Admirably, Jason Roberts MBE turns this stereotype on its head, which is why it’s an honour to celebrate his achievements on this 40 under 40 list.
He’s undoubtedly had an outstanding career in the English Premier League and has played for Grenada at an international level. But the 36-year-old makes an even greater contribution through the example he sets.
At the age of just 29 he established his eponymous foundation which aims to improve the lives of youngsters through sport in both Grenada and the UK and in 2009 he was awarded the MBE for his services to sport.
Redefining the measure of success
In this way, Roberts publically redefines what true success means. After all when you’re gone few people will remember the make of car you drove or the brand of champagne you drank; what will matter are the lives that you have changed.
On that note there’s been a lot of debate in recent weeks about nationality and who should or shouldn’t be allowed to define themselves as Grenadian (our definition is clearly stated here).
Hopefully, this post by Jason Roberts offers some enlightenment as to how, and why, those of us born abroad chose to proudly identify ourselves as Grenadians and are committed to making our contribution to the island.
“My mother was born in French Guiana, South America and my father was born in Grenada, West Indies. I was born in the late seventies in Stonebridge Estate, North West London.
It seems strange while I am writing this to imagine that my parents had travelled from such far flung places to meet in such a place. Now I am very fond of Stonebridge, but I wonder what my grandparents thought, as part of the Windrush generation, when they saw the 20-floored visions of architecture that greeted them, alongside signs of ‘no Blacks, no Irish’. As a young man I often visited Grenada and I felt part of the island, it’s people and it’s culture, even if they called me “English Bwoy”.
I watched my three uncles make their way in a game that did not want them and it culminated in one of them, Cyrille Regis, being selected to play for England which he did with pride even after the death threats, racial abuse and the bullets through the post. Nevertheless as a family and a community we were immensely proud of his achievements.
My uncle has recently disclosed the offer to represent France and the move to St Etienne which was offered to him as a young man before he chose to represent England. His decision may have changed my life, as my mother, Nilla, being the only French-speaking one of his siblings had been earmarked to accompany Cyrille had he decided to go, alongside her young son Jason..oh well.. Comme ci, comme ça .
This is all relevant to me because the subject of nationality, where you are ‘from’ and who you should represent is very much in the news at the moment. It is a debate that is very interesting to me and one that I feel quite strongly about as in my experience it is such a personal thing.
You are what you feel and in my case I felt just as Grenadian as I did English. Culturally I felt like I identified with Grenada and with the farm of my great-grandfather where my great-grandmother is buried in the back yard. I also felt English and supported the national team and wanted nothing more than success for club and national sides.
As my own personal journey progressed into football there were rumours of a call-up to the England U21 squad and I know scouts we’re monitoring my development. I cannot say 100% that it would have happened, or that I was ever at a level that I would have received a full call up throughout my career but it would not have mattered to me because as a 19-year-old an offer was made to me to represent Grenada at international level and I did not hesitate for a moment before accepting the offer.
The pride and sense of achievement I have felt representing Grenada has honestly been the highlight of my footballing career, a tiny island of 100,000 population has provided me with my finest footballing moments, win, lose or draw. My international career has never stopped me identifying with and supporting the England national teams within any event or competition…”