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Offline Tallman

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New hope for football in South Trinidad
« on: June 07, 2005, 04:09:50 PM »
New hope for football in South Trinidad
By Richard Braithwaite (Director of Development, CONCACAF)
Trinidad Guardian


The Southern Football Association 2005 season opened recently with a ceremony at the Petrotrin Sports Club in Pointe-a-Pierre.

President Rudolph Thomas revealed that 15 clubs will be playing a relatively small number for an association responsible for such a wide area.

However, when you consider that last year there were only 12 clubs, it appears that southern football is heading in the right direction .

It was not always like this. For decades football was a virtual religion in places like Point Fortin, Palo Seco and Fyzabad. As recently as 1992, the SFA boasted of 36 clubs. Some of the more outstanding players and coaches in the country came from the area.

Such was the rich tradition in football that began in the early half of the last century.

It is a history that is closely linked to the petroleum sector and it is markedly different from the history of sport in the north and east. Whereas the north had clubs with names such as Shamrock,Casuals,Notre Dame, Malvern, Maple, Sporting Club and Colts etc, many of the top clubs in the south were named after the oil companies operating in the area—UBOT, Shell, TPD, Texaco, Forest Reserve.

These pioneer oil companies also built many of the sporting facilities in the area, the philosophy being that sport was an important vehicle for community development.

Many of the workers in the industry in those early years came from outside the area so that it was necessary to provide recreational facilities, indoor and outdoor.

In his book, A History of Trinidad Oil, author George Higgins describes the role that sport played in the community relations of the early oil companies and he records that every encouragement, both financial and otherwise, was given to sports.

“Generally, sports grounds, equipment and club facilities were provided and the interest taken in the various organised sports gave ample proof of the value attached.”

Since then, there seems to have been a change in philosophy, especially in the latter half of the 1990s when levels of participation fell drastically. This change is perhaps most visible in the dilapidation that has been visited upon playfields like Mahaica Oval, Brighton Sports Ground, the Fyzabad Recreation Ground and Goddard’s Park.

If the crisis was confined to football as well as other sport, it would be bad enough, but unfortunately the decline extended to cultural activities as well.

As a result, several community steelbands disappeared during this same period, including Silver Harps, Nightingales, Sun Valley, while Blue Boy’s unknown band, Tornadoes, has seen better days.

Mind you, this is a region where a significant percentage of residents is under the age of 25 and where the level of youth unemployment is among the highest in the country. So someone could well ask, “If the youths are not employed, or in school and they are not involved in sports or cultural activities, then what are they doing?...”

Your guess is as good as mine, but the recent upsurge in violence by rival gangs in San Fernando offers a disturbing insight. Sport and culture are not the only solutions to juvenile delinquency, but when key components of a region’s social capital are inadvertently eroded, there are likely to be adverse consequences.

That is why it is good to see that the SFA is emphasising youth development as a major thrust of their 2005 programme and ,together with Petrotrin, they are seeking to reintroduce the Top of the Barrel community competition.

It was also good to see that one of the league divisions would be named after former national star Leroy de Leon.

Together with mercurial Warren Archibald, he remains a source of tremendous community pride, especially in Point Fortin and environs. Hopefully, the youth development programmes, along with Petrotrin’s support, will produce more players like them in the near future.

More than ever there is a need for vibrant community-based clubs with the technical, managerial and financial resources to capture and develop the abundant talent that abounds in south Trinidad.

These communities may be among the more depressed in the country, but they have assets and resources beyond the hydrocarbons that exist beneath the earth.

It is these very assets that can assist in alleviating many of the social ills that plague these communities and the wider society.

And while it is neither necessary nor desirable to return to the paternalism of the past, the petroleum sector should continue to develop more effective partnerships with the communities in which it prospers.

In so doing, it must be mindful of the history, values and traditions of the region and engage the talent and experience of the people.

The Petrotrin/SFA collaboration is good news for the long-suffering football fans in south Trinidad and they are hoping that the “glory days” will return in the shortest possible time.
The Conquering Lion of Judah shall break every chain.