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What I learned from Germaine and Ugo

IN CONVERSATION: Voice columnist Leon Mann (seated right) with Germaine Mason

LAST WEEK I found myself feeling numb and winded after the news that GB Olympic silver medalist Germaine Mason and former England defender Ugo Ehiogu had died.

Germaine was a friend. I interviewed him for the BBC in Kingston, Jamaica in 2009 and we instantly hit it off. He took great pride and pleasure in introducing me to the athletics community on the island. Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Asafa Powell... they loved him dearly. He was hugely popular both in Jamaica and the UK. Looking back, it was largely because of him that I was able to establish the contacts that would see me go on to make two successful documentaries for the BBC on Usain.

I was a friend of Germaine and, such was the high esteem he was held, this meant I was embraced by the athletes.

We actually rarely discussed athletics outside of our interviews - he was more interested in knowing about the football world. Germaine was a big Arsenal man. But when we last met, he did tip an Antiguan sprinter as the next track star.

Reading the news of his death - caused by a motorbike accident - has still not sunk in. The last status on his WhatsApp reads: Grateful. And I’m grateful my job brought me together with this super guy.

Last week Friday, we lost Ugo.

I can’t claim to have been a friend, as our paths didn’t cross much, but on the occasions they did what struck me was his willingness to listen. He didn’t give much away with what he said - instead, what I learned was, he let his actions do the talking.

Ugo was a top coach and was always there for the community.I last saw Ugo at the Football Black List celebration in March, where he picked up an award. As a highly respected coach at Tottenham Hotspur, we heralded him as a star manager in the future. Asked what he would be doing in five years his reply was humble:

“Doing what I love - coaching and trying to be a better coach”.

His last Tweet, sent the day after the event, spoke volumes of the man:

“Gave a homeless girl £10 last night in Dalston. She didn’t ask or beg. Random impulsive act from me. Not gona lie. Felt good. #dosomethingkind”

Ugo and Germaine will be sorely missed - they were humble and kind. Let us learn from them.

Leon Mann is a broadcaster and journalist.

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