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A THORNY ISSUE: Forde’s playing days not over

Andi Thornhill

A THORNY ISSUE: Forde’s playing days not over

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My long association with  sports has taught me that we have a way of disrespecting our top sportsmen.  
The thought came to mind again as the Barbados Football Association unveiled its plans for the national team at a Press conference last week.
Senior vice-president Sherlock Yarde took the lead and said the main focus was to showcase more young players in the hope of them gaining professional contracts.
This concept sounds similar to the sentiments expressed in cricket circles at the start of the regional season.
The intent was noble but the aim of national selectors should be to choose the best players available to represent the country.
I note that former captain Norman Forde has been excluded from trials.
At age 33, Forde is still the best player in the country by far. His performances in midfield this season have been second to none so his place in any national side should be automatic.
What does Yarde mean when he says that Forde might still have a part to play in the senior team?
It’s contradictory.
When an athlete reaches Forde’s age, you either play him or you don’t. I might be wrong but I want to suggest that the association has chosen the diplomatic route to end Forde’s international career.
I don’t think he has been given a fair break.
The only thing that would make me think otherwise is if Forde had announced his retirement from international play prior to the announcement of the training squad. Clearly, he hasn’t, if Yarde is saying he is still eligible for selection.
I could understand if the association wants to move in a new direction but out of courtesy I think the selectors could have met with Forde and discussed the matter before announcing the squad.
It was the best way to avoid publicly embarrassing a true sporting icon.
From this latest scenario, it would seem that we haven’t learned a thing from the past about how to treat people who have given yeoman service to their country.
When I walk around and meet some of the veteran sports personalities, most of them still have chips on their shoulders and carry loads of baggage.
Their state of mind usually hinges on how they were treated by their associations and the powers that be after having given their all for their country.
Forde has just become another statistic in the long list of disspirited former national athletes. He and the others who were given a raw deal deserved better.
In principle, it is a grand ideal to encourage youth but at the end of the day national teams have to be balanced, especially when you are talking about World Cup football qualification.
In addition, the mad rush to include youth at the expense of stalwarts who are still capable of performing is counter-productive.
Thought must be given to who will guide the youth.
By attitude and performance this season for Meridian Youth Milan, it appears that Forde, who has more than 100 appearances for his country, is still very capable of playing this role.
I suggest that football selectors admit that a mistake has been made and correct it as a matter of urgency.
Norman Forde is still good enough to be wearing the No. 10 jersey for the national team.
 Andi Thornhill is sports editor at the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation. Email [email protected]