When YaYa Marin Coleman launched her one-woman 24-hour protest outside the MCC Grounds cement fence at 6:00 p.m. last Friday evening, December 14, the MCC field was still a reasonably playable grass surface. It certainly wasn’t the best in the country; it had already suffered repeated abuse from heavy equipment on different occasions when the Sports Council allowed the venue to be used for non-sporting public events. But the field had slowly recovered, with the new grass camouflaging many of the lumps and uneven places where posts had stood and vehicles had been driven.
No one but the Most High controls the weather, and there are no guarantees that bad weather will not come on the day of a concert, as it did on Friday night, to make the football field especially vulnerable to the heavy traffic that comes with such events.
Well, as we feared, and as YaYa protested on the sidewalk outside the MCC on Friday night and into Saturday morning, the rains came down, and the MCC soon became a veritable “pig pen” of muck and debris of various sorts, rendering it unplayable for the weekend games, and for some time to come.
From behind the Zinc Fence, we have cried out against this abuse of the MCC for years. Just over a month ago, the President of the Football Federation of Belize (FFB), Ruperto Vicente, had registered his strong disapproval of the use of the MCC for an Indigenous People’s Festival, which was subsequently moved to a different venue. But for the DigiCell 10th anniversary concert this past Friday night, the FFB president’s appeal was completely ignored; and the show went on as planned at the MCC.
A drowning man will grab at straws, and before we go to “the next level,” we would like to sound out a call to the former Minister of Sports, Hon. John Saldivar, to lend his influence upon the present Minister of Sports and his Junior Minister, to do what is right by the MCC, which carries a lot of history and nostalgia for us retired ‘ballers, and many hopes and dreams for the young players of today.
Hon. John had led the charge that eventually set football free from tyranny in March of this year. Both his teams, Belmopan Bandits (sponsored by Hon. Saldivar) and Police United (he is Minister of Security), are now in the Premier League Finals being played in Belmopan. But football now needs the Hon. John’s voice among his peers in Cabinet to chart the only sensible way forward, which will enable the purse strings of FIFA to be loosed, and bring Christmas joy to footballers and fans across the old capital, when the MCC becomes a sparkling state of the art football arena comparable to any in Central America or the Caribbean.
The Government of Belize does not have the money; and it is proven, over and over again, that those in charge of decision making over the MCC don’t have the love that is needed to protect and enhance it for our youth.
There are big voices in the political parties who will cry loudly against the signing over of control of the MCC to FFB, despite the fact that such a handing over will result in many new construction jobs, when the FIFA money starts the building of a modern football stadium; and football clubs will benefit when fans are attracted and start returning to a comfortable and fan-friendly arena, where the ball rolls as it should and players can uplift their game on a proper playing surface. These sanctimonious voices of gloom had little to say when government properties from the old Customs house to Swing Bridge were made available to build the Tourist Village; or when Pound Yard was “given away” to a businessman for a dream that never materialized; when BEC football field was acquired for building houses; or when our football fields at the Barracks were “saved” for building Princess Hotel and then Marina Towers, etc.
Lest the “just come” Government mouthpieces forget, Edwards Park was once football’s home in Belize City, before football was moved to the MCC around 1960, and Government took over Edwards Park and re-named it Rogers Stadium. It is time for football and the football community of Belize City to get their just due. Football needs a home in the City, and it is not going to be at the Marion Jones Sports Complex, which will cater to a number of different sports – athletics, beach volleyball, football, cycling, etc. MCC, despite originally a cricket field, has become the sentimental “Mecca” of Belize City football; and it is high time for Government to “do the right thing,” and release its choke-hold grip on the MCC that is killing the future of footballers in Belize City.