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Political football set to heat up


Andi Thornhill

Political football set to heat up

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I anticipate a big row over the second major football tournament to come on stream in the last few weeks.
The row will be among the ranks of the political divide.
It is bound to detract from the tournaments no matter how genuine the intentions are to give football a boost at the community level.
In fact, Opposition Leader Owen Arthur has already criticised those organising the forthcoming David Thompson Memorial Football Classic.
Essentially, he sees it as an ill conceived Government initiative at a time when things are hard economically for the average person.
I believe he may see it as a vote-catching stunt.
This perception will arise once Government is involved. They cannot escape that scrutiny whether it is true or not.
The same would be true if the boot was on the other foot.
The political football is about to be kicked throughout the 30 constituencies and it could be ugly.
I duly expect to hear partisan and muscular language soon and the silver lining football so badly needs in terms of an image change might be overshadowed in the political melee. The issue, though, needs some perspective.
In the 35 years I have been covering community football, there has been political involvement mainly in the form of parliamentary incumbents or aspirants making donations in cash or kind to competitions. Their involvement can be deemed genuine or expedient. Either way they make a contribution.
That’s fine once the players benefit and measures are put in place to enhance human development.
Politicians are human beings and I believe in some cases they give looking for something in return. A vote is the ultimate target and they build their base at community level hoping that national recognition will follow. The tactic is familiar and used across the board.
Naturally, in the course of time some are appointed and some are disappointed.
Arthur has been involved in community football for donkey years and I can vouch for that, as noted commentator Keith Griffith and I used to bring “live” coverage of the St Peter League from venues like Coleridge & Parry and Mile and a Quarter in the mid-1980s.
I am well aware too of the late Prime Minister Thompson’s deep connection with the sport in St John and other parishes and can vouch for his presence at Premier League matches at the National Stadium whether St John Sonnets played or not.
He had a great passion for football. Against this background, there is absolutely nothing wrong in having a football tournament in his honour. He deserves it.
Unfortunately, its timing might invite some scepticism and purely on political grounds.
There is a section of society who will say that this competition was born out of a knee-jerk reaction to the LIME Pelican Football Challenge which is headed by former Opposition Leader Mia Mottley.
The inference is clear and I believe Mottley knew from the start that once her name was linked with the Challenge there would be deep, political overtones.
Hence, there will be the belief that the Thompson Memorial Tournament was created to rival Mottley’s in every aspect.
And to hear that it is the initiative of the Ministry Of Social Care makes matters worse.
It’s like scoring the winning goal.
The grandstanding and the expected fall-out will travel the length and breadth of the political football field at extreme pace in the days ahead.
Both sides, though, will have to be careful in the exchange lest they are accused of caring more about their political agendas than about the footballers whom they say they set out to help.
If the players are made out to look like pawns in a pre-election power struggle, it will be frowned upon by the masses and to the detriment of both major parties.
Meantime, I expect several red cards will be issued in the exchanges.

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