The crazy story of the Vice-President of Suriname who played in the CONCACAF League at the age of 60

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Age is not an end in itself and several football stories demonstrate it. We think in particular of Ezzeldin Bahader scorer at 75 in Egyptian D3 or Essam el-Hadary who played at the 2018 World Cup when he was 45 years old and 161 days old. In South America, Ronnie Brunswijk has just made history in his own way. Indeed, the one who occupies the post of vice-president of Suriname Ronnie Brunswijk has just marked football in his own way. Also president of the Inter Moengotapoe club, the third biggest club in Suriname with 10 league titles (behind SV Robinhood and his 24 coronations as well as SV Transvaal which has 19 trophies), he took part in the League of CONCACAF. Opposed to Honduran club CD Olimpia, he played 54 minutes of the game when he was 60 years old and 198 days old. He is older than the Confederation of CONCACAF itself since it was born on March 7, 1961 while the organization was founded on the following September 18. A canonical age which makes him the oldest player to play in an international match.

A tenure that made our teeth cringe

Ronnie Brunswijk’s presence on the pitch clearly raised teeth as reported ESPN. Defender of Olimpia, Johnny Leveron found this decision surprising without contesting it: “It was their choice and they did what they thought was best for their team. We don’t get involved in this. ” Olimpia’s assistant coach Gustavo Reggi was also amazed: “We found out half an hour earlier when they gave us the team. It is the business of our rivals. We just had to focus on ourselves. We represent a club, and we have to do it in the best possible way, whether at national or international level. That’s what we came to do here. We are happy with the victory and now we will wait for the second leg. ”

If on Olimpia’s side, the team focused only on their game, the Honduran media considered it a real disrespect to field a player out of form in an international competition. In a far from optimal physical shape, with the captain’s armband on his arm as well as a number 61 in reference to his date of birth, Ronnie Brunswijk delivered a rather surprising scene in the stadium which also bears his name. Especially since his son Damian was also on the lawn. Unfortunately, the good story for him did not go further since his team lost heavily 6-0. Having already participated in the past in some Caribbean Cup matches, this time he lived a moment apart and after the meeting he even joined his opponents in their locker room and distributed tickets to them. Surreal scenes that will not happen in the second leg in Honduras. Because if Inter Moengotapoe will move despite an elimination almost officially recorded, it will be good without Ronnie Brunswijk. Wanted by Interpol, he cannot leave Suriname.

A warlord who overthrew the dictatorship in Suriname

A life worthy of a film or a series, here is how we can simplify the story of Ronnie Brunswijk. Born into a family of 10 children in one of the poorest regions of the country, he lived mainly on the local flora (rice, cassava, bananas) and rarely ate meat. “Life was not great, we had to fight” moreover explained his mother Agnès in remarks transcribed by the New York Times. Without electricity and many amenities, he joined the army to become a parachutist and worked for the dictator Desi Bouterse, who took power in 1980. Coming from the “Marron” or “Bushinenges” community which is a derogatory term stemming from colonization and refers to the descendants of African slaves, Ronnie Brunswijk distanced himself from his employer when the latter began to repress his community and murdered political opponents.

Leaving the army in 1984, he would have carried out armed robberies of banks and he thus forged his nickname of Robin Hood by distributing part of his funds to the villagers of the brown community. The main person denies the robberies while explaining that the money came from what he had earned in a gold mine. Captured, he fled to the Netherlands before planning his return. Become leader of the rebels of the Liberation Army of Suriname, the Jungle Commando, he returned in 1986 and triggered the Bushinenge revolt during the summer. This civil war lasted six years (five years of conflict plus one year before the signing of the last peace agreements), allowing the accession to power of Ronald Venetiaan and the return of democracy to Suriname.

The drug business

Unfortunately, here too the question of legality arose. Brunswijk is accused of drug trafficking. He would have thus financed the civil war thanks to cocaine, even if he always denied it, explaining that his fortune would have come from the extraction of wood and gold in the region. However, this did not prevent the court in Haarlem (Netherlands) from convicting him in absentia for drug trafficking in 1999. The Dutch courts handed down an 8-year sentence and the French courts recommended 10 years in prison. . An international arrest warrant was then issued against him, but Suriname refuses to extradite the accused. Still wanted by Interpol, which placed him at the top of its list, he can no longer leave his country, under penalty of being arrested.

This is not a concern for him since he enjoys a good image with the Maroons community and was able to launch a political career. He thus went from deputy in 2005 to vice-president in 2018. Quite bling-bling, he is just as involved in noble causes such as helping the poor in his country. Also nicknamed “gold baron” thanks to the wealth he has developed thanks to the precious metal, he is also the father of at least fifty children. His mother Agnes even told the New York Times : “That he had so many descendants that sometimes strangers ask him to give her a hug, pretending to be his grandchildren.” His link with football is also made thanks to his club Inter Moengotapoe. He was suspended in 2005 for threatening a player with a handgun, but that sanction was withdrawn for lack of evidence. Also in 2012, he took a one-year suspension for verbally assaulting a referee. Atypical and controversial character, Ronnie Brunswijk could provide script ideas for Hollywood, his story is more than astonishing.

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