BELIZE CITY, Tues. June 15, 2021– Just last week Thursday, the Corozal Football Association, the Corozal Town Council and the Corozal branch of the National Sports Council signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the support of football development in that northern municipality. The signing ceremony involved Corozal Town Mayor, Rigoberto Vellos, Chairman of the Corozal Football Academy, Jose Mai, and the General Secretary of the Corozal Football Association, Martin Vasquez.
Today, it was a much bigger and brighter milestone, as it was a zoom ceremony featuring the historic signing of an MOU between the national bodies – the Football Federation of Belize (FFB) and the National Sports Council (NSC) – that for the first time put some major commitments on paper for the long term development of football, including infrastructure development, across the country. Signing today’s MOU were FFB President, Sergio Chuc; NSC Director, Ian Cal; and NSC Chairman, Linsford Castillo. Also in attendance to witness the signing ceremony held at the FFB headquarters in Belmopan were: CEO in the Ministry of Youth & Sports, Jose Urbina; General Secretary of FFB, Earl Jones; Director of Competitions for FFB, Rafael Avila; NSC Deputy Director, Marvin Ottley; and NSC National Sports Coordinator, Kaya Cattouse.
Indeed, the long term vision of the 3-page MOU document – “this MOU shall end on January 30, 2050” – indicates that they are serious in this endeavor, regardless to the mandate of subsequent political administrations. Of course, there is the caveat, “This MOU… will remain in effect until modified or terminated by any one of the partners by mutual consent.”
The main purpose of the MOU is to “to improve the sport of football throughout the country of Belize” which “can have a positive impact on development goals including improving health, education and community cohesion;” and it is hoped this will be accomplished by taking the steps described in the MOU, some of which are listed below:
“To create opportunities… for NSC Coordinators, volunteers, coaches and referees… to undergo training to improve their skills/knowledge of football…
“Develop a cadre of skilled and trained personnel to develop the sport of football.
“Develop a plan for collective input… and priorities to identify sporting facilities the FFB can assist in developing.
“FFB and NSC will work closely in identifying sporting facilities around the country that are in need of improvement…
“Create opportunities for community and grassroots football programs.
“NSC shall give priority and waiver to the cost for the use of its fields for FFB sponsored Youth and Female Tournament/Competitions.
“NSC shall donate all trophies, medals and individual awards… for regional and national Youth and Female competitions. This includes the U15 Male, U17 Male, U15 Female, U17 Female, U20 Female and the National Amateur Women League (NAWL)…
“NSC will provide work spaces to house six (6) FFB regional offices (two personnel per regional office). The operational cost for these two personnel will be covered by FFB. Regional offices to be located in: Belize City, Dangriga Town, Orange Walk Town, Corozal Town, Punta Gorda Town, and San Ignacio Town….”
And the one that really caught our attention, and is certainly the most potentially impactful:
“For the improvement of any sporting facility undertaken the FFB and NSC will enter a lease agreement for a minimum of 20 years for the use of the facility.”
There is a cautionary note, considering the current financial situation in the country:
“This MOU is not a commitment of funds.
“These Partnerships can create efficiencies and reduce operational costs of resources (which) can be shared.
“These Partnerships can ensure that opportunities to apply for funding across a range of agencies aren’t missed.”
For over half a century, the development of football infrastructure in Belize has been limited because of the major costs involved and the reluctance of past governments to agree to any lease arrangement with the local football body, which was a necessary condition before FIFA funds could be allocated for stadium construction/improvements. With the focus on infrastructure development over the past few years of the previous government administration, a few towns and the capital city Belmopan saw modern football stadiums built, but a number of others remain neglected, including the former metropolis of the game in Belize, the MCC Grounds, as well as historic and now dilapidated stadiums in Orange Walk and Corozal. Hopefully, now that this MOU has been signed, Belize City football fans can begin to renew their hopes and dreams for a return to prime time football in the old capital, and the same with the northern districts.
It is indeed a bold step that the current administration has committed to make in entering a lease agreement with the FFB. It is a step that the football community has long been crying for, but previous administrations have been reluctant to make. If this works, and it is up to all stakeholders to ensure that it does, it should be a big win for Belize/football and a feather in the cap of those who made it happen.