Kickin’ It With Bob Marley

In the gym with a soccer-loving reggae legend.

He sang about “one love,” but Bob Marley was passionate about many things, including the game of soccer. At home, in the studio, or on the road, Marley was never far from a ball.


“Football is freedom,” he once said, and throughout his life, the game provided a refuge and release from the stresses of touring. In the summer of 1980, towards the end of the European leg of the Uprising Tour, Marley stopped doing formal interviews, instead organizing soccer games with members of the media and other musicians.


One of these games took place inside a small West London gymnasium on July 16 of that year, when Marley’s team matched up with a squad led by fellow reggae artist Eddy Grant. Photographer Norman Reid was there to capture it.


Marley, who by many accounts was a fierce competitor and hated to lose, wasn’t happy when his team went down early. “They went up on us quick — 2-0,” Garrick remembered. “So Bob called timeout. We told him, ‘Bob, you can’t call timeout — this isn’t basketball,’ but they gave us a break. That was their worst mistake.”


While not big and strong, Marley was fast and agressive — and no stranger to small fields, having honed his game in the small yard outside his Hope Road home in Kingston, Jamaica.


Once they understood the rules, the tables turned quickly, with Marley’s crew coming from behind to beat Grant’s team 5-2.


Two months later, Bob Marley and the Wailers traveled to America to finish the Uprising Tour, with the last show taking place at the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh on September 23, 1980. The performance would be the last of his career, as the legendary abd beloved talent died of cancer the following May at the young age of 36.




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