AUCKLAND, New Zealand – Jamaican striker Tramaine Stewart was hoping to grab the headlines in Wednesday’s friendly international against New Zealand, but sadly for the young Portmore United frontman, due to a lapse in memory he created news off the pitch about 36 hours early.
Stewart, one of seven players and nine officials who arrived in Auckland on Tuesday morning (Monday evening Jamaica time), was fined US$400 for “failure to declare risk goods”, which turned out to be an apple.
Having gone through a series of questions from immigration and uniformed inspectors, as well as ignoring numerous “declare or dispose” warning signs posted inside the arrival terminal, an apple was picked up in Stewart’s bag by the X-ray machine, a direct breach of New Zealand laws.
Incidentally, there were a few warning signs posted inside the baggage claim hall which created much discussion among the Boyz. They warned passengers to being the ‘Last chance to declare or dispose” of any risk goods ahead of the final X-ray machine check. The signs depicted an individual going through an X-ray machine with a clearly identified banana, and another individual with a clearly identified apple tucked away inside their bags.
Stewart’s defence was that he simply forgot that the apple was in his bag, thereby leading to the non-declaration of the fruit. After a near half-an-hour delay, where he was interrogated and processed, Stewart was sent on his way with the verdict of a US$400 fine. He has 14 days in which to pay the fine, which can be done online.
But Jamaica Football Federation president Captain Horace Burrell, who arrived in New Zealand on the same Qantas flight from Los Angeles, quickly urged the players forget about what happened to Stewart and focus on the game ahead.
“The Federation will take care of it, so just forget about it and focus on the game on Wednesday,” he charged.
However, Jamaican attorney Colin Henry, a former RJR Hotline host, who now resides in New Zealand, and who had gone to the airport to greet the team, has taken up the case on behalf of the player and the Jamaica Football Federation.
According to Henry, an appeal would be fruitless, as the New Zealand Biosecurity laws and procedures are very clear, so being an obvious unintentional act by a fairly inexperienced individual, he’s hopeful that the authorities could exercise some amount of discretion as it relates to the amount of fine levied.
As part of the process in the biosecurity checks, players were asked to present their football boots for physical inspection, an unusual act in most countries, as the inspectors searched for soil materials. In fact a few players had their football boots taken away and cleansed in a closed location before being returned almost “brand new” is plastic bags.
“They took away my boots although they were clean with just a few blades of grass on them,” a bemused Adrian Reid told the Observer.