The government should become involved in football just as it has in cricket

Dear Editor,

I would like to commend the Government of Guyana for their bold initiative to become actively involved in the affairs of cricket by forming the Interim Management Committee. It would also be most welcome if a similar approach could be taken to save the beautiful game of football (soccer) in this country. Many will argue that Guyana would be banned due to this stance. Whilst few are happy and silently support the government’s involvement in cricket, at the same time they are not happy with the present management of football, but for them government’s involvement is a no-no. If the government has seen it fit to save one group then it’s time to save all for the good of the game.

If cricket has to be banned for the good of the game, what is so special about football that it must be spared from ‘operation cleanup‘? Being banned by these parent bodies is not permanent and gives us the opportunity to have questionable issues resolved and regularized. It could be a blessing in disguise. We must learn to think outside the box. We always have a passive outlook on life which is why we remain so static. Belize and many other countries went down this path, were banned but achieved the desired objective of weeding out entrenched corruption and then stepped aside to bring about normalcy; thereafter, the bans were lifted.

The government has a civic and constitutional duty to safeguard its citizens from the autocratic, excessive, exploitative and arbitrary actions of elected officials who because of maladministration and corruption have brought these sports into disrepute. Those who seek to cast aspersions on the government are myopic and too simplistic in their thinking. Why are we afraid to test the football waters? Everybody wants success but nobody wants to make sacrifices.

It is time to throw our full support behind the government in these matches. People must put aside partisan politics by being rational, objective and nationalistic when taking a position in the interest of the nation‘s good. Persons who choose otherwise unwittingly play right into the hands of these individuals by indirectly supporting their self-serving and corrupt agendas. The government’s intervention can have the desired effect in the reverse since it can act as a catalyst in forcing both the ICC and FIFA to become aware of our mess and become more integrally involved in bringing about better governance. We are demanding a forensic investigation because there are major violations of the established conventions. Is this not a good thing?

It is true that the statutes of both the ICC and FIFA prohibit the interference of government from involvement in matters pertaining to their affiliate members. This rule which permits these institutions to become a law unto themselves, allows them to act with impunity and preserve the status quo. This has led to an abuse of office, entrenched bureaucracy and authoritarianism. It is preposterous for these autocratic institutions to expect the government and the courts which are the ultimate defenders of the people to be mere puppets and ‘toothless’ when the fundamental rights of citizens are trampled upon. It appears that government‘s role must be limited to providing facilities and financing. Recently, the technical director of the GFF, Mr Jamal Shabbaz, lamented the unavailability of grounds to prepare his players, but has he ever questioned his employers about why the training facilities under the FIFA Goal project have not materialized, even though in excess of US$400,000 was received by the GFF over ten years? The Suriname Football Federation have already built three of these facilities under the Goal project.  Everyone is silent in the face of these irregularities. Well, I am calling on the government to investigate.

Many noble and dedicated persons have been ostracized and forced out of sports administration by powerful cliques, including yours truly by the GFF from football. I would like to commend Mr Clive Lloyd for his unselfish stance of “putting his money where his mouth is,” and by putting country first and foremost. The ‘Supercat’ has given up prestige, privileges and lucrative benefits for what is morally right and for little gain. He has also demonstrated his preparedness to face the consequence of being banned because of his defiance of ICC statues. This display of statesmanship and integrity is an embodiment of a man who possesses great moral fortitude, dignity, backbone and stamina; rare components in any man. I do hope that his actions inspire others to stand up for righteousness. On the flip side others who occupy high office will encourage us to toe the line because of their self-interest in protecting their turf, perks and privileges.

I would like to take a swipe at the footballers, especially those who continue to sit on the fence and who have remained silent in the face of the slackness that has engulfed the football fraternity. They are prepared to be ball-kickers and choose not to be mindful or being knowledgeable about GFF operations and let their voices be heard when mismanagement, misappropriation and the like are observed. The are unconcerned about the $50M annual subvention received from FIFA since 1998 and other benefits for which they are the intended beneficiaries, and how it is spent and disbursed. This lackadaisical attitude will haunt them in times to come, since they will not be able to show anything tangible for all the time they have dedicated to football.

Our progress in football has been very slothful. Just compare ourselves with our neighbour, Venezuela, which was once the whipping boys of South America including us (we beat them 12-0 in the late ’80s). Yet the Venezuelans have become one of the leading teams in their confederation. The GFF should arrange a friendly match against them as a reality check. Then again, how can they expect our boys to perform at the optimum level when they haphazardly put together a team two weeks before an international engagement? If it’s a money issue; corporate sponsors would only fully support when they are satisfied that there is accountability and transparency which are the hallmark of good governance. I am not too optimistic at our chances of qualifying for World Cup 2014. I guess it’s enough excitement to boast that “we also played.” Maybe I am wrong, but time will tell.

Yours faithfully,
Richard Martin D Prince

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