There were two different aspects, at least, to Belize’s Gold Cup game Tuesday night against the superpower United States of America. The first aspect was clearly a sports aspect, and the result was devastating to Belize on that level.
We Belizeans had been spoiled, you see. In the 1950s, we watched Ludwig Lightburn, a youth from Lightburn Alley off Hyde’s Lane in old Belize, walk into Madison Square Garden in New York City and beat the best lightweight fighters in the world. In the 1970s, we celebrated the Golden Girls and we celebrated a slim teenaged Belizean girl, Glenda Ellis, as she hit a two-run double to defeat the mighty United States of America in ladies softball, while a humble young lady from Gales Point Manatee, Margaret Usher, held the American bats at bay with her mystifying deliveries. And we Belizeans had cheered two decades ago when a young man from across the street from this newspaper, a young man who had been innocently expelled from Gwen Liz High School, Kirk “Shabba” Smith, fought through all the adversity to lead Utah’s Weber State into the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA basketball tournament. We expected more than we should have reasonably expected on Tuesday night. We Belizeans had been spoiled, you see. Now we understand and appreciate, even more, the greatness of Ludwig, of Glenda and Margaret, and of Shabba.
The other aspect of Tuesday night’s game was socio-political, and on that level, Tuesday night, the days leading up to Tuesday night, and the popular Belizean reaction following Tuesday night, have been sweet and spectacular successes. We Belizeans, at home and abroad, have come together in an unprecedented fashion.
The only time this has happened before was in the year 2000 for Marion Jones. But remember, Marion had received all her training in the United States. Later, when the Americans victimized her, it was because they believed that they had “made” her. We Belizeans were, in retrospect, only “borrowing” Marion Jones: she belonged to Uncle Sam. The 2013 Belize national football selection belongs to Belizeans: the Jaguars were “made in Belize.” They are authentic and indigenous.
At this newspaper, we are thrilled by the coming together of diaspora Belizeans and their real support for the Belize selection.
Before we go ahead, following Sandra Coye’s lead, we had started calling the Belize team “our boys,” but a few Belizeans have taken issue with the “boys.” In England, they call their team “our lads,” and no one has a problem with that. “Our boys” sounds more affectionate than “our young men,” but whatever, let it be.
And in that Sandra Coye vein, let it be said that we are wonderfully surprised by the militant solidarity of Belizean women where our national selection is concerned. There is no stopping Belize now, because once our women become involved like this, Belize cannot be beaten.
Ultimately, the politics of Tuesday night was about Belize’s nationhood. Above all things, what nation-states seek is national unity. What the former colonial masters and their neoliberal descendants have seen and continue to see as a desirable state of affairs amongst our Third World populations, is quarrelling and division. Two agents of division amongst Belizeans are religion and party politics. The most powerful agent of unity in Belize’s young history so far has been the 2013 Belize national football selection.
You must know, that on the occasion of the Belizean nation’s most significant constitutional advance in history – political independence in 1981, Belizeans were a divided people. There were different reasons for that division, but the American and British governments, representing neoliberalism and colonialism, respectively, welcomed that division. Exploiting our socio-political divisions, Washington and London could make us serve their interests in the region. These interests were hostility to communist Cuba, hostility to Sandinista Nicaragua, and friendship for neoliberal Guatemala. Sooner or later, you see, Guatemala always enters the picture.
To repeat, Belizeans at home and abroad have come together behind this football team. Tuesday night, which may have been Belizeans’ worst sports defeat ever, may have been, at the same time, Belizeans’ greatest socio-political victory ever. The Belizean nation made a powerful statement on Tuesday night, and it really had nothing to do with the ruling UDP or the Opposition PUP.
Ever since the strange problem involving Sherrier-Lewis arose at the very moment of the Belize national team’s greatest victory ever – our qualifying for the Gold Cup in January in Costa Rica, this newspaper has been careful where our discussions of the administration of the national team are concerned. One of the reasons why football is such a national passion in the world is because of all the factors which must come into play for a nation seeking to build its best selection possible. For Martinique to perform as well as its team did against Canada in the Gold Cup, is a reflection of some positive attributes in that Caribbean island society itself. For Nigeria to perform as poorly as Nigeria did in the recent Confederations Cup, was a function of serious problems within that West African nation. So the negatives which began to surround the Belize selection, even at the moment of its greatest victory, are negatives which originated in Belize’s socio-politics.
If Guatemala always enters the picture, it is also true to say that money is a reality which never goes away. The British can give our Belize army as many trucks as they want. We Belizeans are grateful. But we do not prostrate ourselves. Nothing the British decide to give us can make up for all they took out. The British raped and exploited us for their own benefit.
On Partridge Street, we see The Jewel as a case of “we against the world.” Tuesday night in Portland was Belize against the world. The money people here did not support our boys. We therefore lost that battle. Stand strong, Belizean brothers. Stay strong, Belizean sisters. Go, Jaguars. We are winning this war.
Power to the people. Power in the struggle.