Sep 25, 2022 Sports
HEAR ME OUT!
By Rawle Toney
The Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) is in its 10th edition and for the first time, the finals of the world’s second-most popular T20 league will be played in Guyana (each year until 2024).
It’s no doubt that cricket is the most popular sport played in the Caribbean and of course, in Guyana, but with one of the most unique ethnic make-up and multicultural society within CARICOM, it should be obvious that other disciplines would want to emulate.
To be fair, with the Government’s Cricket Carnival, a fusion of the arts, entertainment, sports and culture, there’s nothing football, the second-most played sport in Guyana, Boxing or Track and Field can do to level-up with the CPL. But, to see the aforementioned disciplines receiving the same support from the highest office in Guyana, would be commendable.
Let me be clear. I endorse the Government of Guyana’s decision to bring the CPL finals to Guyana. By all means, it’s obviously not a unilateral decision, but one which was carefully crafted with advice from key stakeholders in various sectors.
The above statement might be called hypocritical to some who would’ve remembered my 2016 comment when the APNU Government was lobbying CPL to host the finals.
What changed my position? Well, back in 2016, sport was an afterthought for the President David Granger Government.
They had removed the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport and placed it, first, as the Department under the Ministry of Education, and then under the Ministry of Social Cohesion. Sports regrettably regressed. Not that they had taken over Sports in Guyana while it was flourishing.
The previous People’s Progressive Party/Civic Governments really didn’t do much for sports. Some would argue that they haven’t done anything at all – three facilities in 23 years – building the Guyana National Stadium in 2007, the National Aquatic Centre in 2011 and the National Track and Field centre in 2015.
Following the highly anticipated and contentious 2020 General Elections which saw Mohamed Irfaan Ali being declared the winner and sworn in as the 10th President of our Cooperative Republic, the new PPP/C Government took a different approach.
First, the announcement of Charles Ramson Jr as Minister of Sport. For the first time (in a long time), a youthful Minister of Sport who can relate to athletes on their level. He loves basketball and cricket.
This was followed by an allocation of $1.5B in 2021 and $3.2B in 2022.
According to the National Budget, a total of $1.4B was budgeted in 2022 for sports infrastructure and development, including the completion of the synthetic tracks in Regions 6 and 10; multi-purpose sports facilities; erection of stands at the National Track and Field Centre, rehabilitation works at the Guyana National Stadium to support the Cricket Academy; construction of pavilions in Region 6 and 10 as well as the procurement of sports gear.
Of this amount, $250M was budgeted for the continued improvement of community grounds. Aside from this, $45.8M was allocated for maintenance works to sports facilities including Mackenzie Sports Club, Kwakwani Recreational Centre, National Aquatic Centre and Colgrain Pool.
However, eight months after the 2022 Budget was announced, one might ask, where did the $3.2B go…what was it really spent on?
I’m throwing out a challenge to anyone; travel from Parika to Georgetown and try hard to find a ‘proper’ community ground.
No, not the National Track and Field Centre. The facility is a ‘shell’ of what it should be. The track is in a deplorable state. The Football field is an embarrassment. It is the only facility in Guyana (other than the National Stadium) that can host International football.
From the Corentyne to Georgetown, the best ground is in Buxton.
There’s no sports facility available for athletes in Central Georgetown, outside of the Georgetown Football Club Ground (which is privately owned).
The National Racquet Centre can only accommodate squash. Two years after rehabilitation works had commenced, the Tennis Court at the Woolford Avenue facility is yet to be completed. That simply means that there are no public courts that the Guyana Lawn Tennis Association (GLTA) can use for tournaments.
The only two indoor facilities in Guyana (Cliff Anderson Sports Hall and National Gymnasium) are earmarked for upgrades.
SPORTS LEFT BEHIND
The President Ali Government is transforming Guyana at an unimaginable pace, thanks to our new-found wealth – Black Gold!
President Ali, appearing during the innings break of the Guyana Amazon Warriors and St Lucia Kings match on Thursday evening, said “sports are a very important part of the transformation that we’re going through and that transformation necessitate investment in young people; investment in communities and one of the strongest component of that investment is in sports.”
However, I wish the President would take a detailed look at the sector for himself and he will see that sport is actually being left behind – especially our athletes.
The plight of our sportsmen and women are well-known.
The success of our athletes on the international stage can be equated to the biblical story of Jesus walking on water – a miracle, taking into account the little to no support they receive from the Government and private sector.
President Ali means well, and so does Minister Ramson. But it’s time to do more than just talk.
The speed of which we’re seeing Guyana moving as it relates to infrastructural development and other critical areas is reflected in the Ministry of Finance 2022 Mid-Year Report showing that Guyana recorded an overall real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 36.4 per cent.
But, what about sports?
Let us not be naïve to use the CPL finals hosted in Guyana as sports moving forward. It’s not. Or we can say it has stalled.
President Ali loves sports. He loves his cricket more, but a casual conversation with him, you’ll understand why I’m saying he loves sports. However, maybe it’s time for the Head-of-State to have a candid reason, privately, with the country’s elite athletes and their coaches to understand why I am of the view that sport is being left behind.
After all, it’s One Guyana!
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