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A THORNY ISSUE: A goalless draw

Andi Thornhill

A THORNY ISSUE: A goalless draw

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It seems a bit uncanny that the two major out of season football tournaments have been red carded this year.

Is it just coincidence or is it political football being played out at its very best?

Is it a game of tit-for-tat, knowing that if it is played that way there will be no real losers?

And, after all, getting a draw is much better than finishing a match with no points at all.

Honestly,with the facts presented by both sides, it would be wrong to speculate that there was anything fishy in calling off the LIME Pelican Football Challenge and the David Thompson Memorial Classic two weeks apart.

However, given the nature of the society we live in, there’s bound to be talk about whether both organisations were watching each other to decide what move to make and come out without any bruises, politically or otherwise.

The history of the making of both tournaments could be used as a guide.

We might recall that three years ago, the Mia Mottley led Pelican Creative Services was the first to announce the birth of the LIME Pelican; its goals and aspirations and how players stood to benefit based on the semi- professional plan she and associates rolled out.

Naturally, all stakeholders warmed to the idea because it sounded workable and would go some way in keeping some of the social capital constructively engaged for at least six weeks, notwithstanding the restlessness that can result from being unemployed at a time of deep financial peril.

Lo and behold, soon after,the Ministry of Social Care and Constituency Empowerment also announced it would be honouring late Prime Minister David Thompson with a football tournament bearing his name.

There could be no issue with that because Thompson loved the sport and was closely connected to teams in his St John constituency and was seen out at every major football competition in Barbados.

Very often I would see him seated in the bottom tier of the Louis Lynch Stand at the National Stadium supporting St John Sonics. So, he literally and figuratively had a presence at football.

What raised eyebrows is that organisers claimed that they were not being “follow-pattern” but that they always had the idea in mind for the classic.

Was this revelation a mere knee-jerk reaction?

Given the political dynamics of the situation, some, as expected, wondered if they were merely trying to match Mottley and hope to score cheap political points in the process.

In essence, let’s not fool ourselves, the masses quickly labelled them as BLP and DLP tournaments and no matter what the big-ups in each party said, the political threads were never separated from the cloth they were sewing.

From the BLP side, only former leader Owen Arthur didn’t identify with the brand because he said Thompson never kicked a ball in his life plus he didn’t think Government should dip into the public purse to finance the tournament when the focus was on cutting back.

Depending on who you spoke to, the cost of staging the classic ranged between $800 000 and $1 million. That became the centrepiece for the politicking, and BLP operatives, in and out of Parliament, rammed that point down the throats of the public, who still took their own partisan positions.

Government parliamentarians stuck to their guns, pointing out  – like LIME Pelican organisers – that the competition would provide opportunities for people to make money and beyond that people still needed entertainment even in and particularly during times of austerity.

That argument, too, ended in a goalless draw.

Essentially, I don’t oppose political involvement in community activities if it is going to benefit the masses. We elected them and we should their resources to our benefit. It’s their business if they want to be expedient or mercenary. We have to use our new intelligence to bring the balance.

However, the cost of sustaining both tournaments was always going to be a lingering headache for organisers, whatever their intentions.

The LIME Pelican was funded by private sector hands and not immune from declining revenue because of our economic crisis. It is fair to suggest that three years after their initial investment they would be hard pressed to commit the same level of funds to keep the tournament at its original standard.

The unavailability of the Stadium, therefore, was perhaps the blessing in disguise the LIME Pelican needed to put the competition on pause for this year even though it is understood the franchises have agreed to play a shotgun tournament instead.

The same financial challenges had to inflict some degree of doubt, especially on the Government side, and it shouldn’t have come as a major surprise that the classic was called off.

Yet again, look at the order of the announcements. LIME Pelican first. David Thompson Classic second.

Who was tracking who?

Would Government have squeezed out the cash if there was a LIME Pelican?

Strategically, I think both sides got let off the hook and neither has been able to score any political goals this year.

We are left to ponder what the tactics could be next year.

• Andi Thornhill is an experienced, award-winning sports journalist.