Vice President Joseph N. Boakai has identified with the family of former Mighty Barrolle and Lone Star left-back William Gray, who died last week.
Vice President Boakai’s action was meant to give the man considered as Liberia’s best left-back and penalty kicker a decent home going.
Gray died in the early hours of Sunday (October 15) at his Bardnersville, Dry Rice Market residence after a protracted period of illness.
Gray, commonly known as “Brazilian Bulu,” was famous for his spectacular penalty kicks during his days playing for club and country, scoring always.
Presenting the amount of US$2,400 on behalf of VP Boakai to the family, Boye Charles (Jonathan Sogbie) said the money was Ambassador Boakai’s way of identifying with the family.
He said after their previous visit to the family and inquiries about the funeral arrangement, they were told that a total of US$2,400 was needed for the burial, a cost Ambassador Boakai decided to underwrite.
“On behalf of the Senior Professionals and UP Soccer Legends in collaboration with the Vice President, we have come to extend our hands to the family of our colleague that we played along with for many years,” said Boye Charles.
“We are prepared to take everything that was presented to us for three weeks, which included but not limited to preserving his body, headstone, dressing of the body, casket all of which summed up to that amount,” he added.
A crying Boye Charles said he regretted Gray’s death and said he would not be forgotten as one of Liberia’s best left-backs. He extended sympathy to the widow and his children.
“We are with you in your pain because we were more than brothers on the national team and for Bulu to leave us is sad,” Charles said. “This is not about politics but to identify with a brother who lived his life for Liberian football.”
In a letter from Vice President Boakai to the family, he said he regretted the family’s loss, but noted that Gray served his country as a sportsman.
Receiving the amount, the widow (Mrs. Samnu Gray) expressed appreciation for the Vice President’s timely gesture to the family and wished for God’s blessings on him and his family.
“I can remember one day before my husband’s death he said to me ‘if I die I will be buried by the Government of Liberia and my friends’ so I am not surprised by this coming from the Vice President,” Mrs. Gray said in tears.
Reflecting on the life of William Gray, Coach Josiah N. Johnson, who coached Gray from club level to national level, said his death is a big loss to the country. “We lost someone who made tremendous contributions to Liberian football and he would be missed for his dedication,” Johnson said.
“He will be missed for his attacking and defensive style of play because he was among the players sent to Brazil for training in the 1980s.”
Gray’s teammates on the national team, Lone Star, included George Weah, James, Debbah, Kelvin Sebwe, Dionysius Sebwe, Jonathan Sogbie (Boye Charles), and his favorite player, according to Coach Johnson, Mark Gibson.
Veteran sports journalist Hilary Justine Colnoe, who followed Gray’s active playing days when he was at the UNMIL Radio, said Gray was loved by fans because of his extra qualities as a defender.
“He was a popular player in the 1980s for both Barrolle and Lone Star before his retirement in the late 90s, when he joined Independent Oldtimers…he was the best defender there up to his death,” Colnoe said.
Meanwhile, the family announced that the remains of Gray will be interred on November 18.