Football Community Pay Tribute To Tokia Russell

June 22, 2016

Tokia Russell[Written by Don Burgess]

Bermuda’s sporting community is reeling from the second tragic death this week with the passing of Tokia Russell.

Mr. Russell was involved in a traffic accident early this morning in Paget and was pronounced dead at the scene by a doctor.

This comes on the heels of the shooting death of St. George’s and national team cricket player Fiqre Crockwell this past weekend.

The island’s footballing fraternity have come together to pay their respects to the much beloved Tokia.

Former national team player John Nusum said the sad news about Tokia’s untimely death is “unbelievable. It’s been a rough weekend for the sporting community with the loss of two young men.

“A lot of people may not know, but Tokia was always like a big brother to me. Our families were tied together through Dale Russell and my father and Tokia always looked out for me as a youngster.

“I remember as a 10 year old being involved in the Diadora Tournament and being in awe of the quality he had as a footballer. But there was an incident in which I was down on myself and he was the one that came over to me and spurred me on and it was this that made me love the person he was as well.

“I’ve never told him that story but it was one of those moments that was a perspective light for me. Things are never as bad as they seem was what he said to me.

“It’s amazing the things that you remember and he and I always had a great respect for each other. We were talking this past Sunday – having a laugh about old days and to hear this news a few days later is extremely hard to hear.

“I pray that Bermuda lifts up the man he was as well as the family he represented. God has moved TO [Tokia] to a better space. Be blessed Russells.”

Former national team member Kentoine Jennings said Tokia was not only a quality footballer, but a quality person as well.

“He was always humble and he was always a loving person to everybody. He was not one to get into anything but was a person who was always positive about life.

“He was a friend to most so much so I can’t think about him having enemies because he was so loving. He was always embracing people with a hug. That’s the type of person he was.

“My brother Kevin was actually closer to him because they were closer in age, but I got to play with him on the national team a couple of times. He was an outstanding footballer who was so talented – as all the Russell family was.

“This is really hard to fathom. I was breathless when I got the call early this morning. I just couldn’t believe it.

I really didn’t start believing it until I got to work and everybody starting calling about Tokia passing. It’s just very hard to believe.

“This is a great loss to Bermuda. He has a very huge, close-knit and loving family. He has a lot of close friends. He will be a loss to everyone he touched and everyone he knew because he was that type of person.

“He just brought a beautiful vibe, a beautiful spirit to everybody he was around so this loss is unbearable, especially to his family, his children and his brothers with whom he was tight.”

Nigel Burgess played with Tokia on the Bermuda Hogges as well as with the Bermuda national team. He told Bernews that Tokia will definitely be missed.

“On behalf of HPWC and myself, we would like to send our deepest sympathy to his family. Whether playing against or with Tokia, he always gave you the same respect and class that exceptional players exhibit.

“We played together for Bermuda national team and the Bermuda Hogges. Although, slighter older than myself and others on the teams, everyone looked up to him for his leadership on and off the field. Bermuda had lost one of its best footballers of this generation, and will be sadly missed.”

Mark Wade was another saddened by the news today. He has had various roles at PHC and currently serves as the club’s technical director.

He said: “I have spent the morning gathering my thoughts as words cannot truly express the emotions that run through my mind at this time. My thoughts and prayers go out to entire Russell family.

“I had the honor of coaching Tokia who formed a very solid partnership with Robert Richardson at the heart of our defense during my first stint coaching the first team.

“While he could play virtually anywhere on the pitch it was at center back where he truly could combine all of his skills and impact a match.

“I recall the interest he generated at Tamworth FC on a PHC UK tour. here he stood out among the 22 on the pitch but was considered too old. Throughout out my 36 years at PHC I have come across cousins, aunts, uncles, children, parents and I send my condolences to all of them.”

Jack Castle, who coached Tokia at PHC, said “Tokia was a very good player with lots of confidence in his game. When I heard the news this morning I was taken aback by the announcement. I send my condolence to his family.”

Blenn Bean said he was as close one could be with a first cousin.

“I am six months older. Everyone thought we were brothers. We were in the same class in primary school. We went to different high schools until I transferred tor Warwick Sec as a fourth year. We then went off to Alabama together.”

They played on the same football clubs as juniors and in the First Division until Tokia moved on to play for Dandy Town.

Blenn added: “We both was a part of the Under 23 team that beat Jamaica to qualify for the Pam Am Games. Our sons are two weeks apart, both are 16. You can only image how I felt when I got the news.”

Football referee Anthony Francis said: “I am still trying to come to grips with the news and have not fully accepted it yet. Tokia is the elder statesmen of Russells from my generation. He was classy both on and off the field.

“I have watched him lead his brothers and cousins on the field. He was soft-spoken but carried a level of authority that came from a place of family. The Russells are a footballing family and they are extremely close from what I can gather just watching them interact.

“My greatest memory about Tokia was seeing him with his son. As good a footballer as he is, his smile when with his son was greater.”

Khano Smith, friend and former national team teammate described Tokia as someone who was always full of “love and mutual respect.”

“We went to school together and he was always someone that I looked up to and wanted to be like. He was a fantastic footballer and made the game look so easy the way he played,” he said.

“He had a presence about him and will be missed by many I am sure. I will only have positive memories of Tokia and my condolences go out to his family.”

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