Political football?

The recent success of the Golden Jaguars football team in the ongoing 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign completely disguises the fact that local football is in a state of utter lawlessness even as the acting president is attending a FIFA meeting in Zurich.

The  president and general secretary of the Guyana Football Federation  (GFF) Colin Klass and Noel Adonis have been banned by FIFA for 26 months  and 30 days  respectively and the Georgetown Football Association (GFA) and the GFF are locked in a court matter over voting rights for the former.

Additionally, the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the GFF has not been held and there is no indication if or when it will be held.

Of concern too is the fact that teams playing under the GFA umbrella have been left in the cold, not invited to participate in the annual Kashif and Shanghai football tournament.

This has led to the defending champions Alpha United being unable to defend the crown they won on New Year’s Day this year.

The GFA has responded by staging its own tournament and although its  $300,000 first prize pales in comparison with the one pound of gold first prize for the Kashif and Shanghai winners (valued at four million dollars),  that tournament has been the winner so far where crowd response is concerned.

But the battle has not yet been won as the final for both tournaments will be held on January 1 next year placing football fans in somewhat of a dilemma.

Following the  Golden Jaguars  2-1 win over 2006  World Cup finalists Trinidad and Tobago at the Providence National Stadium in  the first game of the two match series of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, a number of persons closely aligned with the political stratosphere in Guyana were seen in photographs that depicted the team celebrating.

At first one thought that it was the usual act of  jumping on the bandwagon by those who seek every opportunity to make the most of cheap publicity especially since General Elections were just around the corner.

Little did one know then that that cursory introduction by the political figures into the sport of football was to spell an unwanted and it seems now, permanent presence.

It is debatable when political intervention into the sport first occurred but recently there has been a flurry of activity between the footballers and the politicians.

It all started with a call by one of the political parties that participated in the November 28 General Elections for its supporters to boycott the annual Kashif and Shanghai football tournament.

The reason for the call was that one of the Co-Directors of the K&S Organisation chose to wear his political preference, not on his sleeve, but on his body and the evidence was duly placed in the public domain for all to see on no less a social medium than the popular Facebook .

Apparently, the boycott call is being heeded as the K&S tournament has not been pulling in the types of crowds it has attracted over the years.

This development has been of some concern for the organizers and apparently   led to several  meetings with the Minister of Sport Dr. Frank  Anthony and representatives of the GFA, the GFF and the K&S Organisation  to rectify the situation especially since the government has given financial support to this year’s  tournament with no less a person than the Prime Minister donating the third place prize.

Now hot on the heels of all that has gone before comes the decision by the Guyana Defence Force (GDF)  top brass to pull its football team out of the GFA football competition.

The GFA team was scheduled to play its opening game of the Banks Beer Cup Sunday night but officials of the GFA were thrown for a loop when it was announced that the GDF team was pulling out of the competition.

The GDF team has not given a reason for its decision which has led to lots of speculation.

A brief  letter written by Lieutenant Colonel Nazrul Hussain  of the GDF to  Lieutenant Commander  Vernon Burnette, also of the GDF, and president of the GFA,  started off by  presenting compliments from  the Chief-of-Staff to the GFA before informing the GFA that  the GDF Football Club “will not be participating in this competition.”

The letter also advised the GFA  that in future all of its correspondence in relation to the GDF football club must be addressed to the Chief-of-Staff of the GDF.

Three  things can be deduced here.

One is that Burnette’s  position  in the GDF and his post as president of the GFA  represents  a conflict of interest  hence the decsioon by the Chief-of-Staff himself to get involved.

The second is that the decision to withdraw the GDF team from the GFA competition   smacks of political intervention probably from someone  in the upper echelons of the government.

The third is that the footballers from the GDF club because of the lucrative prize money on offer  for the K&S tournament wanted an opportunity to play in that tournament ahead of the GFA tournament.

This latter decision makes sense since the GDF  players have indicated that they are going to play for other clubs in the K & S tournament.

The International Cricket Council (ICC)  has  made in mandatory for member boards not to have political interference in the affairs of cricket and has given its affiliates up until 2012 to get their houses in order.

FIFA frowns upon court action in matters relating to football disputes and also upon political interference especially when a government is attempting to take control of its country’s governing body. According to FIFA’s Director of Member Associations and Development Thierry Regenass, “ FIFA has the mandate to control association football worldwide, in all its aspects.

“This mandate is delegated to the national association, to control association football at the national level.”

He added:”This is about managing, controlling and developing football as a game and also the organisation of the game in general. The associations have the obligation to do it on their own, in an autonomous way without outside interference, from the government or any other parties. In general, political interference is when a government tries to take direct control.”

This might not be the case at present but it does seem as if there is some political interference afoot that is not altogether  a healthy sign.

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