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Give football a break, folks!

Andi Thornhill

Give football a break, folks!

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RESIDENTS?living close to the Football AstroTurf in Wildey never wanted the sport to be played there.
Therefore, it has not come as a surprise that they have finally broken their silence about the fact that competitive football is being played there  this season.
Of course, their sentiments would not have been tested if the National Stadium was available at this time but yet it is still a good barometer because it shows that the attitude  of the residents hasn’t changed from when plans were first announced  for the laying of the turf over a decade ago.
They complained bitterly to the Town Planning Department about the installation  of lights and anticipated noise levels even before the soil was turned.
That showed intent. There was no way they were going to tolerate football being played  in their neighbourhood.
I think that’s a reasonable assessment  of their feelings if complaints were  being lodged even before the Town Planning Department’s routine environmental study  in such situations.
In retrospect, we might be able to conclude that the residents’ muscular protestations may have been one of the principal reasons why the Barbados Football Association (BFA) seemed sluggish in making much headway  in the early stages of the construction of the facility.
I believe they were somewhat intimidated by the might of who they were up against. I know it was perceived as an upper middle class riding that could pull some strings and eventually get things in their favour.
Truth be told, the political directorate  of both major parties never took a side in the controversy, perhaps hoping that it would die  a natural death and it would have no bearing on how individuals might vote in an election.
As fate would have it, it worked out nicely for them because the apparent lack of finances caused the association to put the project on hold anyhow.
In fact, some even claimed that if Barbados didn’t have favourable links in CONCACAF they could have lost out in the so-called Goal Project because other regional countries had completed their facilities despite starting construction  after Barbados.
The lengthy hiatus also suited the residents because it seemed that  the project died a natural death and there would be no need to worry about football coming in their area to disturb  their tranquility.
I always thought that their fuss was much ado about nothing or little because football would be completed by 10 o’clock on an average night. I don’t think under normal circumstances that  should become a headache for an individual.
As a sport played mainly by those  from working class backgrounds, football is an “us and them” reality even without some of the occasional incidents  that have been used  to taint its reputation.
So what was and what is the real motive for objecting to football playing in the area now?
Could it be, as BFA?president Randy Harris suggested, discrimination against the sport and by extension the players?
Even so, can’t residents empathize with the circumstances the association has found itself in and bury whatever reservations they may have, considering that the National Stadium is temporarily unavailable?
Haven’t they seen that its unavailability has accounted for the cancellation of primary and secondary  school sports?
Don’t they believe  the association should be given a pat on the back for showing positive initiative in dire straits?
Can they imagine  the possible consequences to the social fabric of the country if the association wasn’t able to find  a venue to keep  hundreds of players constructively engaged  for a considerable period?
Not only that, do residents in the area have anybody in their households who plays in the BFA’s competitions?
Do they go into  other communities  and be part of activities that some people  may find disturbing?
Live and let live.
Let the football continue in Wildey once all parties comply with the laws of the land.
• Andi Thornhill is an experienced,  award-winning freelance sports journalist.