WHILE FORMER Soca Warrior and Minister of Sport, Brent Sancho, has dubbed the recent arrest of ex-national Under-20 footballer, Damani Richards, for gun and ammunition charges unfortunate, he believes that there are several other young sportsmen who may be seeking similar alternatives due to the current economic downturn facing Trinidad and Tobago currently.
Richards, who also had a stint with two teams in Major League Soccer (MLS), was granted $150,000 when he appeared before a Port of Spain Magistrate on Wednesday following his arrest at a house in Cocorite on Tuesday.
Sancho, who represented the red, white and black at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, was saddened by the recent news but admitted that this country’s economic situation may trigger youngsters to veer in the wrong direction. However, he called on TT Pro League clubs and the Government to implement further measures to ensure our sportsmen and women remain committed to their budding careers.
“A lot of these young players are very in touch in their community and country in a criminal aspect,” he said. “Once we continue to short sleeve our sporting personnel and glorify the man on the street, like what is currently happening in TT, this is going to continue to be a challenge. More aggressive government legislation and approaches are needed. I would be surprised if the unfortunate situation that has happened to Richards is the only one because there are others on the cusp, simply because some Pro League clubs are hanging on for dear life because of the financial challenges facing them now.” Sancho indicated that at one point Richards did come under the radar of interest for his club, Central FC. But, he now questions the roles that professional clubs play in its community and how important the role is.
“The clubs can only do so much up to a point,” he added. “Not every man and young woman in this country is scholastically inclined.
There are some who are only athletically inclined and some who still have the archaic notion that everybody has to be a doctor or lawyer. It is very unfortunate that there are no mechanisms in place to bait corporate TT to invest even more in our young social fabric.” The former national defender though, credited the Governments of past and present, who through subventions have done a tremendous job. He however, believes that an expected cut in subventions would have had a major impact in the ability to employ young people.
“I still feel there is so much more to be done,” Sancho continued.
“Countries like Panama and the Dominican Republic have made the corporate world invest in young people. I have also realised that the budget on September 30 also talks about adding more taxes to cigarettes and alcohol.
I would like to see some of this money going back into sports to further interest and get more young people into sports.
“I grew up in a ‘hot spot’ area and I can say that there is a direct correlation between young people engaging in sports and criminal activities. When we had our young people heavily involved in our football teams there was a direct diminishing of crime in the area.
But once sport is lessened, negative changes tend to take place,” the former national player concluded.