CARICOM must show interest in sport development

The Caribbean Community – CARICOM, remains one of the most disconcerting institutions ever established in the region.
Every year we are told of just how well CARICOM is doing but the reality tells a very different story.
The peoples of the Caribbean are sorely disappointed in CARICOM, having had the institution around for several decades.
Many see CARICOM as a talk shop and little else. There are many employees engaged in a variety of assignments but at the end of the day the region has not been significantly impacted.
It is hard to believe that when the region’s leaders were constructing CARICOM the States of Western Europe, then the European Community, sent emissaries to observe the process, thinking that somehow we knew what we were doing and that we would have established a viable entity.
Much to the disappointment of successive generations of leading Caribbean luminaries, CARICOM has remained a colossal disappointment, facilitating the annual chest-thumping of leaders only too eager for their moment to shine in the sun.
At the time of its establishment in the 1970s CARICOM was nothing more than an economic entity. There was no consideration given to a role for sport in the institution. This gives ample appreciation of the thinking of the leaders at the time. While some may have been considered progressive they were distinctly myopic in their thinking despite their perceived academic brilliance.
The idea of physical literacy never dawned on any of the leaders at the time.
Despite the achievements of Caribbean athletes at the Olympic and Commonwealth Games as well as regional and international sport events our political leaders paid no attention to understanding the importance of physical literacy as one of the pillars upon which education is founded – literacy, numeracy and physical literacy.
Most disturbing is the fact that at the time of the establishment of CARICOM, our leaders would have been exposed to significant education in the United Kingdom and to the struggles of Caribbean blacks to establish themselves, challenge for changes in the relationship between the UK and the colonies in the region. They must have been aware of the case of West Indian cricketers for whom learning and becoming proficient in the game was to use it as an integral component of the anti-colonial struggle, creating what has come to be known as Liberation Cricket.
The Sobers decision
When the legendary Garry Sobers was retiring from international cricket it suddenly dawned on the leaders of CARICOM that he would be without a job, never having done anything in respect of a career beyond playing the game.
In recognition of Sobers’ achievement in cricket, the CARICOM leaders opted to create the CARICOM Sports Desk. We have hitherto mentioned that the CARICOM leaders crafted the job requirements in such a way that it was virtually impossible for anyone other than Sobers to have been considered suited to the job.
What the leaders did not want to admit at the time was that they did not really want the region to understand that they were really paying Sobers for a job to which he was totally unsuited and for which he lacked the requisite skill competencies.
The end result was that Sobers soon abandoned the job.
CARICOM fiddled with the position for some time and eventually closed the Sports Desk. It was replaced in 2002 when John Campbell of Jamaica was appointed Deputy Programme Manager (Sports) located within the Committee for Human and Social Development (COHSOD).
While through CARICOM several meetings were convened and several documents produced on physical education and sport there is little to show by way of any definitive policy that has been established and implemented across all CARICOM countries beyond the inclusion of Physical Education and Sport on the annual CXC and CAPE regional Exams.
Even when CARICOM had the landmark meeting in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, where it accepted a proposal for a Wellness Revolution to be undertaken, little attention as paid to the role of physical activity in realising the goals in respect of combatting non-communicable and chronic non-communicable diseases. Little wonder then that the wellness revolution has not gone beyond the designation of 12 September as Caribbean Wellness Day.
Indeed, we have, in the recent past, heard more from different CARICOM Heads on West Indies cricket than on physical literacy, physical activity and sport.
One of the most disturbing aspects of Caribbean civilisation has been the emergence of outstanding academics. Over the years we have witnessed the emergence of a significant number of Caribbean academicians who have forced themselves onto the global stage and left their indelible legacies.
Unfortunately however, the breath of their academic excellence did not extend to the realm of full understanding of and appreciation for the role that sport has played in getting the region, including themselves, global recognition.
CLR James still stands well above the rest of the region in articulating the crucial role that sport has played in pursuit of liberation of the peoples of the Caribbean.
Beckles and Shepherd have also done some good work in terms of the history of the sport in the region and have taken James’ work a few steps forward. This does not negate the fact that James’ scholarly piece, Beyond A Boundary, is an epic piece as yet unmatched.
In the past few years, given the demise of the game in the region and of the West Indies team at the international level in respect of consistently standards, a few have attempted to allow their academia to analyse the state of the game. This has not been taken seriously.
Beckles’ attempt at getting the University of the West Indies to allocate the sport a programme of study based in his native Barbados has been followed by the location of the regional Cricket Academy at the same venue, almost as a fait acompli, just as happened with the introduction of a Combined Campuses and Colleges team in the annual regional competitions.
The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) seemingly remains averse to engagement of serious academics in the organisation in any respect. This has left the sport literally at the mercy of the crabs-in-a-barrel type organisational/managerial mode of operation. Populism is the order of the day and horse-trading has left us well behind in the development of the game.
Perhaps, in the midst of it all we are merely too dim-witted to even be accused of the greed and graft that has plagues some of the cricketing nations of equal third-world status.
Like so many other sporting organisations in the third world, academics have been left out of the reckoning relative to analysing and providing ideas and recommendations on the way forward for the sport in the Caribbean.
The CARICOM approach
CARICOM has in many respects, over the years, become something of an old boys’ club. Our political leaders pat each other on the back, seemingly oblivious of their respective legacies and places in history. They assume, and wrongly so, that they can determine how history will record them and their performances.
In respect of sport, the old boys continue to live in the past, as is the case for much of their tenure in their respective countries. They are still at the stage where they see cricket as a sport that is to be used to lift our people out of colonialism. What is unfortunate is that our political leaders consistently fail to see that they are no longer living in that bygone era.
Today’s Caribbean cricketers have been made to understand by the international sport movement that sport is a career, a viable way of life that positions them for the future of their families. They pursue the development of their craft without loyalty to anything but the almighty dollar since the global community has socialised them into an understanding that money talks and determines their future.
While the likes of Beckles, Gonsalves and Mitchell preach the old, outmoded appeals for our cricketers to understand the importance of the game to the peoples of the region, the players, for their part, see the hypocrisy evident in the way these same politicians run their respective countries, placing their own over-inflated egos above the well-being of the populace while preaching democracy and good governance.
CARICOM cannot redeem itself from the outlandish beginning in respect of sport development in the region and its role in it. By creating a job for Sobers rather than commit to the development of physical literacy, physical education and sport, the region’s leaders were off to a bad start and the ending remains the same.
Not surprisingly, the same archaic leaders today commit to a Cricket Committee, largely to fashion for themselves, in their own egoistic interests, a WICB that they could manipulate.
While it is true that the WICB lacks leadership of any sort, the reality is that the region’s political leaders are inept and lacking vision. The blind cannot lead the blind.
The CARICOM Cricket Committee will get nowhere since the ICC and the WICB would not relinquish their hold on the sport.
Additionally, the evidence shows that whenever politicians seek to control sport they inevitably bring to the table the same baggage that they create and accumulate in their own politics. It is never about others. It is always about self.
It is unfortunate that CARICOM leaders continue to be blinded by their own political myopia and interest in self-aggrandisement. The value of sport is completely overlooked.
The values attendant to sport are important only for inclusion in their speeches at sport functions of one sort or another.
CARICOM, in 2009, for example, convened a Symposium on Sport Tourism in Barbados. Today, more than seven year later, nothing has been done relative to bringing the region to a better understanding of the immense economic benefits to be derived.
We messed up completely with the Cricket World Cup when all of the CARICOM leaders fell prey to the Sunset Legislation that robbed sport-loving Caribbean peoples of their enjoyment at cricket. It was not until the competition was nearly over that we recognised our abundant ignorance.
Today, our CARICOM leaders remain as ignorant about sport and its value as they have ever been.
One or two, understanding just how much ignorance is bliss jump to the microphones to sing the praises of sport whilst at home they do nothing different.