, Frank ‘Bowla’ Morant, Michael ‘Mouse Brown’ Vernon, Tony Keyes, and Trevor ‘Jumpy’ Harris. Indeed, Bob Marley’s football connection to Kingston College was a special one in that he became very close to many of their top stars while playing the game with them. And all throughout those years, Marley made strong connections with those KC schoolboy legends while playing pick-up games of football. In fact, Cole became an integral member of the reggae legend’s inner circle, and also served as Marley’s road manager for the singer’s final tour in 1980.
And apart from the KC network, of course, there was also Tony ‘Gilly Dread’ Gilbert, who was not only Bob’s personal chef, but also a top sparring partner where playing football was concerned. What’s more, Gilly was road manager for Marley’s Exodus Tour—which kicked-off at the Pavillon de Paris, Porte de Pantin in Paris, France, on 10 May 1977.
Live DJs, Music, and Fun in the Park:
Marley Family and Friends Delivered Stellar Concert Performances:
Following the daytime action on the football field, the Arts Park later that evening attracted the masses to enjoy a music concert that featured live performances delivered by an A-list of musical star performers, legends and icons. Meanwhile, backstage was an event in and of itself, as a number of big-name musicians, celebrities, and officials milled around and chatted while enjoying the festivities, including: Zeke Don, Safaree Samuels, Yaksta, Yung Wylin’ and a number of others.
I-Octane – Jamaica
Queen of Soca, Alison Hinds – Barbados
Inner Circle – Jamaica
Spragga Benz – Jamaica
Marley Family and Musical Friends – Jamaica
The Maestro Marley Cup was founded in 2018 by Ky-Mani Marley and Big Hair Dave from the Dubplates with the mission aim of raising money for the ‘Love Over All Foundation’, as well as aiding the needs of communities through fusing sporting endeavors together with music. And when the dust settled after this year’s 6 vs 6 Maestro Marley Cup episode, the Arts Park was filled with good vibes and comradery as well as the declaration of bragging rights until the next Maestro Marley Cup tournament is held. More than that, the music festival component to the Maestro Marley Cup was epic in that musicians and performers came from far and wide to join the Marley family in celebrating Bob’s life, music, legacy, and entrenched love for the game of football, which was really a lot of fun for all those who played in the tournament.
All photos (except where indicated as file photo) by Nick Ford.