Sat, Aug

Using sport to shape our communities.

The belief of using sport for social change has never been more popular in the world than it’s today.

And right here in T&T, while there is need for a lot more to be realised this way, the efforts of National football duo Kevin Molino and Sheldon Bateau as well as cricket star Darren Bravo, as well as, Daren Ganga deserves every bit of commendation.

The St Ann’s versus Carenage— “Love and Football” affair in its second year drew hundreds of passionate fans from both communities last month with several present and former national players on show, delighting the locals to entertainment on and off the pitch. The younger Bravo hosted a similar event in his hometown of Santa Cruz, while Ganga brought former West Indies greats Brian Lara and Curtly Ambrose to the tiny village of Barrackpore, affording the people there a once in a life time opportunity to get up close to these legends.

In years to come the impact made by these special people will still be shaping their communities thanks to the power of sport to change people’s lives. Sporting organizations and athletes have an obligation to their communities. Worldwide, professional sports make much of their profit via community support and this is an area for perhaps local football and cricket to tap into and it must start somewhere. Surely the impact made by the Molino and Bateau event is a positive sign.

Combining sports and social good can be a way to make a profound impact. Through the power of sports, individuals can unite and strengthen communities. And it is evident that in these communities, younger people are looking for an opportunity to connect with the community and those who have succeeded from out of their community.

“The real thinking behind the St Ann’s versus Carenage game was firstly bragging rights because we thought both communities always had good players so we decided to settle the ‘ole talk’ by playing two games and then we decided to turn into a charity match so that we could help ourselves to give back but help others in the community,” Bateau explained.

“When we collect food items, it is from the people from the community, so we encourage people from the community to prepare the hampers and give it out with us. We feel that this can show the younger ones that you do not need to be making millions or play abroad to be able to give back. It is just a nice way to show people that there are ways to give back to your community regardless of how far you have reached and it is also a way of showing the people that we did not forget about them,” said the former Belgium-based pro who now plays in Kazakhstan.

Bateau said, “For me and any athlete or footballer, it is a sense of pride playing in front of fans and when we see the results we are getting with these games I think it is a sign that the Pro League has to look closely at taking the games back into communities. What we have seen here is that there is still people wiling to come out and support the football once the opportunity is there. It must be done collectively because if Molino and myself can do it, then the League can definitely consider it also.”