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A THORNY ISSUE: Brighter days for football

Andi Thornhill

A THORNY ISSUE: Brighter days for football

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Getting the right balance has been a perennial problem with the Barbados Football Association (BFA).
This is what I have observedin my 39 years of covering the sport.
All sides never seem to gel simultaneously and I think we are seeing evidence of this now.
The association seems to be at a point where FIFA, the sport’s parent body, is willing to help them in a number of strategic areas.
Just last week FIFA announced that they would be putting $2 million into an income-generating project that would include assisting the BFA in the continuing upgrade of their facilities at Wildey and marketing.
I don’t see a problem in what appears to be FIFA’s micro management of the project because they want to keep track of how their money is spent.
This is how they generally operate in such instances and I don’t think it is a reaction to the fact that the association struggled with the initial Goal Project at Wildey that had the benefit of substantial start-up capital from FIFA.
After ten years much hasn’t been achieved there. Now things are happening at pace and this might be a sign that they are happy with the way the organisation is being run at the moment with Randy Harris at the helm.
He has implemented a scheme that calls for greater accountability and transparency in the way the association conducts business.
I’m also happy that the University of the West Indies will be part of the plans because, with limited facilities here, their field at Lazaretto should be part of the national component to help develop the game.
The university has a team that competes in the first division, so they are legitimate stakeholders in local football.
Perhaps one day their involvement will be on the same scale as their cricket programme.
The FIFA project, unveiled by two of its senior members last week, will also pay greater attention to the BFA’s development of its women’s and grass roots programmes.
So there’s tangible proof that things are looking up in this respect but while this is happening, presumably for the benefit of the players, the downside is that there’s an element of indiscipline on the field which could detract from all the good FIFA plans to do.
Scenes of this nature were relayed via television recently of a Premier League match at the National Stadium.
Subsequently, two players were given two-year bans and others reprimanded. Many players were punished for offences in other matches too.
Those television pictures portrayed why, in many quarters, football has a negative image and why many are sceptical about giving it their full support despite it being the biggest mass participatory sport in Barbados.
Just recently, too, there was a very embarrassing situation at Dover after the senior women’s national team played a touring side from Trinidad.
It is a matter that has reportedly strained relations in the team even though the offending players were made to apologise to the coaching staff and the rest of the squad.
Some felt the issue was so thorny that it should’ve been dealt with by the full disciplinary committee of the association.
And to think all of this is occurring with the Bajans due to travel to Puerto Rico to compete in the first round of the CONCACAF play-offs from May 21 to 27 for a place in next year’s World Cup in Canada.
You never know who’s watching, so both sexes should be wary that they could miss out on opportunities through ill discipline.
I concede that in all contact sports there’s bound to be muscular and spontaneous reactions to incidents on occasion, but it shouldn’t reach the stage where it threatens to bring the sport into disrepute or lowers the image of players.  
Football doesn’t need more self-inflicted wounds when it seems poised for much brighter days for all.
All it takes is mutual respect and principle to balance the scales.
• Andi Thornhill is an experienced, award-winning sports journalist; email at [email protected]