On December 2, last year, the country came to a standstill as this nation’s women footballers were on the verge of making the World Cup Finals. Since then the girls who played their hearts out, have not kicked a ball.
Thursday afternoon, Minister of Sport Brent Sancho gave them a lifeline with the news that there will be a professional women’s football league in T&T. This is the greatest shot in the arm that T&T’s women footballers have ever gotten. Here comes a situation where the girls can focus on playing ball and not have to worry about doing a day job or night job and having to juggle a footballing career with work.
I want to applaud the minister on this great initiative and even more so because it comes very early in his tenure at the helm of domestic sport. It tells me that he can get things done and get it done quickly. Coming in at a difficult time in the Ministry of Sport, Sancho has not only quelled the fears of many NGBs but has also found the time to make progressive steps.
This women’s professional league will have enormous advantages in store for this country. Not only will our footballers be gainfully employed and playing regularly but also there would be a job creation aspect for many people. As we have seen with the Caribbean Premier League T20 cricket tournament, a number of people will benefit off the field.
Let’s take a look at all the advantages this league can bring to our shores. Firstly, our female footballers will have a peace of mind and can now fully devote their time to honing their football skills. Having foreign players come to T&T (Sancho mentioned that about 40 foreign pros will be coming to T&T), will only lead to better quality football and greater development for our players. It will also lead to our girls taking a professional approach to the sport and not just some pastime.
I always make the point that neighbouring Guyana has seen football rise quite significantly because their players have been taking part in our Pro League football in recent years.
The same kind of benefits will accrue for our players who are taking part in this professional set up. Secondly, our players would now be seen regularly by foreign football interest and this could lead to many of them getting Collegiate stints. This would prove a major boost in their academic well being and the T&T women’s pro league can function as a starting point to great things for them. Secondly, the league opens the possibility for employment for many people, like coaches, administrators, marketing officials and caterers etc. This stimulation of many sectors would be another way in which the government is achieving its goal of diversification and also boosting sport tourism in this country. Seeing that many regional footballers will be taking part in the three-month tournament, there is bound to be people coming into the country to take in the event.
Thirdly, sport as we all know is a major crime fighting tool and having these meaningful sporting events would serve to save a number of young people who would have normally taken to drugs etc. Not only would the players get away from the negative elements but non players as well because they would now be focussed on something that is positive.
I have always used this space to expressed my belief that sport is a big turn away from crime. I for one supported the initiative of LifeSport and interviewed many people who benefitted from it and turned their lives around. Whatever happened in terms of contracts and mis-management must not take away from the good that it brought as well. I remember when a massive meeting was called by the LifeSport stakeholders at Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva, I arrived to cover it and one of the young men who had just bought a car after getting involved in the programme came up to me. It was an old car but you could see just how proud the young man was to display his car to me. He asked me for a jumper cable and when I told him that I did not have one in my possession, he said to me: “You people are also failing us, you think I want to take your cable and run away.” I sat him down and spoke to him and what I realised was that this young man just wanted society to give him a chance and he got that through LifeSport.
Today every sporting programme that comes to fruition will save a life in this country. We are all involved in sport and we have to know the power of its goodness and use it to benefit T&T. Let’s support the women in their pro league and celebrate another significant moment in sport in this country.