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.
Norman Reid/Getty ImagesEddy Grant (far right) and his friends had an indoor team and challenged Marley and crew to a game, played three days after their final show in the UK.
Norman Reid/Getty ImagesMarley and Grant (left) enjoy a break in the action.Norman Reid/Getty ImagesMarley's team included (from left) Alan “Skill” Cole, Derek Donaldson and Neville Garrick. Cole, who served as the band's tour manager in the 1970s, played for the Jamaican national team.Norman Reid/Getty ImagesThey played inside Hammersmith Leisure Centre, but it wasn't Marley's usual version of the game. The formal name for the indoor game is Futsal, and it comes with some subtle rule differences. "We didn’t know that you could use the wall basically to your advantage, to elude a defender or to play a ball around him," Neville Garrick, Marley’s art director and friend, wrote in a 2017 articlein The Undefeated.
Norman Reid/Getty ImagesMarley, 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."Norman Reid/Getty ImagesWhile 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.Norman Reid/Getty ImagesOnce they understood the rules, the tables turned quickly, with Marley's crew coming from behind to beat Grant's team 5-2.
Norman Reid/Getty ImagesTwo 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 and beloved talent died of cancer the following May at the young age of 36.