The last year was filled with challenges that threatened the future of sport as we had come to know it.
We have had the matter of the problems at the level of international football, the seeming uncontrolled growth in the use of drugs in sport, the rearing of the ugly head of racism in sport and the conflict between the West Indies Cricket Board and several of its players.
The current year just starting should offer us ample opportunities to redress many of the ills negatively impacting global sport.
Cleaning up Football
Whatever about the reason for the British being angry after having lost the bid for the FIFA World Cup of 2022 the revelations about the machinations within FIFA has certainly led many to call for a comprehensive review of the way business is done at the leadership level within the organisation.
FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, now finds himself in the same unenviable position of former IOC President, Juan Antonio Samaranch. He has the responsibility now for overseeing the cleaning up of his own organisation.
Blatter has been around the leadership of football for many years and should have been aware of all that has been taking place, much as was the case with Samaranch. At issue therefore is whether he is capable of cleaning up FIFA. Some may argue that he is part of the problem and would have immense difficulty being part of the cure at this stage in the game.
One of the factors that may well hinder the cleaning up of the sport is the organisation’s own history where there seems to have been incessant wielding and dealing. Many were amazed that someone was able to split the African votes in the battle between Hayatou of Cameroon and Blatter for the presidency some years ago.
Many continue to be bothered by the ‘huff and puff’ of FIFA as it went after Bin Hammam and Warner yet for all of that Warner was allowed to leave presumed innocent simply by resigning from the organisation while Bin Hammam was banned. No one has really been charged for accepting Bin Hammam’s monies.
FIFA would therefore have to find creative ways of stopping its own members from engaging in gift giving to garner support for World Cup bids in the future. It may well have to be more circumspect about many of its own operations such that there are adequate checks and balances put in place to desist leaders from engaging in unsavoury practices.
Additionally, FIFA would have to step up its vigilance over the increasing evidence of racism that threatens the future of the sport. While it has started to show some teeth in addressing this mater it seems to still be at a stage where the extent of racism in the sport is grossly underestimated. Every effort must be made to stamp out racism in football. There must be no quarter given and the penalties must be severe enough to act as a deterrent. There must also be an on-going education programme for the practitioners of the sport at all levels. Not enough of this is currently being done as FIFA may well have thought racism a thing of the past. Today’s reality reveals otherwise and the situation must be immediately addressed.
FIFA must be at the forefront of the fight against doping in sport. The increased pressure being put on players to engage themselves virtually all year may well be one of the reasons some turn to drugs. They want to be employed and to be fit all of the time. This takes a heavy toll and so it is important that FIFA works with the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) to stem the tide very early, especially since it now appears that no sport is exempt from the scourge of drugs being used to enhance the performance of athletes.
Finally, FIFA must work consistently to stamp out violence ion football. While admittedly there has been significant decline in this regard there is still a long way to go before we can be satisfied that all is well.
Cycling and Athletics
While it is clear that two of the sports most plagued by the use of performance-enhancing drugs are athletics and cycling. Because of the very high profile of the Tour de France in particular, cycling has been in the media more frequently but the fact is that athletics does encounter many instances of the use of drugs by athletes.
The feats being achieved by contemporary athletes are such that one cannot be surprised by the findings that are revealed from time to time even though one makes allowances for improved techniques in the preparation of athletes in the two sports.
With the Olympics scheduled for the summer it is expected that the IOC would be on guard. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) has already sounded warnings about the out of competition and in competition testing programme that would be in operation as the organisers seek to have a level playing field.
The leadership of bot the international cycling and athletics governing bodies have renewed their commitment to drug-free sport even as they shudder at some of the remarkable results coming from some of their top athletes.
2012 would therefore be another year when cycling and athletics would redouble their efforts at stamping out drugs from their ranks.
Some time ago we learnt of the threat to sport posed by betting/gambling. When Tennis claimed that the leaders of the sport had reason to be concerned that heavy gamblers were impacting the outcome of some matches the world seemed stunned. The reality is that no sport today seems capable of escaping the web spun by gamblers around the world. It is as pervasive as it is dangerous.
Cricket has long been battling against gambling in the sport. Some analysts suggest that this was part of the sport long before South Africa’s Hansie Cronje fell prey to its wicked spell. Jamaica’s Marlon Samuels was caught in the trap and served a ban for his involvement.
Recently the International Olympic Committee has begun placing emphasis on the dangers of gambling to the future of sport and has committed to expending more effort in the fight to eliminate it in the future.
It is not easy to eliminate gambling in sport just as it is not easy to rid sport of drugs. In today’s materialistic world everyone wants to win. The lure of mega dollars for success in sport is sufficiently compelling to force athletes, coaches, sport physicians and administrators into the dark world of cheating by any means. This is the biggest problem.
Sport in SVG in 2012
Here at home we also have many challenges for the coming period.
The newly elected executive of the Football Federation must now buckle down to some very serious work. There are numerous competitions in which the organisation must be involved or stand the consequences of being penalised.
Importantly football here needs a national coaching team. This should perhaps have already been put in place since the new executive was aware for some time that if elected they would have wanted a change in coaching staff. Several months have since passed and this matter has not yet been addressed. Time is of the essence.
Then there is the matter of the completion of the FIFA Goal Project. The new executive must quickly decide where it is going with this. Here again time is of the essence.
In 2012 the Football Federation must rigorously pursue training and employment options abroad for Vincentian footballers. We cannot afford to be left behind as players from around the region access professional opportunities across the globe.
St Vincent and the Grenadines would host three One day Internationals featuring the West Indies against Australia. There are several challenges. First there is the challenge of getting the field adequately prepared for matches of that stature. While this was not as big a problem in the past it is now because of the dearth of equipment to do what is required.
The second major challenge is the perennial one of maintenance of the facility to accommodate large crowds.
A third issue is the matter of St Vincent and the Grenadines’ capacity to fill Arnos Vale on three days so close together. One is the matter of time available to the people while the sheer cost of the tickets would prove another burden. These are hard times and next Monday’s budget would reveal increasing hardship on the average Vincentian. Regardless of one’s love for sport there is increasing concern over the cost of living and that may negatively impact attendance at the matches.
One is uncertain as well as to the capacity of cricket lovers from neighbouring countries making the trip over to witness the matches. The cost of flying between islands is near prohibitive and may serve to deter potential enthusiasts from coming over.
St Vincent and the Grenadines is scheduled to participate in the London Olympics this summer. Already several sports have been eliminated but that should not serve to discourage. Basketball, after performing poorly in the Centro Basket in 2010 returned in the Bahamas in 2011 and gave sterling performances showing that we do have the capacity to be competitive. This was most encouraging for both the men and women.
The absence of an indoor sports facility capable of accommodating basketball, boxing, netball, table tennis and volleyball continues to hamper the development process in each of these sports. There remains an abundance of talent but there is very little appreciation shown by governmental authorities in respect of the prioritisation of facilities for the various sporting disciplines.
London 2012 would therefore be open at this stage to athletics.
With the new pool here and a slew of competitions in train the swimmer should show significant improvement by the time the Games come along. The track and field athletes have until the end of June to make the standards established by the IAAF and it appears that more than one of them should achieve that with relative ease. The hope is however that we should be able to get more through.
Boxing’s hope rests with Keithland King and he continues to impress wherever he goes. He will have a major challenge getting qualified but with training access he just might get through.
St Vincent and the Grenadines has immense talent but there has to be greater commitment to working diligently and consistently to achieve elite status and the success that comes with that. Just as it takes several years to attain academic success so too with sporting success. There is no quick fix and all involved must resist any attempt at convincing young people that they can attain success. It takes at least six years for an athlete with potential and consistent quality training to make it through to elite status. There simply is no short cut.
Our coaches and administrators must be able to encourage athletes to be in sport for the long haul. There is much that can be gained from a successful career in sport. It all begins, however, with commitment.
In 2012 we cold certainly do well with greater commitment all around.
The last year was filled with challenges that threatened the future of sport as we had come to know it.