Our Readers' Opinions
June 9, 2017
Keith Joseph and unfair CARIFTA team selection

There needs to be a serious discussion on the state of the Athletics Association. It does not seem as if that organization is actually concerned about track and field development in this country. The Association is plagued and beset by a number of deep-seated problems that demand urgent attention. Chief among them is the poor leadership of Keith Joseph as its president.

 Mr Joseph has been president for about 30 years, and he hardly has anything to show for it. He has held on to power and behaves as if it is his divine destiny to rule for life. Keith functions like a law unto himself, answerable to no one. We cannot allow this to go on forever.

 I am dissatisfied with the team that was selected to represent SVG at the recently concluded CARIFTA Games, and the fact that several Vincentians were unfairly left out of the squad. This is a serious matter that infringes on a young person’s right, as expressed in international treaties to be able to fully develop their personalities, abilities and talents.

 The president is personally accountable for the poor team selection. He may have worked through cronies and yes-men but the buck stops with him. Only one athlete made the team, even though there is an abundance of talent. There are many notable omissions that raise eyebrows.

 CARIFTA is the pinnacle of athletics competition in the Caribbean. It has even been described as a junior Olympics. These Games are very important for the development of our athletes. Usain Bolt came through CARIFTA, as did many other Caribbean Champions. It is a terrible thing to deprive young athletes of an opportunity to go to CARIFTA. But that is exactly what the Athletics Association has done.  

Shantel Williams has been dominating local track and field for many years now. She holds a number of records. But Shantel was not selected for CARIFTA. Why? Is she too fast? Is it because her coach is an outspoken critic of the Athletics Association?

 What about Darria Matthias? Darria is one of the best Under-18 sprinters in the country. She reigned supreme at Community College Sports. She triumphed at the CARIFTA trials, put on by the very Athletics Association. She was still overlooked. There was no room for her in the CARIFTA inn. Is  it because she is a member of the IT DAT Athletics Club?  In another glaring case, a young athlete by the name of Shafiqua Maloney was not included on the CARIFTA team, even though she would have likely won a medal in the female Under-20 400 metres race. Heaven help us! I shudder to think that other male and female athletes have suffered a similar fate. Somebody must speak up for them. We must protect and safeguard their hopes, dreams and aspirations.

 What was supposed to be a national team, appears to have been handpicked in a blatant “friend-friend” manner. It looks like you have to be part of the inner circle or a member of a preferred club to get serious consideration for selection. That is wrong!

 There exists an elaborate system of patronage and curry favour that must be dismantled forthwith for the good of sports. There must be greater regard for merit. In all its doings, the Athletics Association has exposed itself to the possibility of legal action. The court can determine whether an athlete was unfairly treated, bring the offending parties into account and apply sanctions or remedies. I know at least one law firm that is prepared to test these waters. As already mentioned, this touches and concerns a person’s fundamental right to be able to fully develop their personalities, abilities and talents without discrimination. I encourage aggrieved athletes to pursue their legal options. The status quo must be forcefully bucked, so that we can make progress towards a fairer situation.

 The unfair selection of CARIFTA teams is a mere symptom of the Athletics Association’s general malaise.

Luke Browne

[email protected]