A way must be found to revive sportFriday, April 09, 2021
THE Flow Concacaf Caribbean Championship isn't just designed to provide entertainment for football lovers and revenue for those who control television and other audiovisual technologies.
It's actually among the leading avenues for footballers in Jamaica and the wider region to show off their skills and gain access to overseas contracts paying far more than they could earn at home, and also for clubs to profit from the transfer of those players.
Down the years, this newspaper has repeatedly pointed to those benefits that can accrue from careful nurturing of a proper environment for football and, indeed, all sport.
It may come as a surprise to some people who have not been paying attention, but scores of home-grown Jamaican professional footballers ply their trade overseas and earn a good living.
Consider, therefore, the following declaration in a news release announcing the withdrawal of Portmore United and Waterhouse Football Club from the 2021 edition of the Caribbean Club Championship: “The decision to withdraw…was most difficult and painful. Our players, in particular, look forward to these international platforms to showcase their talents. It has proven very successful over the years in providing a pathway to the international club market.”
The clubs tell us that they were left with no choice but to withdraw, because they had run out of time to train properly for the upcoming tournament. This, as a result of restraints imposed under the orders associated with the Disaster Risk Management Act to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
In fact, no organised football has been played in this country for in excess of a year as a result.
This has meant, as the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) said, that Jamaica's football is being “left behind”.
Says JFF head Mr Michael Ricketts: “Every major football league in Concacaf, apart from Jamaica, is under way. There is no standing still in the game. While our opponents play and improve, we are depreciating technically.”
While horse racing, a significant employer and revenue earner, has continued to prosper, other sporting disciplines have mostly suffered.
In cricket, the national senior squad competed in the Regional Super50 in Antigua despite being forced to prepare by training in small groups, even as competitors in the eastern/southern Caribbean and Guyana were playing trial/practice matches.
That the Jamaica team reached the final four of the Super50 was an extraordinary achievement in our view, given the circumstances.
In track and field, senior and junior athletes preparing for iconic tournaments, including the Tokyo Olympics in mid-year, have been on 'stop and go', sometimes with no clear, coherent explanation for 'stop'. Such has been the horrific impact of the coronavirus which has killed in excess of 600 people in Jamaica and close to three million globally.
This newspaper has consistently shown sympathy and patience towards the Government's approach to managing sport. But it is obvious that there needs to be a change of tack.
COVID-19 is clearly not going anywhere in a hurry, and desperate Jamaicans need inspiration — which sport can provide — like never before.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness and his Government need to shake the growing feeling that they care very little about sport by finding a way to pivot, turn, wheel, and come again for the good of us all.
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