Kaieteur News – The bourgeoisie class or the political elite in Guyana do not understand grassroots football, including what is known as FUTSAL. Had there been this understanding, the sold-out crowd during the recent Kashif and Shangai FUTSAL final, then blame would not have been cast in the direction of the government and greater understanding would have been shown for the plight in which the organisers found themselves.
FUTSAL is a football game which is played on hard courts. The number of players is less than in a normal football pitch and the size of the pitch is far smaller, thereby emphasising speed and skill during the matches.
The COVID-19 Task Force which granted approval for the hosting of the recent event, cannot be held responsible for what has been described as a super-spreader event on account of the total absence of social distancing.
As was explained by the Hon. Prime Minister, permission was granted for the hosting of the event, as was all previous rounds of the tournament, on the basis that the COVID-19 regulations would have been strictly observed. It is for the organisers to do so, not the government. But as I said, you have to understand the popularity of grassroots football and especially FUTSAL tournaments before passing judgment.
Before the pandemic, FUTSAL tournaments used to be held at the National Cultural Centre tarmac, the National Gymnasium or the National Sports Hall. None of these venues could ever be large enough for the massive crowds which usually descend on these events.
So what were the organisers of the recent FUTSAL finals supposed to do? Allow a small number of patrons to enter and tell the thousands of others that COVID-19 regulations meant that they could not see the finals.
There would have been a riot. The venue would have been overrun regardless of what the organisers did. There was no way that the majority of those inside were going to be left outside. I would like to see the person who would have told football fans that only a limited number of persons would be allowed in because of COVID-19 regulations.
This does not justify what happened. The permission granted to the organisers was based on less than full capacity being admitted and social distancing being implemented.
The early rounds of the competition were played to empty venues. And had the political elite understand the sort of following that grassroots football attracts, they would have insisted that no spectators be allowed for the entire duration of the tournament.
The organisers do not need the proceeds from the gates to make a profit. The Kashif and Shangai brand is well-known for being able to attract corporate sponsorship. It was, for a long time, the most successful privately branded sports tournament in the country.
In fact this brand help to popularise football until the PNC/R with their vindictive politics destroyed that brand simply because one of the principals of the brand had exercised his democratic franchise in a way which did not find favour with them.
It may appear that the brand was the victim of a corporate war between two major beverage companies but the reality was that it was the victim of a political vendetta by the PNC/R which succeeded in the disappearance of the annual Kashif and Shangai football tournament.
This was a great loss to football in Guyana. And while the PNC/R is on solid grounds in criticising the organisers of the recent FUTSAL finals, their attacks cannot be divorced from their actions in the past when they were opposed to the principals of the Kashif and Shangai group on the basis of their perceived political affiliation.
It is no coincidence that since the politically inspired boycott of the annual Kashif and Shangai football tournament, the standard of local football has steadily declined. Crowd support for football also suffered.
But football fans are by no means innocent bystanders. Many of them were part and parcel of the attempt to destroy the most successful football tournament. They followed the bidding of politicians who had no sustainable alternative to offer.
FUTSAL however, became popularised during this period of decline. It generated sponsorship and attracted huge crowds. But that support was mainly grassroots.
Street football took off. You no longer needed to be part of the top football teams or leagues in order to showcase your wares in front of a national audience. New talent came to the fore.
The recent FUTSAL finals may rightly be deemed a super-spreader event. But it also confirms that street-styled football has become highly popular and is now a super-sport.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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