Sports — 13 May 2008
This morning, the former Belize national team coach, Palmiro Salas, visited the Amandala sports desk, where, for close to two hours, he poured out his soul in a saga of disappointment, heartbreak and regret, on the way Dr. Bertie Chimilio and his group of “accomplices” (Palmiro’s word) at the head of the Football Federation of Belize (FFB) have treated him, and as well on the way they have conducted business in regards to the management of the Belize national selection.
 
Football is a passion in Belize, as in the rest of Central America. In Palmiro’s home country of neighboring Guatemala, football is more than a passion. It is a major industry and a means of livelihood for a large number of players, coaches and sports officials. And the professional credentials of an outstanding player or coach is highly respected and revered, both for the stature in the world of sports and for the opportunities for gainful employment in the sport. A player without skills cannot expect to secure a high paying contract; neither can a coach without proven success. And Palmiro has proven himself in Belize.
 
There is something silly, and more likely sick, that has been going on, and allowed to go on in Belizean football for a number of years now, where excellent coaches, that is, coaches who achieve outstanding success with our national team, are sent packing. The replacements have consistently rendered services of a decidedly lesser caliber. Why?
 
The experience and viewpoint of Palmiro Salas, as the most recent successful coach of Belize’s national team, is further corroborating evidence that something is seriously wrong with the leadership of the FFB. Here is a man that had tremendous success coaching professional teams in Belize (BMP Bandits, Juventus, New Site Erei, Revolutionary Conquerors), who was pursued relentlessly by FFB President Chimilio to get him to lead the Belize national team in its World Cup qualification bid, and then callously dumped after accomplishing the greatest achievement in the history of Belizean football. Palmiro, understandably, had great hopes for Belize against Mexico; and not only for Belize, but as a sportsman with a fiercely competitive instinct and one knowledgeable in the business of the game, it was an opportunity for him on the world stage, that has been taken away for no justifiable reason.  
 
Following the article “Adios Palmiro” in Amandala no. 2232 of Sunday, May 4, our newspaper was contacted by Mr. Salas to tell his story to the Belizean people, among whom he has developed many friends over his fifteen years residence, before he departs to take up one of a number of coaching job offers in other Central American countries. Most urgently on Palmiro’s mind, though, is his ailing mother who received a serious setback upon hearing some shocking reports of her son being kicked out of his post as national team coach in Belize, just after his spectacular success, and amidst equally disturbing rumors of drug use and being denied a U.S. visa. According to Palmiro, hearing such reports about her son, who she knows has dedicated his life to football, was emotionally unsettling to his mother, who is presently in hospital in Guatemala.
 
In a report on our interview, which will be published in our next issue, the situation will be explored in greater depth. But for now, Palmiro would like to make it known categorically that he has had no problem with drugs (he provided negative lab test results for both cocaine and marijuana from the San Ignacio Community Hospital Laboratory taken on April 18), and has had no difficulty getting a U.S. visa in the past (he provided his passport with a U.S. visa expiring in June, 1995). The difficulty experienced recently was because of the FFB’s neglect, willful or otherwise, in not providing a job contract as national team coach when presenting Palmiro’s passport, along with those of other contingent members, to the U.S. Embassy for a visa. Without a contract/letter verifying his employment as the Belize national team coach, the Embassy saw only a Guatemalan passport belonging to Palmiro Salas, and can’t be faulted in denying the visa request.
 
The FFB is presently poised to collect huge sums of money for the “home” game against Mexico on June 15 at the Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas, which was made possible with the assistance of coach Palmiro Salas; but Salas claims Dr. Chimilio still owes him a total of BZE $26,000 over the six months of his service as national team coach. He had no written contract, trusting on the word of the “good doctor”.
 
What Dr. Chimilio, and his cohorts in the FFB, has done, in the opinion of the Amandala sports desk, is both insulting and injurious to Mr. Palmiro Salas. It is an embarrassment to Belize and Belizeans, and it is very bad “karma” for our national team’s venture against Mexico.  
 
The interview in our next issue.

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