EVEN?MINISTER OF SPORT Stephen Lashley’s best kick didn’t stop CONCACAF vice-president Captain Horace Burrell from calling a foul on the outfield and poor lighting at this country’s National Stadium.
In his address during the opening ceremony for the 2014 Barbados Football Association’s (BFA) on Sunday, Lashley said his ministry was “moving towards an upgrade of the lighting system” and that negotiations with respect to the lighting were near completion.
Lashley’s remarks came before the friendly international between Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz and Barbados but after the game, Burrell, who is also president of the Jamaica Football Federation, blamed the Barbados Government for the deplorable state of the outfield and the inadequate lighting.
Jamaica’s German-born coach Winfried Schaefer and even Barbados’ captain Jeffrey Williams also lamented the condition of the sandy and uneven field with a number of dry areas.
An inspection by NATION SPORT also revealed that the centre area of the field which was noticeably greener, had been spray painted.
Burrell said a serious effort must be made by those in authority to bring the field up to a standard for international football.
“I would like to use this opportunity to encourage the Barbadian community, both private sector and Government to do some serious work on the field to improve its quality,” he said after the match which the Reggae Boyz won 2-0.
“Also the lighting was very poor and, again, this is not an indictment against the Barbados Football Association, I want to make that quite clear.
“The authorities who are responsible for the Stadium must do some work and repair the lights and, in fact, change those bulbs,” Burrell declared.
“The facility itself is a nice one so with some amount of work from Government and the private sector, I believe that this can become a first-class facility in the Caribbean,” he added.
“If I have one criticism, it is not against the Barbadian team, which played with lots of guts and determination; it is against those responsible for making the facility what it ought to be for the Barbadian athletes and I am sincerely hoping that by the time Barbados plays another international game, that the field would be much better and that the lights would be repaired,” he added.
“It’s the worse I’ve ever seen it,” Barbados skipper Jeffrey Williams added.
Schaefer also pleaded with local authorities to improve the Stadium outfield so the players could pass and control the ball the way it should be done.
“Please make a better field – it is better for your players, it is better for us. The field is a catastrophe…Not only in Jamaica or anywhere if you want to play good football, one touch, two touch, you need a good field.
“It is very important for the football to have a good field, but there was too much sand like on the beach, it was green and dry in different areas, and it was not easy,” he added.
Lashley had earlier declared that the facilities at the National Stadium would soon see the much needed upgrades that would allow Barbados to take a more professional approach to sports, particularly football.
“We are aware that this stadium is in need of a complete upgrade, which will be a very costly undertaking.
“In the short term, focused attention will be placed on regular maintenance to ensure that the facilities can be used safely and productively,” Lashley noted.
“A team has been assembled within the ministry to finalise a project proposal for the modernisation of the stadium in order that this can be presented for funding,” Lashley affirmed.
Lashley also underscored the importance of these upgrades in the development of professional football, which he emphasised would be beneficial to this island.
“We in Barbados and the region should be making greater strides, to capture a share of this financial pie,” he said while noting it would require “a shift in local thinking about the extent to which sports as an industry, can earn foreign exchange for the country”.