Paying attention to development of sports

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IN the Caribbean, sports play a unique role in the development of our human capital and I believe that we ought to direct more focus towards developing this sector.

I was sitting in my class for Caribbean Civilisation this past week, and as my tutor was discussing the development of cultural diversity in the Caribbean, she mentioned cricket in the Caribbean. As Caribbean people, whether we like cricket or not, it is irrefutable that cricket has an indelible role in our history and more so our post-colonial history. My tutor alluded to the glorious days of West Indies cricket when we beat our colonisers at their own game and clinched the first and second world cup titles. While nowadays we may not be in those glory days, I believe that cricket (and by extension, any sport) brings out this fervent sense of pride in each of us.

Just as the West Indies did then, any success or development in sports is one which we can find ourselves celebrating. Take the Guyana Amazon Warriors for example. Now, the Warriors are dubbed ‘the bridesmaids’ of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) because we made it to the finals four times, but we have never won. This year, however, we’ve been on an incredible winning streak and it makes us seem as though we might finally bring the title home. In fact, as I write this, the team has just clinched their eighth consecutive win for this season. What makes this even more remarkable, is that this eighth consecutive win means that the team has the record for the highest number of consecutive victories in the CPL. Now, the Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR) are arguably our strongest rivals in this tournament. For myself and the other Guyanese students here in Trinidad, whether we like cricket or not, we are going to ‘pump’ (as the Trinis say), because we have that sense of national pride embedded in us. On campus, after we beat the TKR last Monday, a Guyanese girl ran out on campus (yes, at 11pm) with her Golden Arrowhead– to pump!
Aside from cricket, when Usain Bolt earned the title of the world’s fastest man, we celebrated him as one of our own. And more recently in the athletics realm, we’ve celebrated Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce’s dominance as our own as well.

Sports provide us with more than just an avenue to celebrate talent, however. Perhaps more importantly, it provides some leeway for young people to develop. This semester alone two young Guyanese tennis players Heimraj Rasul and Priyanna Ramdhani were offered scholarships to study abroad, due to their prowess in the sport. Last year, golden girl Chantoba Bright from Linden copped a scholarship herself due to her prowess in sports as well.

Furthermore, as emphasised in an article published by the International Olympic Committee in 2009, sports have a myriad of functions. According to this article, sports can help to bridge cultural and ethnic divides; create jobs and businesses; promote tolerance and non-discrimination; reinforce social integration; and advocate healthy lifestyles. The Olympics provide a great illustration of these roles. There are scores of countries and hundreds of persons coming together in one space to try to represent their countries as best as they possibly can. And in a time when migration has become a very contentious conversation, even though it should appeal to basic humanitarian values, recall that there was even a delegation of refugees recently.

“Through sports development, we can achieve wider human development goals,” the article posited.

Cognisant of this, I think many countries, including Caribbean countries, have begun working towards developing this sector. In Jamaica and Barbados, there has been much emphasis on investing in infrastructure, programmes and sports persons for years now. At my orientation a few weeks ago, I learnt that even here in Trinidad at the University of the West Indies (UWI), a faculty dedicated specifically to sports has been developed.

I don’t believe we are at that stage of sports development in Guyana. Rather, it is my opinion that we are still in the stage of trying to promote sports in a more structured way. But, I hope that Guyana can start directing more attention to developing sports as a productive sector and an avenue for social development, because there are many benefits to be derived from this.