Thu, Feb

Footballers, coaches and supporters walk through Port of Spain, on Thursday, over the shutdown of sports due to the coronavirus pandemic. - SUREASH CHOLAI

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.”

SOURCE: T&T Newsday