BELIZE CITY, Fri. Sept. 25, 2020– The disturbing news out of the U.S. of the plight of former NBA player Delonte West, now 37 years old and apparently destitute on the streets of Dallas, touched a nerve for me back home in Belize, where I have happened to feel close-up and personal the tremendous emotional pain, aside from the physical pangs of discomfort from lack of basic life necessities, that some of our own unfortunate citizens have had to endure. I have seen the amazing acts of love and kindness from Belizeans from all walks of life, who from time to time have stepped up, on learning of their dire situation, to lend a helping hand. But the problem was, is, that everybody has their own troubles to deal with, sometimes a different trouble every day; and trying to carry a brother’s burden can become overwhelming at times, so that their feelings of desperation keep coming back. Delonte must have gone through a lot, to be where he is at right now.
The way our Belize Social Security system is set up, one has to have made a minimum of, I think, fifty weekly contributions to qualify for any kind of assistance, or to be put on the pension program after passing retirement age. What about brothers who were “outside” the system, and don’t qualify? What about those who become disabled before reaching retirement age?
If there is one thing an athlete achieves on becoming, through hard work and natural talent, a big star in a particular sport, is a sense of worth and dignity as a human being, which they may not have been certain of in their anonymity before achieving “fame and glory.” From a jobless youngster with energy, drive and God given talent, a young athlete living at home with a single parent, can suddenly find himself as the center of attention on a nationally famous team; even being taken to another district, placed in a hotel room with meals provided, along with a weekly salary, and all the trappings of female attention that comes with becoming a big star.
But, like Percy Sledge sings, “It’s not the fall…. It’s the sudden stop!” With the fledgling nature of professional sports in Belize, there is no “nest egg” to carry over into business investments when one’s career in sports is over; and if a youth did not achieve some adequate level of education to make him otherwise employable, he could face some harsh realities when “age catches up,” and all he has are the memories of a glorious past. Fans may still give a “high five” or pat a once famous star on the back at the MCC; but neither the PLB nor the FFB has anything in place for those retired brothers who fall on hard times, and are left with only memories of past greatness. We can revel in them, but we can’t eat memories; and that is where the plight of the more unfortunate ones should become a concern for all of us who call ourselves Christians, or at least understand the meaning of the words, “For whom the bell tolls.”
What some of us need to understand, is that the most painful thing for a man with pride and dignity, is to have to beg another for help. It is like an admission of weakness or vulnerability, something a champion warrior NEVER allows to enter the mind of a potential adversary; and even asking a friend is sometimes difficult.
Recently, in these sports pages we have highlighted the plight of Rudolph “Peru” Olivera, who starred in Belize for teams like Queens Park Rangers, Diamond-A, J&E, Jaguars and White Label back in the 1970s.
What I’m trying to say right now is that, despite words of comfort from various quarters, as of today, Monday, September 28, there are still a number of spaces open on the proposed 20-member support team for Peru. For more information, contact me at [email protected] or call 607-8616.
UPDATE: Although we had indicated in the article “Update on Peru…” in last Friday’s edition that a “small group”… had “joined together to form” the “Peru Olivera Support Team – P.O.S.T.”, in actual fact, as of today, Monday, September 28, there remain more than half the roster spaces still open on the proposed 20-member support team for Peru. Until the complete roster is filled, “Anybody can join.” For more information, contact me at [email protected] or call 607-8616.