Crime and antisocial behaviour are complex social issues but the risk factors are well established here in T&T.
These include social and economic disadvantages, low educational achievements and opportunities, poor social and emotional skills, living in a deprived area where crime is an available option, poor parenting and poor parental mental health. The cost here is clear, offending by young people is estimated to cost the economy millions per year.
Just look at the amount allocated in the budget towards national security and each day in the newspaper you check the average age of persons committing crimes and facing the courts for their offences plus those who are unaccounted for.
While it may cost $300,000 to run an amateur football club such as Laventille United for a year, ten offenders from a 22-man football squad may cost the state close to one million or more plus lost lives and families affected for a lifetime, in the same time period, anecdotal evidence that sport can be targeted to prevent crime needs to be turned into compelling political arguments.
Miscellaneous Laventille United, after three years of existence under new ownership and financing by Miscellaneous Marketing owned by local businessman Sham Mohammed, has won the Premier Division of the Northern Football Association (NFA). They were narrowly edged on penalties in the FA Cup semi-finals and are eyeing a spot in next year's T&T Super League.
The squad comprises of players from the different areas of Laventille as Sogren Trace, Snake Valley, Block 22, Quarry Street, Trou Macaque, Mentor Alley, St Barb's and Desperly Crescent. I have a special interest in Laventille United not only because of my involvement with the operations of the club but also because of what my interaction with the players has shown me. I am privileged to know and identify with individuals who want a better life and have chosen sport - football - as an avenue towards achieving that.
Among the theories for how sport and recreation can reduce crime and antisocial behaviour include a diversion from undertaking in criminal behaviour. Seven in ten teenagers believe antisocial behaviour occurs because young people are bored and six in ten say that there isn’t enough for young people to do in their area either in sport or other forms of craftsmanship. The easiest available option is crime. And this is real.
At least three players in the squad have confessed that had it not been for the activity as a footballer and member of the Laventille squad, they would be involved in a gang or doing some form of illegal and illicit activity. And while the financial gains may not be ideal at this time as an amateur player, they have committed to staying on the correct path.
I decided to have a chat with David Rudder about Laventille and the impact of the current football squad. After all, as Debbie Jacobs wrote in one of her columns, “It was a musical coup (in 1986) that elevated Laventille to new heights as a leading community filled with pride and potential. In The Hammer, Laventille leads the nation on this musical and spiritual journey. The Hammer (Rudder's 1986 Hit) never lost its power. Today, the song sends a positive message for a beleaguered Laventille. The Hammer reminds us that no one place can be defined as bad. There is good everywhere."
Laventille has produced its fair amount of greats. Russell Latapy, Dennis Lawrence, Winston "Spree" Simon and Destra Garcia to name a few and there's more to come, no doubt.
As a form of tribute to the club for its achievement, Rudder told me on Friday, “We’re a people who oftentimes embrace the easy negative but some of us also see the sweet possibilities. Laventille above all else reflects these contrasting vibrations. In our present crisis, in these days where our understandable fears can easily invite a casual reaction to ‘cleaning things up’, we must also recognise the beauty and those who keep seeing the need to show that it exists. Huge congratulations to Laventille United. Congratulations to the entire community. Hats off to Mr Sham Mohammed for seeing beyond the stigma. And to you Shaun. Thank you all.”
For me and the football gang from Laventille, this was the ideal present for Christmas. A Molly Friedenfeld wrote in The Book of Simple Human Truths: “Love and kindness are the hammer and chisel that gently chip through barriers and long-held beliefs to reveal the magnificent soul contained within every human.”
Have a Merry Christmas and a safe and enjoyable holiday all!
Shaun Fuentes is a former FIFA Media Officer at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. He is also currently a CONCACAF Competitions Media Officer and has travelled extensively, experiencing and learning from different cultures and lifestyles because of sport and media over the past nineteen years. He is also a certified media trainer for athletes.