Sports overlords must be made to account

By Raffique Shah
August 08, 2021

Raffique ShahIf you think you cannot possibly get any angrier over the state of sports in the country, what with the annihilation of Team TTO at the Tokyo Olympics, our cricket teams performing way below what is expected of them, and our once-proud football team booted out of World Cup 2026 by some miniscule islands, then read the local football legend’s recently published Everald Gally Cummings, The Autobiography.

Gally will bring tears to your eyes, or maybe cause you to explode into fits of anger that might not be good for your health.

First, though, a word on our team’s performances at the Olympics. We can blame the Covid-19 global pandemic for the poor performances by the relatively large contingent of TT athletes that braved the contagion and made it to Tokyo to represent their country.

During the build-up to the Olympics, most countries that had tried to ease restrictions on outdoor activities, had to revert to total lockdowns and curfews, to the closure of parks and stadia where competitive sportsmen and women usually train.

To the credit of those who fought to have the Games staged, and who went on to show the world they could do it with minimal disruptions, the Games came off, and overall, things went well.

Once swimming and track and field got underway, it was clear that many competitors had somehow attained peak form, every athlete’s dream. The display of awesome form by track and field stars from Jamaica, The Bahamas, and farther afield, by swimmers from the USA and European countries that were ravaged by Covid-19 one year ago, as they broke record after record, raises questions that our officials and athletes will have difficulty explaining.

Something is very wrong with the state of TT athletics. It cannot be poor funding: ours is among a handful of countries that grant elite athletes in several disciplines funding up to TT $500,000 per year depending on their world ranking in their respective sport. The Ministry of Sport will have disbursed millions of dollars over the past five years directly to these elite athletes. How did they spend it?

Venezuela, where, if we believe the stories we hear, President Maduro’s Government is starving its people, Yulimar Rojas won the women’s triple jump with a world record-breaking performance. They had six medals by Saturday morning. Starving Cuba had 14, six of them gold; Jamaica nine, four gold; the Bahamas, two gold; hell, 86 countries on the medals’ table, TT conspicuously missing.

I switch to Gally Cummings’ tell-all autobiography, a book that I think should be recommended reading at the nation’s secondary schools. Gally was born into football, his two older brothers club players, and several national players living within kicking distance of his parents’ Melville Lane home, which, in turn, was virtually in the penalty zone of the Queen’s Park Savannah, the Mecca of football back in the 1950s and 1960s.

He probably kicked his way into this world from his mother’s womb. At primary school age he competed against and beat secondary school boys in athletics and football. By age 15, he was drafted to the national team. Clearly, he was destined to greatness in a sport that was not merely his life, but his passion. And therein lay the seeds of a conflict that would steer him onto a collision course with the overlords of the sporting world, more so the Mafia that was FIFA back then, maybe even today.

The book, which is on sale at several bookstores (RIK, Nigel R. Khan, Amazon) paints a path to glory that any young boy or girl might want to follow. But Gally also tears into corrupt administrators, ambitious and often ruthless politicians who would use, abuse and then spit out talented players, as long as it served their narrow personal interests.

He was a young player and witness to the machinations of the notorious dictator of Haiti, ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier, who had clearly bribed FIFA officials to ensure that even though the very talented TT team scored five legitimate goals in a match that should have sent us to the World Cup finals in Germany in 1974, Haiti, not TT, made it, beating us 2-0.

Such open banditry would repeat itself in 1989 when our team was poised to kick its way into the 1990 finals in Italy—but had to get past the mighty USA. Certain local officials are said to have printed 40,000 surplus tickets to the game that was hosted in our national stadium. The chaos that ensued ensured that even if we had won the game (we lost, 1-0), our team would have been disqualified by FIFA.

In a stinging swipe, Gally wrote: The overselling of tickets…was one of the most cruel, criminal and treasonous acts ever committed in the history of our small nation…(P 269).

7 thoughts on “Sports overlords must be made to account”

  1. Congratulations to Grenada whose rank was number 77 in the Olympics. Jamaica is rank 26th,. Little Bermuda #77. Dominican Republic #42, Cuba #18.
    Trinidad and Tobago was unranked. And so we can safely say sports has died under this Rowley regime.

    The 2012 Olympics under Kamla and the PP . Trinidad and Tobago was ranked #45. If your ask incovenient/ Linda she will say that was bad ranking because Kamla was in charge.
    The 2020 unrankable TnT would be touted by her as the best year TnT had at the Olympics.

    The PP made huge investments in sports only to see everything fall flat under the Rowley regime. Trinis have nothing to celebrate. Kian will wave his black flag again and all will be happy…

    1. So what did kamla do between 2010 to 2012 at the time of the Olympics to make us rank 46. Politic is a well of a thing. Kamla was a miracle worker but Rowley is not. Please be more rational in your analysis because sure it does not make sense. Unc and pnm stupidness

      1. Simply put Rowley had $10 million for sports, Kamla spent about $200 million in sports. Aquatic Center, Cycling velodrome, Tagarigua tennis Center. Anil Roberts was the best sports minister because his background was coaching. He understood what athletes go through and advocated for them.

        The investments were already there on the ground, it should have yielded better results. But the Sports Minister could not run a 100m.

        Anyways, leadership is needed the Jamis are showing how it could be done…..

  2. “We can blame the Covid-19 global pandemic for the poor performances by the relatively large contingent of TT athletes that braved the contagion and made it to Tokyo to represent their country.”
    The athletes did their best given the trying set of circumstances. To run an athletics program requires a high level of genius. Trinidad have the aquatic Center, the cycling veldrome, the tagarigua tennis court, plus the highest number of stadiums per capita in the world. Yes the highest!
    What did Grenada, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Bahamas, Cuba had that place them on the podium? No Covid? These countries did not have the huge budgets but they work and worked hard to produce skill athletes.
    There needs to be better management, scouting, and monetary investments. The athletes are there, but many do not move on to greatness because of a lack of scouting for talent. A good place to start is in the school sports day. Identify the talent there and in a few short years the medals will come!

  3. The diversification of sporting interest.

    All Trinis were shock when a virtual unknown name Keshorn Walcott emerge as the winner of an event little knew about, javelin thrower.
    The traditional athletics, swimming, cycling should change to include training in diving etc.
    There is a long list of events that the TTOC can select from to ensure medals come home. Those boys in Laventille could drop their guns and enter the Olympic archery or shooting.

    Further athletic training should involve the Jamaicans in more Caribbean athletics competition and training. The PP had a good vision for sport and so Keshorn was born…..

  4. Many of the total lock down policies of T&T were just plain stupid. For example, the total lock down of beaches, out door exercising, jogging, and outdoor sports were ill conceived. Establishing proper and thoughtful protocols could have made these activities possible. The population could be trusted with the management of rules to govern their behavior in these circumstances.
    Many successful countries facilitated the training of their athletes by making special accommodations for training, coaching, financing and practising. T&T , in an extreme authoritarian manner locked everything down and arrested people who dared to venture outside.
    The athletes did their best to represent a country which was more interested in phony Covid management bragging rights than a practical, sensible approach to dealing with the pandemic.

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