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Sports and sub-culture of crime in Belize

FeaturesSports and sub-culture of crime in Belize

Congratulations to our U21 Women Volleyball Team!

Monday, July 18, 2022
The murders and robberies continue, and so does the weeping and gnashing of teeth by the bereaved, who find little solace, as no one knows the answers or solutions to what seems to have become a way of life in some of our once peaceful and loving communities. Our authorities have tried many strategies, and have all acknowledged that no one approach can solve this multi-faceted and complex problem, which is not just a matter of bad individuals committing crimes, but what has apparently become a new culture or way of thinking among a certain sector of society. While it used to be accepted that “crime doesn’t pay”, the attitude of many in this sector is perhaps best portrayed in a song by the artist Dan Man, which says, “Wi tyad a ga not’n; we hafu get so’pm.” (We’re tired of having nothing; we have to get something.)

Despite our current economic hardships, traditional Belizeans still cling to the old values of honesty and respect for others, especially elders, but some others, primarily youths, may have slipped into this new sub-culture of disrespect for official authority and an inclination to commit unlawful acts, from burglaries and robberies to even murder, and a tendency to settle differences by extreme violence rather than through discussion/reasoning and compromise. The question has to be, why? Why do so many of our young people in this sector of society think this way?

Before we can even begin to try and answer this question, we have to acknowledge that we are not just talking about some individuals who are “giving trouble,” but it is a way of thinking among members of this sub-culture which provides cover, support, and endorsement of their actions, and emboldens these individuals to continue in their behavior pattern.

For example, at the Under-20 football championship final at the Marion Jones Sports Complex on Saturday afternoon, with his team down 4-1, one young man on the losing team, when the referee showed him a yellow card, aggressively approached and then physically attacked and punched the referee, all this on the field of play and in full view of the attending fans, as well as the association officials at the nearby official desk. By the time a uniformed police officer was able to reach the side of the referee, the young man had not only kicked the game ball high off the northern end of the field, but proceeded to calmly walk to where the ball had landed behind the goal post, picked it up, and then kicked it again further into the adjacent bushes at Marion Jones.

Why we say that this is not an individual problem, but a sub-culture situation, is because of what happened next. (It is to be presumed that the young man will be suspended from football for a while, as has been the tradition; but the season has ended, so who cares.) The young man, an apparent hero to his fans seated on the big cement bleachers to the west of the Marion Jones football field, then casually walked across the field, out of the enclosure, and across the cycling track, to be greeted by two finely dressed young ladies who appeared eager to engage him in conversation about his recent display of bravado. In decades past, when a certain notorious character “lost it” on the MCC and tore up the referee’s card before assaulting him, he then quickly took to running out the gate and away down Princess Margaret Drive to the security of his neighborhood hideout. But in 2022, the youthful offender was a hero being applauded and embraced by young beauties, while there were no voices of criticism or chastisement coming from the many young fans seated.

Everybody just minded their own business, or seemed amused about the goings on. One fan remarked that there was a fight just about every week during the recently completed competition. This is where we are in 2022. These are not isolated incidents. Regretfully, it is now a way of life for some, a sub-culture of Belize City.

The management of the losing U20 team at Saturday’s final at the Marion Jones reportedly has a good record with the Belize District Football Association (BDFA). Their U17 team had just won the championship earlier that morning in a tightly contested match that had a few questionable referee decisions. But that’s football, and the end was incident-free. Overall, their U20 team was not unruly either; but one team member, reportedly a recent recruit from another team, had his own “issues” and sub-culture background, and it all played out on Saturday.

According to our sources, indiscipline and disrespect for official authority are the main reasons why so few football players from Belize City, the most populous district, make it to the Belize National Male Team. Despite the abundance of talent in the old capital, there is a serious problem with a sub-culture that is self-defeating and effectively deprives many of our talented young men from realizing their true potential and enjoying the benefits and the opportunities that come with selection to the highest level of the sport.

A lot of time, effort and energy obviously went into the preparation of our young women who gave their all but came up just short in the Central American U21 Volleyball Tournament that ended on Saturday night with Guatemala, our arch-rival, winning the Gold over Belize, who had to settle for Silver. It was a painful, heartbreaking loss, after the Gold had seemed within our grasp with our 2-1 sets lead. But despite it all, our nation was a gracious host to all, including our Guatemalan adversaries, and our Belizean team displayed sportsmanship of the highest order. Our girls are very young, and it may be that experience was the deciding factor in crunch time. Our day will come. At the old Civic Center, Belize had hosted and won the CARICOM Men Basketball Championship back in 1998. Twice now in the new millennium we have hosted and taken Silver in Central American volleyball at the new Civic Center. And on all occasions, our Belizean culture of warmth, hospitality and sportsmanship has been paramount. Congratulations to the team members, coaching staff, management and the leadership of the Belize Volleyball Association!

It has often been suggested that we need more sports to keep our young people busy, and to teach them to be disciplined and have respect for authority. But from what we have observed over recent years in Belize City football, even when the CYDP (Conscious Youth Development Programme) had taken over the running of the Belize District 1st Division football competition, not much has been achieved in this area. There are medicines that when properly administered can help heal the sick, but improperly administered could be ineffective, and even make the problem worse. Sports of any sort is better than no sports; so, “let the children play”. But if we will endeavor to utilize sports as one of the vehicles to help curb the serious social/cultural problems plaguing our communities, then those sports must be properly administered, starting with the caliber of coaches instructing and influencing our youths, and not discounting the quality of officials, both administrative and on the field, to whom we are demanding that our young men and women give respect. If there is corruption and/or gross incompetence at the top—in coaches, administrators and/or game officials, the sport will have little positive impact on the sub-culture of indiscipline and tendency to lawlessness.

In the meantime, for those members of our Belizean society who value our traditional culture of respect, goodwill and hospitality towards others, it is important that we make use of every opportunity to gently but firmly advise our young folks who go astray that it is not nice, and that we know they can do better. All of us have a part to play in stemming this downward slide towards a destructive and unproductive sub-culture. If we ignore or applaud them when “dehn di do fool,” they will do it again, to their own and all our detriment. “Teach the youth!”

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