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Make your pitch

BC Pires

Make your pitch

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BARBADOS’ FOOTBALL WORLD CUP CAMPAIGN? for Brazil 2014 is over, in case you blinked.
At the first game against Trinidad and Tobago at the National Stadium last month, I was amazed by some of the Barbadian players’ physiques. Indeed, “physiques” is too flattering a word for the bellies a couple of them were toting in front of them. To run faster, they would have needed specialist gear – wheelbarrows. I’ve seen fitter sheep in pastures.
I saw enough that day – indeed, “tummuch” – to decide not to face traffic for the “must-win” game against Guyana, in which, I hear, one goal in the 2-0 loss went in while the last defender stood stock still, as though the National Anthem had just been struck up. Perhaps he was contemplating whether to have KFC or Chefette at half-time.
But the writing was on the wall even earlier; indeed, the writing is on the foundations of Bajan football.
In August I was waiting for my son at a trial for the AC Milan Junior football training camp, the first ever held in an English-speaking Caribbean nation. It ran, virtually unnoticed, at Kensington Oval for the entire half-term break last week. Three of the 101 players selected for the AC Milan camp came from Trinidad and, during the August trials, I fell into conversation with one father.
His son had just sat the SEA – the Trini 11-Plus – and was on the Form 1 team, he said.
“I thought he just sat the SEA,” I said.
He nodded.
“But how can he be on the Form 1 team?” I asked, “when he hasn’t even started school?”
“Any boy wanting to play football in Form 1,” said the Trini guy, “must try out for the team during August holidays.”
The boy wasn’t in school yet, but he was on the football team. He got his school strip before he got his schoolbooks. And that, I’m told, happens in every secondary school in Trinidad and Tobago: before the academic year starts every team in every age group is picked and, from the first week, training together to play against other school teams in competitive leagues.
Here in Barbados my son is not playing official football at school at all this term. Next term, apparently, is for the first formers. Christmas term is for the fifth formers. Or something.
My son’s school may be the best in Barbados and I’m very happy he’s there. I can’t think of another place I’ve seen as big a group of happy, well-rounded young people.
He is also in a football club and, since the age of eight, has been playing competitively – the only thing that forces anyone or anything to become better, whether you’re talking airlines or athletics. My son’s football, and his team’s, will be the best it can be.
But can anyone say the same for Barbados? When you have things as big as an AC Milan Junior camp or the bellies on the national footballers going largely unnoticed, it’s no surprise that Barbados’ football should be where it’s at, with the World Cup campaign finished before it starts.
You make your bed, you lie in it.
 • BC Pires is left back – like the team.