The story behind the Johan Cruyf Sports field
As Commissioner in the Government of Saba one cannot stand here and not mention how this sports field came into existence.
Sports is not new to Saba. In the early part of the past century, when Saba had many captains and owners of large trading schooners, there were sports on Saba. Tennis was a favorite and where the hospital is now located in The Bottom, there was a tennis court. There where the Juliana sports field is now, and which has recently been upgraded, there was a Croquet field. On Booby Hill there was also for a short time a tennis court.
Going back in time there was a form of cricket which was called batting ball. In later years, with two world wars to deal with and a more impoverished island, sports which was a leisurely activity was more or less abandoned. The emphasis was then on survival and small-scale farming. With the advent of better economic times the Nuns with their schools and Youth groups, headed by people like teacher Freddie Johnson and government official Ramon Hassell, would have some sports lessons for their scout groups. Also, Mrs. Carmen Simmons-had her Saba Boys and Girls Sports Society.
But this sports field has a history of it very own. Around 1999 Mrs. Lynne Johnson started doing some soccer lessons with the young boys. An open spot was located in Booby Hill and with the permission of the Leverock family in the United States, the land was cleared off somewhat and the game was on. This effort evolved into the Saba Youth Soccer Foundation. A large open property next to the land being used and owned by Mrs. Winnie Hassell was rented. This was where in years past there was a tennis club for a while.
With the help of Island Council member Mr. Hemmie van Xanten funding of NAF. 17.500.—were acquired from the Zonnige Jeugd Foundation in Holland. These funds were used to level the land and Hemmie supervised this part of the job as well. Even Her Majesty Queen Juliana visited the Sports Field on one of her visits.
With the rental agreement on Booby Hill approaching its end. Mrs. Johnson kept after her husband Will Johnson to try and do something for Saba. He was then Commissioner and spoke to then Minister Leo Chance of Saba about buying the piece of land part of a larger property which ran all the way from the back of the Wilhelmina Park all the way up to the old Public School and was known as the Man-O-War Ground so the decision was made to give the new Foundation that name. One of the Dutch Ministers at the time asked Island Council Member Rolando Wilson why was the Foundation named that way. He replied that “Johnson is planning to buy a Man-O-War to deal with you all.” The Foundation consisted of two people Commissioner Will Johnson and Dave Levenstone, a civil servant. Both of them started immediately to collect funds to buy the property. They succeeded in collection some fls.130.000. — At the last moment a glitch arose in the transaction which the Foundation had not expected and Commissioner Johnson donated the NAfls 7.000. – needed to acquire the property and pay the costs of the Notary.
After the land purchased to make this field possible only then the headaches started as funding was denied based on the fact that the Foundation was told that Saba already had a sports field the Juliana Sports Field and was not using it. This was difficult to explain but the Government was determined to go ahead with the idea. Many visits were made to this area with locals as well as visiting officials and many doubts were cast on the feasibility of having a Sports Field Here on this spot. We are proud to say that with help from the Dutch Government via the Johan Cruyf Foundation and with conditions that it must carry his name the field is here, and has now been improved. Also, we are happy that many organizations and young people are making use of this field, and also proud that the Juliana Sports field is now being put to good use. Long Live Saba and her people who never give up when pursuing a goal, from the road that could not be built, to the airport, the harbor all have been achieved and we must give thanks to the Dutch Government for providing funds, something they can be proud of.