Little Nequan Caruth didn’t look to be more than 13 years old. But his ball control would have been the envy of some of the big men watching him do his thing at the Hasely Crawford Stadium last ’Super Friday’.
The youngest of the four competitors in the skills competition during the half-time break in the Caledonia AIA vs FC South End match, he emerged the clear winner and crowd favourite for the way he moved the ball from instep to chest and points in between.
The boy had style man. He did his South East Port of Spain school proud.
Nuru Abdullah-Mohammad and Jimmeal Hugghue, however, did not do the same for their teams and the Pro League.
In the second half of the match, the AIA stopper and his South End counterpart traded cuffs, while, as a vicious lagniappe, Hugghue received some kicks to the ribs while flat on the ground. The violence was sudden, startling.
It brought unexpected, ugly drama to what was otherwise a quiet, ordinary game.
I did not see Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene. But if he was there, those two scenarios would surely have prompted some seriously contrasting emotions.
I just didn’t see the fight coming. It was off-the-ball and was not the end product of a physical or spiteful contest. And to the credit of the other players on and off the field and their technical teams, the incident did not spark further sad scenes.
The outburst brought back to April’s brawl between Pro League representatives San Juan Jabloteh and Puerto Rican outfit River Plate in the Caribbean Club Champions qualifiers.
I hope these battles are not becoming a once a month thing. Don’t think so. And it would be unfair, I think, to define the Pro League by such occurrences.
What those displays surely are, though, are signs of these times of ours.
You see, you can’t separate what is happening in society as a whole from what is taking place in the playing fields and stadiums. Just can’t do it.
When one man can kill another because of a mash foot in a fete, why a player can’t leggo a right hand because of some ’disrespec’?
In young Nequan, skill and creativity was just bubbling forth--pure, unadulterated. But the fight among his elders was an example of what often happens in this place to youthful promise. The lack of discipline and self-control that overcame Mohammad and Hugghue--for whatever reason--was not confined to that moment.
All three goals in the game could be blamed on a loss of concentration, an inability to maintain defensive shape. Certainly that was the case with the AIA giveaway at the back that let substitute Troy Moses in for the South End winner.
This same indiscipline is making the cricket suffer up and down the Caribbean.
I was therefore intrigued to read the recent comments of West Indies Cricket Board CEO Dr Ernest Hilaire on the state of the game.
Hear Dr Ernie: ’People ask me, ’What will you do about this team? They are an embarrassment’! I tell them you have about three more years of embarrassment still to witness...
’Until the High Performance Centre, as a structure of support that has been created now to prepare the next generation, we will suffer a lot of embarrassments and a lot of awfulness, because our present cricketers are not prepared...
’We as a region have some real issues and problems that are producing young men, in particular, that cannot dream of excellence...
’Sometimes when you speak to the players, you feel a sense of emptiness. The whole notion of being a West Indian, and for what they are playing, has no meaning at all.
’They have not been brought up with a clear understanding of what it means, and its importance. But do we blame them?...
’Our cricketers are products of the failure of our Caribbean society, where money and instant gratification are paramount...
’Somebody said to me, ’Bring in the Under-19s. They came third at the Youth World Cup’. And I whispered that almost half of the Under-19 team could barely read or write.
’The simple fact is that we are producing cricketers who are not capable of being world-beaters in cricket. It’s just a simple fact.’
Here was an honest and very true assessment of where the problems lie.
Nevertheless, I thought it took long for the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) to issue their predictable indignant response.
But despite their tiresome protestations about the content and timing of the statements, the West Indies team can hardly do worse than currently.
What are the CEO’s comments going to do? Ensure that South Africa win the ODI series 5-0 instead of 4-1?
And why for balance sake did WIPA not also make noise when coach Ottis Gibson said the batsmen did not play with common sense in the third ODI?
West Indies cricket, as it now is, is just beyond words, meaningful ones anyway.
The wider point is, though, that Dr Hilaire could have been speaking about football and most other sports in the region. Jamaica track and field is the outstanding exception.
It is useless to talk about turnarounds when the issues that have caused the decline have not been adequately addressed.
West Indies have paid dearly for fiddling while the cricket crashed. T&T football has also been marking time, propped up by the Special Adviser’s cash.
The one thing I disagree with Doc Hilare on is the time-frame for more suffering. He says three years, I say he ain’t start to count yet.
Because even if it works to perfection, a High Performance Centre will only reach so many cricketers, for so long a time. Aggressive programmes are needed in each island at various levels for there to be a real culture change.
The same goes for local football.
I’m sure the Pro League are doing their best. But the Football Federation need to do more. Much more.
Nequan’s playing future is in your hands gentlemen.
Don’t let him down.