Politics — 17 July 2008 — by Charles X
It is now over five months since Belizeans elected, by landslide, a new government to “put things right,” after the most horrendous betrayal of a people’s trust occurred during the ten years of the Said Musa PUP administration.
But Belizean football players and fans countrywide have suffered during those same ten years under the most un-popular, un-transparent, and un-democratic (also dishonest, in the opinion of many) administration of FFB President Dr. Bertie Chimilio. And regardless of how the various PUP Sports Ministers tried to “put him right,” they were overridden by the “head honcho,” then Prime Minister Musa, who apparently thought it politically expedient to let Bertie go on “doing his thing”, to the detriment of the young footballers of Belize. Now that we know all that we know of former P.M. Musa, perhaps we couldn’t have expected better.
At the time of the biggest football crisis a few years back, some fans were saying that Bertie was a staunch UDP, and that’s why Said (P.M. Musa) was afraid to touch him. Perhaps that was true. Football is very close to “politics” sometimes. Nations have gone to war, sparked by a football game (Honduras/Salvador “football war” in 1969). And combatants have stopped warring to watch a football game (3-day truce in Biafran civil war in Nigeria in 1969, to see Pele play). And there were five UDP Ministers posing for pictures with Bertie at the Reliant Stadium in Houston after the Belize vs Mexico game on June 15.
Well, it’s been over a year now since our football ladies were “burned” by Dr. Chimilio with bogus checks after they won the FFB’s 2007 national female football competition. And it is one month today, since the Belize “home” game in Houston (50,000 plus fans in attendance), and some members, perhaps all, of the national team reportedly still have a check that they cannot cash. And there has been no financial report from the FFB. Where is the money?
It is now over “100 days”, and in fact it is over five months, since our new UDP administration took office; and, agreed, it is not an easy task they have. There are many lands yet to be “quitarred”, and the people’s birthright of oil to be secured. But there was no UDP manifesto promise to “deal with Bertie”. Does that mean he is a “sacred cow”?
The UDP silence on this continuing debacle in Belize football, and their prominent Ministerial presence alongside the most reviled “leader” in the history of Belizean football, could be cited as strong indicators that there may indeed be some truth to the rumors that un-popular, un-transparent, and un-accountable Bertie is “the UDP’s boy”. If that is so, it would not be very good for the image of the UDP and Prime Minister Barrow, whose battle cry has been “honesty, transparency and accountability”.
Football fans are “not happy”, and they are slowly getting disappointed, to put it mildly. Many were hoping that the new UDP government would be part of the solution to the “Bertie problem”, where the PUP government had failed them. But now it is beginning to look like footballers will have to fight their own battles some other way.
The problem for the UDP, though, is that if footballers perceive the past PUP’s impotence against Bertie was because of his support from the UDP, then that would mean that the UDP is part of the reason why Bertie has remained a problem so long for football in Belize. There is a whole lot of political capital to be lost for the UDP if such a perception came to be held by most in the football community. Football is big, and it seems that anything big and controversial in Belize inevitably becomes “politics”. If the UDP doesn’t do something quickly about “the Bertie problem”, then, as a political party, they may have to share much of the blame for the mess that Belizean football is in today. And trying to do the FFB’s job by having the Sports Council singlehandedly run the various youth football tournaments is dodging the problem, and severely shortchanging our Belizean youth. The FFB should be working in full partnership with the Sports Council, giving technical and financial support.
For all his exposed treachery, Said Musa still can claim some credit for supporting the step to semipro football in Belize back in 1991. But the sport has been stagnated and stressed under the dictatorial and un-enlightened grip of the present FFB president, who has violated the statutes and refused to conform to the Sports Act of Belize. It seems that, as a new government that has gone on record for “honesty, transparency and accountability”, the UDP administration, through the National Sports Council, has no choice but to call in all the “football heads” and deal with this matter once and for all. Anything less would be a betrayal of the football community and the children of Belize.