“[…] We were already behind before Covid-19 hit; how far off the pace would we be when and if football, or sports on a whole, is ever reopened?
“Players and coaches alike are all feeling left out as we hear at every press conference news of sectors being opened or re-opened or plans for same. Meanwhile, sport is greeted with absolute silence…”
The following Letter to the Editor, which discusses the impact on the nation’s youth of the continuing ban on the playing of group sports, was submitted to Wired868 by Sharaz Ali of south Trinidad:
My name is Sharaz Ali, assistant coach at The University of the West Indies, St Augustine and owner of Premier Sports Club, a football academy training youth ages 6 to 18 in Skinner Park, south Trinidad.
Almost two years have passed since the prohibition of football under the pandemic protocols. In 2021 and beyond, the playing of any kind of sport competitively seems to be a distant dream. The rest of the world is adapting to the Covid-19 environment, with fans filling stadiums in various countries; meanwhile, youth around Trinidad and Tobago look on in despair.
Now, where has that left us? We were already behind before Covid-19 hit; how far off the pace would we be when and if football, or sports on a whole, is ever reopened? Players and coaches alike are all feeling left out as we hear at every press conference news of sectors being opened or re-opened or plans for same. Meanwhile, sport is greeted with absolute silence.
Recently my players decided to take a stand and highlight the issues faced. Some of the placards on display read: WHERE IS MY NEXT OPPORTUNITY? VACCINATE BUT CAN’T OPERATE. PROTECT US FROM COVID; WHAT ABOUT THE STREETS? ANOTHER YEAR AND NO INTERCOL? IF ONLY IT HAD TRAINING.
With the current trajectory, it is almost beginning to seem that employment as a coach within the sports industry is becoming obsolete. The benefits of sports for the holistic development of youth are well known. These include living a healthy lifestyle mentally and physically, keeping youths off the streets, giving youths opportunities to become future sporting professionals, and helping them become better communicators, leaders and, at the same time, building their teamwork skills.
However, with the closure of the industry for almost two years, finding a different occupation was key for survival. As far as I am aware, no grants were made available to coaches. Hence, many of us decided to turn our backs on the sporting industry, in some cases, temporarily, and in some others, maybe forever.
So, where does that leave the youth? Well, the placards represent their current situations. Many are in despair as time is passing and no hope is being given that a re-opening will come soon.
Protocols and policies can surely be put in place to make re-opening possible. We are calling on the relevant authorities to meet with us and discuss a safe path forward. This is not just for coaches, but primarily for the youths who hold the future of this country in their hands.
Please hear us out; we need to be back out there!
As someone said recently, the number of Covid cases and deaths can be counted. But the number of sons and daughters lost to the streets has become uncountable.
I implore the powers-that-be to reflect on this as they evaluate this situation.