On Target
October 12, 2007

Long overdue

At every opportunity, persons associated with the sport of football have been clamouring for a “home for football’, and rightly so.

Without any doubt, football is the most popular sport in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Hence it is dubbed “The Game of the People”.{{more}}

Yet, despite this popularity and appeal, football has not gained the corresponding treatment by way of facilities.

The recent Under-23 Olympic Qualifiers held here at the Victoria Park brought into focus how much the populace love the sport, as they came out in their droves on the three nights of competition.

Similarly, the current National Club Championships and the recently started Masters Over 35s Tournament have received overwhelming support. Likewise, the various league competitions are highly patronised.

And the last two weekends gave a fitting comparative analysis of football over other major sporting disciplines.

The senior Windward Islands Cricket Tournament was hosted here, involving Dominica, St. Lucia, Grenada and the host nation.

With the likes of Deighton Butler, Rawle Lewis, Darren Sammy and Devon Smith on display, all of whom have represented the West Indies, they were unable to attract one hundred spectators at any of the two venues where the matches were played.

These realities, though, have not reached those who are in charge of the distribution of the resources for sporting facilities.

Yes, there are some efforts to provide structural support for the sport, but I hold the view they are still insufficient.

When compared with cricket, for example, there is a distinct disparity in this regard.

Football, though, in 2004. enjoyed an extended use of our best facility, the Arnos Vale Playing Field, by the National Sports Council, and this was reflected in the performance of our senior national team Vincy Heat. This shows that with proper exposure to top quality surfaces and amenities, our sports people will reciprocate by optimising the display of their respective talents. And, the exponential rise in this country’s achievements in Tennis must be attributed to the top class facilities which exist at the National Tennis Center at Villa.

Our facilities are limited, as they are multi faceted; however, their configuration gives a bias to cricket. In addition, cricket is often given preferential treatment over other sports, especially football. Let me hasten to add that I hold no grudges or liking for any sport in preference to the other.

Whilst other sports have brought national recognition to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, football has stolen the spotlight in this respect.

There are Vincentian footballers earning a living in Portugal, Ireland, England, the USA and Malaysia.

And more can get the chance if here at home they get the infrastructural support and persons with the will to put sports on the front burner.

This country continues to produce sportsmen and women on slender resources. To think what the people of Marriaqua have to call their main sports centre, a dust bowl, but it is still a major catchment area for national footballers of all age groups . This would marvel anyone who comes in contact with the conditions of the Cane End Playing Field.

Getting a home for football must be a priority area for the incoming executive of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation, despite the move for an Administrative Centre, as proposed by the current executive as its FIFA Goal Project.

But the move towards such an end cannot be as antagonistic and stiff necked as the most recent efforts were.

Both sides of the fence , the SVGFF and government authorities, need to meet each other at a mid point of what is in the best interest of all. The proposed offer of the Brighton Playing Field as part of the National Stadium Project was rejected by the decision makers of the SVGFF.

The offers and counter offers made by the two must be revisited. As they procrastinate , the rest of the Caribbean is leaving us wanting.

A home for football does not only provide the SVGFF with a place that can host its matches, but is an avenue for a steady income stream, and a release valve for its dependence on central government through its funding agencies for sports.

Football is too much of a growing business for us to miss out and cash in on its benefits.

But what is not gaining acceptance by the people of the Sion Hill community is the out of place mound erected at the Sion Hill Playing Field.