EDITORIAL: Urgent lift needed for local football
THE 20TH FIFA WORLD CUP FINALS now on in Brazil should give us an opportunity for meaningful reflection on where we are going with the game locally.
The Bajan Rockets are not among that stellar group of soccer stars and the truth is that we are not a shining light within CONCACAF and have made little impact even within the English-speaking Caribbean.
Plainly stated, our football is in the doldrums and needs an urgent lift. This will not come merely with new facilities but rather by attracting the very best people to serve the sport and guide it to meaningful change and innovation in a timely manner.
As for this World Cup, the enthusiasm is clearly there for the spectacle across Brazil with many in Barbados hailing for the host nation, while most are willing to speak with authority on any of the teams. The passion is certainly there among local fans and even those who are simply curious.
The road to football’s most prestigious event has not been without its challenges, both to the host nation and to world governing body FIFA.
Brazilians have been protesting continuously in the lead-up to the competition and even now at various locations across the country. Much of the anti-World Cup sentiment is not because they do not still have a passion for the game but, rather, because they feel that some of the billions spent on this event could have been better used for housing, hospitals and schools to help millions of people, especially blacks and other minorities, who still live in unacceptable deprivation.
The question remains how many of the stadiums being built for this championship will be commercially viable afterwards. The Caribbean only needs to review what happened in this region seven years ago with Cricket World Cup and the stadiums upgraded or those newly constructed.
We need to consider the economic pros and cons since then.
FIFA itself is embroiled in scandal after scandal and is a good example of why strong governance, transparency and accountability must now be integral to the management of any sporting organisation.
It is evident international soccer needs two entirely distinct bodies; one to promote the actual sport and another to monitor and actually stop corruption, bribery and match-fixing.
But despite the problems engulfing FIFA, soccer remains, undeniably, the most popular sport in the world. In Barbados the legions of local football fans continue to grow. This is evident from the many fans watching and talking about the games played and those to come.
So until July 13, the thing that matters most is the action on the field. This year’s World Cup will be glorious simply because football has generally got better. May the best team win.
Hopefully, four years from now with the attention on Russia, football in Barbados would be much stronger.