A couple hundred football fans turned out yesterday afternoon at the MCC Grounds in Belize City to witness the clash of City rivals, Belize Defence Force and F.C. Belize, but most were probably disappointed, and it had nothing to do with the failure of both teams to score. What marred the game was the fact that, despite the presence of many good players on both teams, it was more about “playing man” than ball for much of the afternoon. A number of yellow cards were shown by referee Wellington “Spooners” Hall; but some red cards would have been in order.
Football in Belize, as everywhere else, is a rough game sometimes; but football fans have watched games in La Liga and the English Premier League on T.V., and most have seen enough good football played in Belize before, to know that our game right now is on a wrong tack.
For starters, if this pattern is allowed to continue, by the time the season ends, our best players will be so battered and bruised, and possibly crippled, they won’t be much use to our national team when it is time for the nation to be represented in international play, which all the players acknowledge is why they are playing in the BPFL in the first place. This should be of concern to the administrators; but, on that score, this is the first semipro season without a sitting league Commissioner since the inception of the BPFL. The FFB “run” or is that “ruin” things.
F.C. owner/manager Lionel Welch, who is the league’s pro-tem chairman, confirmed that no cash prizes were received by last season’s BPFL winners (Super League champs received $25,000.00); but it is all about getting a chance to represent Belize in CONCACAF that the teams are battling for. And only the BPFL is affiliated to the FFB, which holds the key to international competition for Belize football. So, though the Super League executive and some team officials are adamant about boycotting the FFB and by extension its BPFL surrogate, they cannot, or perhaps they have not tried to place any restrictions on their players.
What has happened, as a result, is that many Super League players are now active in the BPFL, while the Super League is in its off season. Two of the new BPFL teams, Scorpions and Tafari, are reportedly comprised of mostly Super League players. Most players are not just eager to play, but they see a stint in the BPFL as a chance to qualify for possible international play. And, because the Super League is not recognized by the FFB, there can be no legal restriction against their players joining BPFL clubs.
According to reports, almost the whole of Super League champs and sub-champs, Valley Rennaisance and Texmar Boys, respectively, are presently active as members of different BPFL teams. For example, yesterday at the MCC, Valley’s playoff MVP Woodrow West was in goal for BDF, while his Valley teammate and Regular Season MVP Harrion Tasher faced him as a striker for F.C. Belize. Even Texmar’s Coach of the Year and former All Belize sweeper, the veteran Hilberto Muschamp is having some fun in the Super League off season, playing ball and even scoring a goal for the BPFL’s Scorpions. Reports are that his Texmar teammate Norman “Tilliman” Pipersburg is now with Hankook Verdes.
There should be a plus to the game in having the stars remain in action, even if it sounds like confusion in the leagues. After all, for the fans, it all comes down to the quality of ball being played. But unfortunately, in yesterday’s game the tackling intensity was so fierce, there was hardly any chance for cohesive play development; with players grabbing and elbowing and kicking from behind at every opportunity, the game had completely lost its style and glamour, and it was now all about war and survival. If players feel they are not being protected by the referee, then they will do what they can to protect themselves, which often means getting back at their opponent.
There were a number of very good players on both teams in yesterday’s game, and certainly also on a number of other teams in the present BPFL competition. But BDF and F.C. Belize are two of the top teams from last season; we should be seeing a better quality of play. In sports we should be learning about order and discipline. But, whether it is because of inadequate officiating, or just a trickle down effect of confusion at the top, football seems to be in a mess in Belize right now, and it is not only a reflection of our society, but also of the fractured nature of football administration – FFB, BPFL, Super League. There is no direction, no plan, “no sense” in what is going on. There are a lot of football games; and the players love to play. They must be having fun, those who escape serious injury. But many fans are dissatisfied. For your own sakes and ours, let’s play ball, guys; and leave the fistcuffs to “Packman”.