Thu, Jan


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.