[SPORTS]:::One Billion Dollar is too much, Mr. Burrell

No. 64 Wednesday, March 10, 2010
[Eye-on the Ball]...with Craig Oates
Recent pronouncement by President of the JFF Captain Horace Burrell that the national football team will need one billion dollars in order to qualify for World Cup 2014, has been met with skepticism by many persons in the country.

    In the early days, cricket was the sport through which Jamaicans, and West Indians, matched their skills against those of the wider world, especially so against England, the 'Mother Country', and so doing the country and the region gained its own identity. At that time cricket was the king of sport in this country. Over the years, things have changed, however, and today it has changed so much that although it still has a sentimental place in the society, cricket is no longer the number-one sport.
    Starting with Mike McColum winning a world boxing title in the early 1980s following on the triumphs at the Olympic Games in London and in Helsinki, with track and field stars winning Olympic and World Championship gold medals and setting world records and with footballers going to the World Cup finals in 1998, and with the netball team ranked as high as number three in the world, such have been the achievements of Jamaicans in other sports that today the names of boxers, footballers, track and field stars, and netballers, etc., are also synonymous with success.
    In fact, Jamaicans have become so successful in so many sports that every day more and more Jamaicans are getting more and more involved in sport, they are trying their best not only to compete with the best but to become the best in each and everyone, and on the surface, nothing is wrong with that.
          Burrell's Unfair Demand
    With this said Burrell could not in all fairness expect the country to gamble with one billion dollars of its scarce resource to be spent on football albeit it's our most popular sports. Not in this time when the world is in a recession and persons are out of jobs with the threat of more job cuts looming. It is unreasonable simply because those already involved and those getting involved in the attempts are looking to the Government to fund their participation.
    If the Government should help football why not netball, cricket or athletics? All of which have brought us more success in recent times. Sometimes the pleas for financial help come not only from Jamaicans living abroad who because of the odds against them representing the land of their birth is slim they opt to join our parade under the disguise of nationalism but their intent is clearly lined with self interest.
    In years gone by, the Government was responsible for recreation sport in institutions like schools and youth clubs, sports clubs which would act as a feeder to the national associations who were responsible for taking sport to the levels beyond that.
    There are certain things which some society can afford and some it cannot afford, however, and as much as I would like to see assistance given to the Reggae Boyz in their quest for World Cup Glory, the sad truth is that the country cannot afford it at this time. Jamaica, as a poor country, cannot afford to fund sports to the extent that those in sports especially Captain Burrell wants it to be funded.
    Professional sports must be funded by sport - by gate receipts, by television, by sponsorships, by marketing, and by merchandising. The sad truth is that at the local and national level enough is not been done to aggressively get corporate sponsors on board. Just looking at how football is been promoted at the grass root level says it all. Hanover and St. Ann's are too parish that best signifies this.
    As important as sport is to a nation's psyche, and especially so to the psyche of a country like Jamaica, no government, and especially one as poor as Jamaica, has the right to take taxpayers' money and fund the participation of sportsmen and sportswomen in international sports when its people are suffering and hurting. Why should millions of dollars be spent flying sportsmen and sportswomen around the world not only for big international events, but also for practice matches when poor Jamaicans are suffering from basic requirements?
    I love the sport, however, as much as I know that all that is true, as much as I know of its greatness and of its contribution to a society, and as much as I love to see the flag fluttering in the sky, I also know of the sufferings of the people - of those who are hurting, and dying, because of something thing like poor health care, faulty medical equipment and the lack of drugs not to mention crime.
    In the final analysis, sport, elite sport, any sport any where in the world, including football, netball, cricket and track and field in Jamaica, should stand on its own. The people's money should be and must be reserved for those Jamaicans and especially so old men and old women, baby boys and baby girls, who are suffering day after day, night after night, right across Jamaica, those who cannot help themselves and who really need it. Enough said.

 Email your comments to crgoates (at) yahoo.com

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