Sports — 20 January 2018 — by Ryan Simpson
“Evening Ballers” restricted from practicing on the MCC What’s the real reason?

The Editor, Amandala Sports

Wed. Jan. 17, 2018– As I sit here watching my usual Sunday morning English Premier League games, I am saddened by the current situation, so many of my colleagues and I have found ourselves in. For the past two weeks, something that we love so much has been taken away from us so suddenly without just cause or reason, making it difficult to comprehend.

We are a group of footballers who refer to ourselves as “Evening Ballers,” who once were “Morning Ballers.” The names are not important; they’re based on the time we would all meet up to play our favorite game, football. I’ve been living here in Belize City for the past nine years, since I have relocated from Dangriga. Being from Dangriga, I came with the belief that things were similar here in Belize City when it came to playing football and any sport at all. I quickly realized that was an illusion.

In Dangriga it is very easy to enjoy football and play it wherever you feel like at any given day, and in the summers almost any given time. In Dangriga we are not faced with some of the challenges that Belize City is faced with, especially the violence between rival gangs that stem from territorial disagreements.

Due to my introduction, it might seem that the reason for this letter is the comparison between living and playing football in the City. Well, it is not; the reason is to publicize the recent action taken by the NSC (National Sports Council) and its Director to restrict our group, which consists of senior players and a majority of positive and promising young players, from using the MCC Grounds in the evening for approximately an hour and a half.

With the seemingly never ending violence in the City, especially amongst the youths, I would believe that the government and all its related entities would be in support of all positive recreational activities amongst youth, and would be looking for more avenues to keep our youths off the streets. With this most recent action, I cannot say I see the positive outcome from here. This letter is not our first attempt to get this situation resolved.  We were given good rationales also as to why we can no longer use the MCC Grounds; we just find them very hypocritical and unrealistic.

The premier rationale for them not wanting us to use the field was because we did not pay for the use of it, and the MCC Grounds has to be maintained, so we would be charged a fee. We negotiated and got a reduced fee and certain conditions, which we were not happy about, but we paid and complied. Now that option was removed, and they went straight to what they really wanted, and restricted us from using the field. Rationale is:  “PLB, U-17, U-15 and U-21 tournaments are all scheduled to use the facility in the next couple months.” Which means that the youths and residents are to find something else to do, or risk their lives going into other neighborhoods, instead of using their energies positively. But just a reminder, that MCC has always been used for recreational football simultaneously with these tournaments, and it has never negatively affected the schedule of these tournaments; but instead has positively impacted them, for some of the same youths who play in these said tournaments are a part of our group.

It was mentioned to us that the trampling of our recreational football in the evening for approximately two hours, leaves the field in not so suitable conditions to play on when match day arrives. I was looking very hard for a formula to calculate the damage made to a football field by footballers playing on it, compared to an Annual Soca Concert which hosts over 2,000 dancing and raving fans for over six hours (6 hrs). There have been promises of fixing a five-a-side pitch in the rear of the MCC Grounds for our group, which we would greatly appreciate; but we are all Belizeans, and we all know that “a promise is a comfort to a ****.” If these plans of the 5-a-side pitch is realistic and in the plans, why can’t we be left alone to continue using the MCC for the short time until the project is completed? Who evicts a tenant when they don’t have anywhere else to go?

P.S. The above mentioned concert is held at the Marion Jones National Sports Complex, where the concerts are hosted on the football field, which we are also not permitted to use. How is that not banned from there, but 15 to 25 footballers are?

(Amandala Sports Ed. Note: There are, of course, many sides to a story. But, while we concede, as reportedly the NSC has argued, that the MCC surface can indeed be compromised by small goals placed at certain locations repeatedly, there are sound arguments presented in the above letter that need to be considered. If the locations of the small goals are changed daily, that would avoid any one spot on the field having the grass worn out too much, as tends to happen in front of the main goals, which the Sports Council has invested some resources in addressing. The priority remains that our youths need safe places to play football; and, as the letter implies, the MCC is probably the safest place in Belize City for youths to come and play, rather than, “risk their lives going into other neighborhoods.” The letter raises the question of priorities for use of, and potential damage to, our football fields by – “Annual Soca Concert” with “2,000 dancing fans,” or “15 to 25 footballers”?  The letter writer, Ryan Simpson, is a former member of the Belize National Team.)

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