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Trinidad and Tobago Men's Senior Team Goalkeeping Coach Kelvin Jack sings the national anthem ahead of a World Cup Qualifier against St. Kitts and Nevis AT Estadio Olímpico Félix Sánchez, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic on June 8, 2021

FORMER Soca Warriors goalkeeper Kelvin Jack strongly criticised the Minister of Sport and, by extension, the Government for the deterioration of sport in the country since the start of the covid19 pandemic.

Speaking at a recent forum titled The State of Affairs in Trinidad and Tobago, hosted by a newly-formed NGO Friends of TNT, Jack said athletes across the country continue to suffer because of Sports Minister Shamfa Cudjoe’s failure to put mechanisms in place to allow for a quick and safe resumption of recreation and competitive sports.

“It’s really embarrassing,” Jack said. “You ask yourself, ‘why hasn’t football been played (like) everywhere else in the world?’

“And I’m talking about countries with far less resources than T&T.”

He said he hopes the minister reads or listens to his remarks and views them as constructive criticism.

Last month, Cudjoe announced the government’s approval of the resumption of sports for “registered bodies within fully vaccinated safe zones”.

National governing bodies are now able to host sporting events for fully vaccinated athletes, coaches, officials and administrators but only at specific sporting facilities.

However, Jack remained critical of Cudjoe’s tenure, particularly during the pandemic.

“I was talking to a good friend the other day and (I said) I would love to see what the Minister of Sport… what her diary would have looked like over the last two years with no sports going on,” he said.

“What were the things being discussed? What plans do we put in place for the resumption of sports? What testing mechanisms will be put in place to ensure a safe return to sport?”

Jack, who also served as the goalkeeper coach of the men's team, as part of Terry Fenwick's technical staff, in 2020 and 2021, described the past two years as “staggering: the dysfunction, the disorganisation, the unprofessionalism."

He said, “The ones who are suffering here are the footballers, the athletes, the boxers, the netballers. There are so many sports that have just been suffering.”

The 2006 World Cup goalie said the country needs people in such positions with the “know-how and the technical intelligence to make sports successful."

He mentioned, “We don’t need a politician. We need forward-thinking people, like-minded people, ambitious people who are able to really get things going."

Jack said sports need to be sold as a viable product to private business because “without the correct funding it’s impossible to make an impressionable statement in sport.”

The solution, he said, is finding the right people to put in positions of leadership.

“I would like to see someone there who is actually doing their job…And not just signing a cheque here and a cheque there.”

On the government’s plans for Carnival 2022, he said, “I understand that Carnival is part of our culture and what have you, but I think right there itself, you could see where the government’s priorities (are)…Where is that enthusiasm for poor people…for young people who have not had sport for the last two years?

“We willing to spend that money on entertainment but not willing to invest that money in sport which will also help the mental health of young people and keep them off the street."

Until the country’s priorities are corrected, he said, top athletes will emerge few and far between.

SOURCE: T&T Newsday