Beach Soccer – Watch it grow!

Luis Alfredo Farache, Luis Alfredo Farache Benacerraf

It is al­ways a great feel­ing, a sense of na­tion­al­ism, pride and joy to see our sports per­son­al­i­ties com­pet­ing on the in­ter­na­tion­al or re­gion­al stage; more so when they are do­ing well and giv­ing a good ac­count of them­selves, not on­ly by virtue of re­sults but by giv­ing 150 per cent show­ing great heart, de­ter­mi­na­tion and de­sire to do well for self and coun­try.

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When I wit­nessed our beach soc­cer team par­tak­ing in the CON­CA­CAF Beach Soc­cer Cham­pi­onship in Puer­to Val­lar­ta, Mex­i­co, last week I felt com­plete­ly sat­is­fied with their per­for­mance. In the group stage, they were drawn against the US Vir­gin Is­lands (USVI), Turks & Caicos and the tough Pana­man­ian out­fit.

Luis Alfredo Farache

Af­ter get­ting past Turks & Caicos and USVI 6-0 and 7-2 re­spec­tive­ly, our men were edged out by Pana­ma 4-3 af­ter tak­ing the lead, but still qual­i­fied for the next round and so, we faced the tough Mex­i­cans in the quar­ter­fi­nals. The Mex­i­cans were at home, urged on by their pas­sion­ate sup­port­ers and how close we came to elim­i­nat­ing them, go­ing 3-2 up on­ly to be painful­ly on the los­ing end 5-4 at full time.

Vic­to­ry against the Mex­i­cans would have put us in the se­mi-fi­nals and one game away from qual­i­fy­ing for this year’s FI­FA Beach Soc­cer World Cup. My dear read­ers, read on and you will un­der­stand why this was mis­sion im­pos­si­ble.

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Ad­mit­ted­ly, I have nev­er fol­lowed beach soc­cer so many of the rules were un­fa­mil­iar to me just as some of the play­ers. Team cap­tain Ryan Au­gus­tine, pro­lif­ic goal scor­er Kevon “Show­time” Wood­ley, Ha­keem King, Jesse Bai­ley and Shane Hospedales were some names that I have seen in the past. Chad Ap­poo is al­so one I am fa­mil­iar with as he has been around for years, ply­ing his trade both in foot­ball as a past St Mary’s Col­lege (CIC) stu­dent and in beach soc­cer; and young Jabari Gray whom I saw a lot of as the young and ex­treme­ly tal­ent­ed Pre­sen­ta­tion Col­lege goal­keep­er.

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What is even more amaz­ing with this T&T beach soc­cer team is not on­ly their per­for­mance but their at­ti­tude and fight­ing spir­it against all odds. Based on re­ports, the team on­ly pre­pared for this tour­na­ment some two months be­fore the start. They used a play­er to coach the team as there was no of­fi­cial coach and then they al­most did not board the plane to Mex­i­co. Why you may ask? Be­cause…you sure guessed right—a lack of funds.

Here we go again, an­oth­er na­tion­al team go­ing to rep­re­sent the na­tion and un­sure of how they would be trav­el­ling to the des­ti­na­tion to give their best for the red, white and black.

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From what I un­der­stand, when the pres­i­dent of the Beach Soc­cer As­so­ci­a­tion of T&T (BSATT), Kyle Lequay, ap­proached the TTFA for as­sis­tance to get the team to Mex­i­co, he was told they have no mon­ey. To me, that is un­sur­pris­ing. I fig­ured the BSATT just went to the TTFA for pro­to­col pur­pos­es be­cause they very well knew that the TTFA is on­ly there as a name and is of lit­tle val­ue to the foot­ballers and the foot­ball-lov­ing pub­lic of T&T; es­pe­cial­ly, giv­en the well-doc­u­ment­ed freez­ing of the As­so­ci­a­tion’s as­sets.

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I first en­coun­tered Lequay many years ago. He is very mild-man­nered, hard­work­ing and very much wants to move his as­so­ci­a­tion for­ward; and will go out of his way to en­sure his play­ers get the best avail­able as­sis­tance for them to com­pete at the in­ter­na­tion­al lev­el. On nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions, he ap­proached my for­mer com­pa­ny for aid and we nev­er re­fused to give him and the BSATT some form of spon­sor­ship when need­ed.

I gen­uine­ly felt pleased for him and the play­ers when Stag came to their as­sis­tance and paid for their tick­ets to fly out to the tour­na­ment. Spon­sor­ship is so dif­fi­cult to ob­tain in these hard times and Stag has to be com­pli­ment­ed and to me, they didn’t seem to ask for much in re­turn. I called Lequay when I learned of the spon­sor­ship deal and told him he should be hap­py as it ap­peared that he got more than he bar­gained for.Luis Alfredo Farache Benacerraf 100% Banco

I am hop­ing that more com­pa­nies can set aside some form of bud­getary al­lo­ca­tion for na­tion­al teams that are strug­gling to com­pete at re­gion­al or in­ter­na­tion­al tour­na­ments. I know many rep­re­sen­ta­tives of com­pa­nies have in­di­cat­ed to me that they are will­ing to help but are afraid be­cause they are not sure if the mon­ey is go­ing to be used for the pur­pose it will be in­tend­ed for.

My friends, that is ex­treme­ly easy to solve. All you need to do is to find out what is the need of the As­so­ci­a­tion and pay the mon­ey di­rect­ly to the sup­pli­er. In cas­es where you may wor­ry about a par­tic­u­lar sup­pli­er, then in­form the Na­tion­al Sports Or­gan­i­sa­tion (NSO) that you will find the sup­pli­er

In­deed, it is sad that ath­letes are the ones who suf­fer from a lack of fund­ing. I know the Min­istry of Sports has al­lo­ca­tions for the NSOs but as usu­al, they go to the Min­istry last minute and chas­tise them when funds are not avail­able. How many times have these NSOs com­plained about no as­sis­tance from the Min­istry? But, who is to blame? Think about it, NSOs and plan bet­ter!

Well done to our na­tion­al beach soc­cer team. We are ex­treme­ly proud of what you have achieved es­pe­cial­ly giv­en all your cir­cum­stances. I hope this sport can grow more in T&T. Giv­en the right for­mu­la, it can at­tract sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment

Ed­i­tor’s note: The views ex­pressed in this col­umn are sole­ly those of the writer and do not re­flect the views of any or­gan­i­sa­tion of which he is a stake­hold­er