Jamaica’s Gardner still loves the game

Jamaica's Ricardo Gardner (green) hopes to prolong a legendary playing career. (Photo: Mexsport)


MIAMI --- Ricardo ‘Bibi’ Gardner has been there and done it all.

He enjoyed a successful professional career with English topflight outfit Bolton Wanderers for nearly 15 glorious years.  He played for Jamaica at the 1998 World Cup in France, the glistening highlight of 99 all-time international appearances.

Now, at 35 years old, what more could Gardner possibly want from a football point of view?

Believe it or not, the football-mad Jamaican, even in the twilight of his playing days, has no intention to quit anytime soon.  He just can’t seem to let go.  Not yet, at least.

“To be honest, it’s just the love for the game that keeps me going, and every time I think about it, I realize I have had a great career in football and I think I could give it up in now, but when the time is right, I will announce when it’s over,” said the entertaining left-sided player.  “But now I think I am in great shape and form and I wish to continue as longs as possible.”

In August, Gardner was in the United States on trial with Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake, underlining his determination to get back into the game.

It seems a lifetime ago since Gardner first left Jamaica as an 18-year-old for Bolton on what was a landmark £1 million transfer from Harbour View Football Club.

His mission is the same now as it was then.

“When I left Jamaica, the focus was not only to achieve just for myself, but to show those in England that talent is in Jamaica and that we have what it takes to go out there and represent ourselves and our country,” he noted.

Getting a new club, Gardner shares, will be taking that very philosophy into extra time.

“I will be happy wherever a suitable opportunity comes from as long as I am going to enjoy it and it will be helpful not only for me but to help someone else to come through and to achieve their dream and that’s the most important thing right now,” he said.

Gardner’s move to England in 1998, following a wonderful World Cup as a precocious 19-year-old in Rene Simoes’ historic team, opened doors for many Jamaican-born footballers to follow their dream into the big time.  And for that, he’s particularly proud.

“I am very humbled to look back and see that I went there and not only represented myself but for others also who took those opportunities to better their careers and also their future financially,” he beamed.  “I think what we are seeing now just shows you that it’s not impossible and that we can achieve even greater if we continue to give each other the support and continue to work hard and be disciplined.”

The former national team captain last represented his country at the Caribbean Cup in December 2012.  He was released by Bolton that same year after more than 400 matches for Wanderers.  At the time of his departure, he was the second longest serving foreign player in the Premier League, behind Finnish teammate goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.