Belize is a failed state where our sports programs are concerned. It is undeniable that our sports programs here under British colonialism were superior to those programs after we achieved political independence in 1981. It is not the Belizean people who are to blame for what has happened to our sports: it is our elected politicians and our shadowy power structure.
During colonial days, as a contrasting, comparative illustration, there was no volleyball in Belize. Somewhere in our shadowy power structure after independence, there was a decision made to promote volleyball. Ten years ago, as a non-sports note, there were no marching bands in Belize. The power structure here made a decision to promote marching bands, and now marching bands are organized and prominent in Belize. (Topically and tangentially, some people apart from the Belizean people decided to promote homosexuality in Belize.) The people are not the power.
We can all agree that volleyball and marching bands, in and of themselves, are good. But, who were the Belizeans who decided that football and basketball and softball and track-and-field were not so good? More importantly, why did those Belizeans so decide?
All the apologists for, and collaborators with, the status quo will immediately take issue with the charge that some Belizeans decided that football, basketball, softball, and track-and-field should not be supported. Arguably, there is no empirical evidence to support my charge. But, there is logical evidence. Why, when the major sports were declining, did volleyball (and marching bands) rise? These were not decisions made by the Belizean people. Volleyball and marching bands rose, logically, because the power structure created incentives for them to rise.
From 1972 until about a decade ago, this newspaper and the businesses which grew out of it – KREM Radio and Television, were involved in the building and sponsoring of various sports teams in football and basketball. We also supported cycling and track-and-field. When our basketball teams achieved championship status in the early and middle 1990s, our teams were attacked by political, business, and media elements with which we were in competition. This was unfair to the athletes on our teams, and, inevitably, it was unfair to those sports programs in which our teams participated.
The problem for us was that we had made a conscious decision by 1982 to withdraw from both football and basketball at the sponsorship level. At that time, amateurism enjoyed a monopoly. By the late 1980s, however, there were neighborhood youth who had grown up working at our newspaper who were becoming basketball stars. The neighborhood around Kremandala is relatively depressed economically, and the business community is reluctant to support teams which include any “challenged” youth, as the experts describe them. Kremandala returned to basketball, and later football, because we were, in effect, forced to do so. It was not because we sought institutional glory or personal ego fulfillment.
If any Belizean journalist ever chose to study the Grigamandala experiment between 1999 and 2000, then the truths such a journalist would uncover would reveal that Kremandala sought to offer alternatives to our neighborhood youth.
In any case, what has happened to certain sports programs suggest some undercover bigotry. If it is not bigotry which is motivating and guiding certain political and power structure decisions in Belizean sports, then it must be the poisons of privilege and elitism which have historically affected the Baymen’s clan. For sure, Belize’s sports programs appear dedicated to burying any real meritocracy. The case of Kaina Martinez absolutely speaks volumes.
When they were in quest of popularity and political power back in the 1970s, Belize’s present Prime Minister and his sidekick, the Minister of Housing, attended almost every football, basketball, and softball game in town. Their absence from such activities since achieving power begs the question: were they sincere? Has the wealthy Equity House ever sponsored a single sports team in the ‘hood?
Consider the Belize Tourism Board, perhaps the richest statutory board in The Jewel. As soon as they heard that the world’s best gymnast and Olympic gold medalist, Simone Biles, had Belizean family roots, they hurriedly invited her to Belize. This was opportunism. It may even have amounted to hypocrisy. The tourism executives do nothing for sports in Belize. Is this a political decision by their bosses? Or are the politicians being dictated to by our shadowy power structure?
Our society stinks with bigotry and various kinds of prejudice. The selfishness and greed at the top are filthy. Back here on Partridge Street, we’ve been saying basically the same thing for decades. How come nobody else in the media can see what we’ve been seeing? None so blind, Jack …
Power to the people. Remember Danny Conorquie – murdered at Caracol in cold blood on September 25, 2014.