By Wellington C. Ramos,
Former national football player.
In all the years that I played football in my country of Belize and here in the United States, I have never seen a set of people who are dysfunctional like some of the officers who have managed the Belize Football League and are aspiring to run for office. What hurts me the most is that some of these individuals never played football and if they played they were not stellar football players like the organization they are seeking to manage.
When I was growing up in Dangriga Town in the 1960s, the men who played football loved the sport, were dedicated, made many sacrifices to give it their all without being paid a penny and played quality football. This was not only in Dangriga but throughout the entire country of Belize.
In all of our cities and towns, the residents looked forward to taking their families to a Sunday evening football game to watch their teams play. When the games were finished, the fans would boast about their team’s performances for the whole week and look forward to the next week set of games. Amateur football dominated Belize up until the late 1980s when we started to explore the possibilities of introducing professional football into our country.
Many players thought that the introduction of professional football would lead to improvement of services, improving the quality of football and would give the players an opportunity to be paid for their services. Instead, what we have witnessed over the years is people being paid while the quality of football that they are playing continues to get worse.
I have been watching the football games that is being played by the Belize National Team over the years and I can tell you that we played better football than those individuals when we were attending primary school in the 1960s and 70s.This is despite the fact that we had less funding, no coaches, no adequate facilities, no sponsors and little resources.
There were times when we could not even afford to buy a football and had to get a plastic bag put some papers in it or wait for Christmas to end and use the dollyheads the girls would throw away to use as our football. We as former football players also had pride in what we did. We always gave the games our 100 percent whether we won or lost and that was our mindset.
Today, some of these players are more concerned about how much money they are going to be paid and if they are going to be paid by the owners of their teams before and while they are playing. Belize has been through the qualifications process for the World Cup for several years now but with little success. When they lose they promise us that the next time it is going to be different. Yet, while we continue to wait for a different result, we keep getting the same results.
It is now time for all Belizeans old and young to come together to have a discussion on how to address this major problem.
I became a football player through my community in Dangriga called “Logan Field”, which was in front of my home. From there I went to Sacred Heart School and represented my school in the Stann Creek Primary School Competition that was founded by Carl Ramos. He used to go around with an exercise book and collect money from businesses to buy the trophy. Plus, you would see him lining the field and putting up the goalpost nets by himself and announcing the games on the blackboard in front of the Police Station by BTL. He was a one man committee. This is why the Dangriga Football Stadium was named after him and he is deserving of that recognition if you ask any Dangriganan like myself.
There were hundreds of football players in Dangriga and throughout Belize, whose football development was similar to mine. Teen football, primary, high school, college, inter-district, football clubs and professional competitions must be an integral part of the Belize Football Development Program. Why? Because it has proven by the type of players that were playing up until the early 1980s that it worked.
The Belize Football Hall of Fame must be established and begin to recognize all the outstanding football players for their contributions to this sport. Young people can always learn from older people because they possess vast amount of experience to share.
We in the United States are planning to recognize some players, coaches, referees, sponsors, league officials, football commentators and other individuals, into our Belizean American Football Hall of Fame this year. All those individuals who contributed to this sport significantly over the years will be inducted on September 10 this year in Brooklyn New York.
Our people have died, continue to die without any recognition coming from the Belize ministry of sports, the National Sport Council, the Belize Football Leagues or any entity in Belize, except the Amandala newspaper that continues to post old clippings of some of our Belizean legends and some games that were played in the past.
We cannot afford to wait and will not wait on the Belize Football Hall of Fame to recognize and induct our legends no more because they have taken too long. Waiting in vain is not on option because it is like waiting to see Belize in the World Cup with no constructive plans in place.
We must all ask ourselves what we want to accomplish by getting involved in football. Do we want to win or do we want to lose? If we want to win with no constructive plan in place it is not going to happen. All the former football players and diehard fans are angry and frustrated with the Belize Football Leagues and the quality of football that is being played by our country over the years. In other countries they would fire the league officials and continue to do something until their national team started winning. This league fighting in Belize is a warning of worse that is yet to come. I still have this lingering hope that things can get much better but we must act swiftly now.
We in the United States will be monitoring this league conflict closely to see what will be the end result. From what the news is reporting, it appears as if the district branches are unhappy with the national executive branch. If they begin to lose total confidence in them, then they will be so fragmented that they will fail in their objectives. I personally have lost that confidence in them many years ago and it will take a lot for my confidence to be regained.Caribbean News Now