The core of the Kremandala Raiders consisted of four young men who had grown up from boyhood folding newspapers at Amandala Press on Partridge Street. These were Maurice Williams, Willie Gordon, Evan Garnett, and Raymond Gongora. The fifth Raider starter in the inaugural semi-pro basketball season of 1992, Travis Santos, had grown up just a couple blocks away from Partridge Street. Garnett and Santos were high school graduates. Gongora had to drop out of Wesley College because of financial problems. Williams and Gordon were primary school dropouts. Raiders were very popular in the streets, because, for a while, they were like a “rags to riches” story.

The PUDP have been responsible for a lot of bull s—t anti-Raider propaganda over the last two decades. The fact of the matter is that the lifeblood of professional sports, worldwide, is rivalries. In the National Basketball Association (NBA), the Boston Celtics hate the Los Angeles Lakers, and vice versa. The New York Knickerbockers and the Philadelphia 76ers hate the Celtics, and vice versa. In the National Football League (NFL), the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins hate the New York Giants, and the Giants hate both of them. The Cowboys and the Redskins hate each other. The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens despise each other. Does Real Madrid feel cariño for Barcelona? Foolish question. Rivalries are the lifeblood of professional sports.

You have to have a modern facility in order to make money in professional sports. Fans go to games for the outing experience, the crazy camaraderie, the electronic scoreboards and flashing lights, and so on and so forth. The game itself is secondary for many paying fans.

After the first season of semi-pro basketball in Belize, Ralph Fonseca and David Courtenay ruined the only passable basketball facility in the population capital. But both Fonseca and Courtenay had heavy, heavy Roman/Anglican PUDP protection, so the political propaganda organs of Belize have blamed the victims - the Raiders, for the demise of semi-pro because, one of the things they say, the Raiders won too much. Bull s—t. Semi-pro failed because Fonseca and Courtenay ruined the Civic, turned it into an oven, and the PUDP never got around to repairing the damage.

The Raiders were the only team that drew consistent crowds after the facility was ruined, because we had a whole radio station to promote our games. The PUDP was focused on crushing KREM Radio, and you can say that the Raiders, in a sense, helped to save KREM.

We’re talking business here, money and jobs. Santino was bailing out on his Hotpoints late in the 1994 season because the Hotpoints were losing money, like everybody else except the Raiders.

What happened to semi-pro basketball angers us because that was classic PUDP. After the 1995 season, and two years of attacks in the newspaper owned by the ruling UDP, the Raiders withdrew from the semi-pro league, but the defending champions had to come back so that there could be a 1996 season. Ask John Saldivar. He was there in meetings at the old Ramada representing Prime Minister Esquivel and openly disrespecting the Raiders’ ownership.

Semi-pro was played in 1997 without semi-pro basketball’s biggest draw – the fri—ing Raiders. 1998, there was no season. That was the year the UDP spent three quarters of a million dollars importing a new basketball court, hiring an American coach, and flying in Belizean American players to make sure Belize won the CARICOM tournament. This was part of the UDP’s futile campaign for the 1998 general elections. Belizeans were not fooled. Bottom line - the oven facility was not refurbished. Belizeans voted out the UDP.

Semi-pro was revived in 1999 under the PUP. The season was exciting, but the 1998 CARICOM experiment had ruined budgetary controls. Highly skilled and popular Belizean Americans had helped to win the CARICOM tournament, so now Belize semi-pro had to throw open the doors for them. The Belizean Americans were too expensive, and the Civic remained an oven. From the time Fonseca and Courtenay ruined the facility in 1993, nothing was done to reconstruct the auditorium. UDP, PUP – the oven remains the oven.

Now, the Civic is a write-off. Semi-pro baskeball is dead, for years. Lynn Young blames the Raiders. Listen, Jack, all you have to do is build a modern, air-conditioned facility, and semi-pro basketball in Belize will rise from the dead faster than you can say Lazarus.

Power to the people.

Amandala Editorial