Sun | Nov 28, 2021

Paul Wright | Take responsibility, protect our children!

Published:Tuesday | December 24, 2019 | 12:00 AM

‘Tis the season of goodwill’ is the go-to theme of the last week of December every year. People are supposed to find something good to say about the topic of their choice as the year ends and a new chapter in their life begins.

The year 2019 was a time in sports that had the emotions of Jamaican and West Indian sport fans moving from euphoria to despair. Our sportsmen and sportswomen have, in total, made us all look on in awe at their athletic talent and their ability to perform under conditions that defy our collective ability to ensure their safety and well-being.

My original plan for a ‘Christmas column’ was to outline some of the changes and ideas to improve the financial viability of the sport that has consumed my participation in all aspects since I partnered with trainer Lee Clarke in owning my first racehorse, Dr Paul, many years ago. But, that plan changed when I read a letter to the editor in this newspaper on Saturday last, under the headline ‘Jamaica at large. A pimper’s paradise’.

I had read a muted report of a Jamaican teenager charged with shoplifting during a football tournament in Florida and kept a keen eye out for a fulsome report on what I thought/hoped was a case of a Jamaican “youth” inadvertently forgetting to pay for an item that he picked up in a store after celebrating a victory in a tournament. Instead, what appeared in the letter was a detailed outline of the build-up and ‘execution’ of the shaming of members of a team in a foreign country representing our fair isle!

The letter outlined a series of instances that can only be described as the anatomy of a tragedy.

It outlined:

(1) Lack of adult supervision, with teenagers allowed to stay up late on the day of a final.

(2) Begging any and everyone who they thought had cash or who could help.

(3) Exuberance, or ‘bhuttoism’, when money collected was supposed to be ‘shared’, in a plaza, of all places.

(4) Jamaican children forced to ‘hustle’ in order to get money to spend.

I have repeated the main incidents that gave the letter writer cause to expose the unacceptable behaviour of Jamaicans on show as ‘ambassadors’ of the best of our children at play to emphasise the severity of the complaint. So far, there has no explanation or retraction or apology of any of the so-called leaders, those responsible for selection, supervision, and welfare of teams representing Jamaica in international competition.

Is it the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), the Inter Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA), the Ministry of Sports, or the children themselves who entered the competition, arranged air fare and accommodation, financed uniforms and support staff etc.?

The penchant of administrators of sports in Jamaica for ‘trips’ and per diem seems to be the driving force behind allowing a group of children, of obvious talent to travel to an organised event in the USA with nary a care for the health and welfare of the players. The mantra of ‘win at all costs’ has now come back to bite the Jamaican authorities with a vengeance.

Call for investigation

The JFF and ISSA cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, claim ignorance and try to walk away from overall responsibility for this debacle outlined in the letter that appeared in the press last Saturday. There has to be a government-induced investigation into the week of shame outlined by the letter writer. The adults who accompanied the team to the 2019 CAS Youth Classic should be named and made to account for their lack of supervision and proper mentorship of Jamaican child ‘ambassadors’ on show in a foreign country.

If these adults are not named and forced to explain their lack of action, there is a very good chance that these same unnamed (so far) adults could be allowed to continue to accompany and ‘supervise’ children (or adults) representing us, Jamaicans, who are now faced with a growing reputation of crudity, indiscipline and begging when on tour. We can do better. We must do better. But we can only do better when we identify those responsible and sanction/remove them from positions of power in the responsible organisations.

Merry Christmas everyone!