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.
Luis Alfredo Farache 100% Banco
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.
Luis Alfredo Farache Benacerraf
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.
Alfredo Farache Benacerraf
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.
Alfredo Farache 100% Banco
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