SSFL Graduates – US-based Orthopaedic surgeon and ex-QRC Goalkeeper talks about his SSFL days

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Dr Mario John recalls his days as a Royalian

The Secondary Schools Football League has long been the breeding ground for many footballers in this country over decades. Some who have either gone on to play professionally, at the semi-pro or amateur level, representing the country at various levels or simply using the experience of representing their school in one of the most widely followed leagues in the country to propel themselves to becoming successful contributors to society.

In this edition of “SSFL Graduates” we hear from former Queen’s Royal College goalkeeper Dr Mario John, a practicing Orthopaedic surgeon in Florida.

Dr. John is currently medical director of Hughston Clinic, Oviedo located at Oviedo Medical Centre in Florida. He graduated from Augusta State University in Augusta, GA with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and a minor in biology. He went on to earn his Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBBS) medical degree at the University of West Indies. Dr. John completed his general surgery internship at Harlem Hospital in New York City before completing his residency in orthopaedic surgery at Howard University Hospital in Washington, DC. Additionally, he finished a one year fellowship in hip and knee reconstruction at Virginia Commonwealth University Hospital in Richmond under the guidance of Dr. William Jiranek.

John served as team physician for the Trinidad and Tobago National Under 17 team at the 2007 FIFA World Cup in South Korea as well as a number of regional tournaments. He also provided coverage for track and field and the Cricket World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago. Furthermore, he was the team physician for the District of Columbia Public School System and Howard University, providing coverage for football and basketball games.
“My fondest memories was playing for QRC to the back drop of the QRC band,” John says about his SSFL experience.

“As a young boy in QRC (Forms 1 through 5 ) it was a dream to go onto the field when the QRC band was playing. It gave you chills and inspiration at the same time. It was a feeling of school pride. Something every QRC boy felt when dawning the royal blue uniform.”

John played in the Championship Division and Intercol competitions in 1993 and 1994 and played in the Under 14 division in 1987. He made the Championship League’s All Star team alongside other names such as Hector Sam, Aurtis Whitley, Irasto Knights and Hisham Gomes

“Participating in the SSFL game me a solid foundation that made me a success today. It gave me the opportunity to obtain a football scholarship to prepare me for a lifetime of academic pursuits,”John said.

Once a year in October – This Express Front Page photo from October, 1994 shows Mario John making a flying save in a North Zone Intercol Semi-Final match in which they defeated St Anthony’s College 5-0.

“Another fond memory was morning assembly on the day of an Intercol game when the team would be called out in front of the school by names and nicknames. We would stand up in front of the school to garner that support from the students. As a students you felt it was your duty to show up to support your team at an Intercol game. In those days no one missed an Intercol match.”

Every young boy and girl relishes the College experience and those today who have evolved into professionals whether on or off the field of play, recall those days with huge pride and honour.

John told us about the relationships he developed then which are still present in his life today.

“I made so many relationships and friendships through my associations in that era. As a Form 1 student coming into QRC your dream was to play football. Sterling Smith became my roommate at Young Harris College. Mark Ellis ( former QRC captain) and Roger Guiseppi, also former QRC captain, became very good friends later on in life through that bond.”

A board certified orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. John has published several medical research articles and a book chapter in his subspecialty area of arthroplasty of the hip and knee alongside the foremost national authorities in adult reconstruction. He emphasised how the period of attending QRC and stepping onto the field in his SSFL days played an integral part in setting his path.

Queen’s Royal College, a view from across the road at the Queen’s Park Savannah

“That discipline during that era gave me the purpose and drive to be a success during all the years of rigorous academic pursuits. I credit that time to my coaches and teachers. My coach in Jean Lillywhite set up a good foundation for me and countless players to attain the pinnacle of their potential during that time .

“Most importantly my SSFL era bought me closer to my community and allowed to make alliances with fellow players, relationships that I cherish today.

“I think the SSFL is a great stepping stone for our young footballers to gain recognition whether via national football, going professional or obtaining scholarships as a means of financial aid to get a proper education. All in all that experience has made me the success I am today. If used correctly football at the school boy level can lift the moral of our country’s youth and give them an opportunity to better themselves and make a valid contribution through education,” John concluded.

Dr. John is a candidate member of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons.