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A THORNY ISSUE – Organizers, take a bow!

Andi Thornhill

A THORNY ISSUE – Organizers, take a bow!

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What next for local football after the buzz, the hype and the apparent success of the recent lucrative out-of-season tournaments?
Organizers of both the David Thompson Classic and the Lime Pelican Football Challenge can take a bow after raising the profile of the sport in Barbados.
Both may have just signalled the road to respect for football which has over the years been stereotyped and perceived as a discipline mainly for the working class and in more recent times one for the boys on the block.
That perception, real or imagined, helped in the depreciation of its social stock and indirectly affected its social capital.
Only those who knew better or those who did their research would associate themselves with football especially if it was played in certain communities.
I would concede that over the years, and only occasionally, there have been incidents which subscribed to the normal football stereotype, but I might add too, that investigations usually revealed that the majority had nothing to do with the actual tournaments in which they occurred, but inevitably suffered severe image damage from the fallout.
In such circumstances unless you had done proper research and didn’t rely on hearsay accounts, it is understandable why some would keep their distance from football played in the community.
You would have to appreciate that people would always prefer what they consider to be a safe environment where they could go, relax and have fun. Most football venues weren’t considered to be such. Many including those with corporate power kept their distance until now.
The respective themes of the recent tournaments and who were involved in their organization may have been a key reason why the average citizen, including some with no previous record of watching local football, decided to give them a chance.
The Thompson Memorial Classic was funded through the Ministry of Social Care and had the One Love concept as its central theme which encouraged community spirit and the exorcising of the negatives associated with it. In other words show the whole of Barbados you aren’t what some make you out to be.
To the credit of the thousands who supported play in 28 constituencies, there were no reports of bad behaviour.
The Lime Pelican Challenge placed its emphasis on challenging the players to lift their standards as individuals and as footballers. In other words, use the tournament to help work on your personal development and public image.
Not to mention there were enough financial incentives to boot to assist them in arriving at this summit! No winning team in our sporting history ever earned $100 000 and no MVP ever collected $10 000 for that accolade in domestic competition.
So, in respect of the stated goals by each organization, I would have to say that they were achieved in flying colours.
My gauge for coming to this conclusion is based on the fact that fans are already looking forward to what next year will offer. If it was just the organizers patting themselves on the back egotistically, my assessment would have been different.
Honestly, both have the legs to be permanent fixtures on our sporting calendar and I hope that they will, even if I have my reservations about that happening with the Thompson Classic particularly if there’s a change in Government at any time. It is known that the opposition didn’t feel it was right to spend over $300 000 of taxpayers’ money to finance it especially in this rough economic climate. Therefore, it is hard to see them maintaining it if they take over.
However, couldn’t some other entity take on the responsibility for it in a case like this and turn it into a parish competition because it’s the greater good, rather than the politicking, that would be important in perpetuating the memory of the late Prime Minister in this form considering his very strong ties with football and equally as important to keep some of our youth engaged in wholistic activities like this.
There should be no similar complications with the Lime Pelican and based on its extra-ordinary organizational triumph, I can only envisage even more sponsors wanting to align themselves with it. This is a baby that can become a thriving adult in years to come.
Once the domestic nest is well taken care of, I can see the potential for it to have regional wings and taking off in such a manner that will help foster regional integration.
Actually, I think an annual Barbados-Guyana Challenge is a very good foot to start on.
I didn’t expect to see a dramatic improvement in the standard of play in either tournament in six weeks, but I believe their core values were achieved.
It will be very interesting to see what will be the next moves for two football tournaments that caught the nation’s imagination.
Andi Thornhill is one of the top sports journalists in the land and a former sports editor at the CBC.