Thu, Jan

Members of the group of Footballer stakeholders walked along Hart Street in Port-of-Spain in protest of not being allowed to play football. They want Government to allowed football to play in safe zones.

A more-than-scary statistic, which shows that more than 30,000 young people have lost their jobs due to the government's refusal to allow sport, as an industry to be played, has led to a group of concerned footballers to take to the streets of Port-of-Spain yesterday in a and show the disappointment via a silent protest, calling for football, in particular, to be played.

The group of football players, coaches and other officials wore red T-shirts with the words - 'Let football play in safe zones,' printed on them following the government's decision to shut down sports because of the COVID-19 pandemic almost two years ago.

Their walk, which began at the bottom of Henry Street, near the South Quay, and proceeded through the capital city, via Independence Square, up Frederick Street to Woodford Square, then down Abrecromby street towards the office of the Sports Minister Shamfa Cudjoe, whose Ministry of Sports and Community Development office is housed at Nicholas Tower on Independence Square, with an aimed at sending a message to her about the apparent unfair treatment being dished out to sports in general, and football in particular, as all other industries are allowed to 'vaccinate and operate' according to a call by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley a few months ago to the business community.

Michael De Four, Director of Football at central club Cunupia FC who was one of the organisers of the peaceful walk, said his team alone has lost three players due to the shut-down. He told Guardian Media Sports on Thursday: "Football in T&T should be an industry. I did some stats and there are about 30,000 people in T&T that play football at some sort of competitive level, separated by another 25,000, who use football as a recreational activity. The industry generates an estimated TT$800,000 in economic activity annually and that has been shut down. So you're talking about some 20,000 to 30,000 young people who are out of some form of income. We're saying that after an entity decided to follow Government's proposal to vaccinate to operate, we were denied and that was the catalyst that provoked us to come to this peaceful walk to do like the business community and make a statement without saying a word. We've lost three players, one to crime, he was not going to come back. We lost one to drugs, not the legal drugs but the illegal drugs, and we've lost another one who just doesn't want to play football again, and these are truly talented individuals. And that is just one team. We have over 120 competitive teams in Trinidad and Tobago," De Four explained.

When the march reached Abercromby street, heading southwards, police officers, both on foot patrol and in vehicles made their presence felt, by stopping some of the participants and fielding questions to the group about the event. However, the march was allowed to continue after De Four, the Cunupia football boss ease the concerns of the officers by ensuring them that the required numbers of 10 persons per groups were maintained during the march.

The Ministries of Health and Sports were singled out by the the football stakeholders, as well as Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley as the only ones with the power to affect change from the march, but following the presentation of the budget in October in which no additional funding was given to sports, De Four said he was neither confident that sports will return, disappointed that the ministry of sports could not put forward a case for sports to be returned to play, nor even certain that a case was made at all by the ministry for on-the-field sports to be returned.

Meanwhile, Randolph Boyce, the Central Soccer World coach echoed similar sentiments, saying there was not even an attempt to allow sports to be returned.

According to Boyce, they're not fighting against the health issues, but they want to know or ask if they can be given something in principle. "Give us something that we could work with on when sports would start back to play. There is the Pro League, there is the Super League, there are zones, there are football academies, so you can start at the highest level, where it will be trials and errors. And if you have to shut it down then we could understand that, but you're not starting it at all, so to us, there are no plans at all."



Coach De Four: Footballers lost to crime, drugs amid sport shutdown.
By Jelani Beckles (T&T Newsday).

LOCAL stakeholders said footballers have fallen by the wayside to crime and the next generation of talented T&T players at a disadvantage with football, and sport in general, being on the sidelines for almost two years.

Roughly 25 coaches, players, administrators and supporters of local football marched through Port of Spain on Thursday morning to not only resume football but sports.

The group walked along the Brian Lara Promenade, Frederick Street and also gathered by the Red House while following covid19 protocols.

More than an hour after the march began they ended their walk outside the Ministry of Sport and Community Development’s office at Nicholas Towers.

The protestors wore red t-shirts saying “Let Football Play in a Safe Zone.”

Among those who attended the protest were director and coach of Cunupia FC Michael De Four, Unified Football Coaches of T&T interim president Jefferson George, coach of Central Soccer World/Cunupia FC Randolph Boyce and All Blacks FC official Simon Francis.

De Four, speaking to the media outside the Red House, said, “Financially (we have been affected by no football), health-wise…I could give an example (that) we have lost three players. We lost one to crime, he is not going to come back if you understand what I mean. We have lost one to drugs, not the legal drugs, (but) the illegal drugs and we just lost one. He just don’t want to play football again. These were truly talented individuals and I am just one team. They have over 120 competitive teams in Trinidad.”

Francis also spoke about players turning to negative activities.

He said, “I represent grassroots football in T&T. Grassroots football is very important because it is community-based football. Imagine right now in my community of South Oropouche I can take my vaccination card, my son’s vaccination card (or) some of my players vaccination cards and go by a bar and have a drink, but I cannot under the present measures carry those footballers to train and play football and that in itself is fundamentally wrong.”

He added, “We have been down for about 19, 20 months and for 20 months now if we had up and coming Dwight Yorkes, Russell Latapys amongst us we could kiss that goodbye.

“Sports bring discipline…in South Oropouche I have been able to fight crime by young men training and playing football.”

A few sports, including golf, have been allowed during the covid19 pandemic but team sports and contact sports are still waiting.

The Government, however, did permit the national senior women’s football team to play two international friendlies against Panama at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva, last month.

The protest followed Government’s decision to blank the Ascension League’s proposal to resume football.

On November 2, the Ascension League issued a statement to the Ministry of Health Terrence Deyalsingh, Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe, normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad and Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago chairman Douglas Camacho. It was signed by tournament director Kieron Edwards.

The proposal said all the players and coaches are vaccinated.

Three days later, Deyalsingh said permission to start the league cannot be granted at this time because of the delta variant.

Boyce is asking the Government to give sport a chance.

“There is the Pro League, Super League, zones, academies. Start at the highest level and if it have trial and error and you have to shut it down then we could understand that, but you are not starting at all. It means to us there are no policies, they put us in a corner…if you have to find a safe zone we are willing.”

A month ago, the Government allowed more businesses to open for vaccinated people called safe zones. They included gyms, cinemas and casinos.

George said the march was not only about football.

“The public must remember that is not just football, but it is sport in general that has been put on the shelf proverbially since last year…we know from research that engaging in sport is one way that we can keep our bodies healthy.”