Tue | Apr 13, 2021

Our footballers are suffering! - Premier League players, official plead for return of local football

Published:Friday | February 26, 2021 | 12:16 AMDaniel Wheeler/Staff Reporter
Waterhouse FC players Shawn Lawes (left) and Cardel Benbow (right) console teammate Kemar Beckford after his penalty shootout miss against Portmore United in the Jamaica Premier League final at the National Stadium on April 23, 2018.
Waterhouse FC players Shawn Lawes (left) and Cardel Benbow (right) console teammate Kemar Beckford after his penalty shootout miss against Portmore United in the Jamaica Premier League final at the National Stadium on April 23, 2018.
Christie
Christie
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Emasculated. That was one of the words that a Dunbeholden player used to describe his dire financial situation to club manager Paul Christie as the hiatus of local top-flight football continues to have a crippling effect on the sport’s interests...

Emasculated.

That was one of the words that a Dunbeholden player used to describe his dire financial situation to club manager Paul Christie as the hiatus of local top-flight football continues to have a crippling effect on the sport’s interests at all levels.

Nearly a year has passed since the coronavirus pandemic forced the suspension and eventual cancellation of the 2019-20 National Premier League season, and its planned return has been delayed twice because COVID-19 protocols could not be agreed to. The Government, on February 5, mandated the return of sports on a case-by-case basis, and a proposal by Professional Football Jamaica Limited (PFJL) is currently being considered.

As officials and technocrats continue their dialogue around the league’s return, a grim picture is being painted by Christie and other Premier League insiders as to the challenges being experienced by players, many of whom have lost their only source of income and are on the brink of losing so much more.

AWAITING A PROPOSAL

“Everything that he (Dunbeholden player) has worked so hard for has been taken away from him. He is losing his house; he is losing his car. They are looking to me for answers. I can normally provide answers for them, but I don’t know how to deal with this,” Christie told The Gleaner.

Minister of Sport, Olivia Grange, told our Sports Desk that all relevant parties are still in discussion and that the urgency of the situation is well appreciated.

“Ongoing discussions are taking place between Minister Desmond McKenzie and I, as well as the Director of Sport at the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport and the Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM). We are aware of the urgency. We are awaiting a proposal from the PFJL re a restructured format for the competition in light of the spike in COVID-19 cases. Minister McKenzie has indicated that the approval for training is not an issue, and we await the application with a restructured format for the competition,” said Grange.

So the wait for football’s return continues, and for Christie’s player and many others the pain and suffering will also go on.

Christie said that the player detailed his extreme situation from not being able to provide food to feed his children and a bank repossessing his car because of lack of payments to him being on the brink of homelessness because of the inability to cover his mortgage.

“[Football] is his only source of income, and he is a single parent who has his daughters, and he is saying it is affecting his mental psyche. He thinks he needs a professional, but he doesn’t have any money to seek professional help,” Christie said. “This is the reality that we are dealing [with] because of the lack of having a job. A lot of people think that [it’s just] not having football. It’s a profession that I am speaking about.”

UNCERTAIN FUTURE

Waterhouse player Andre Moulton also shared his struggles, noting that while his club has provided a stipend, he said that it is not enough to survive on, and the ongoing gridlock has left him uncertain of his future.

“That (stipend) can’t do anything. It leads you to do nothing else but wonder what should you do next because it’s not like we can take up ourselves and say I’m going to get a job. Jobs are so hard to get right now. People are losing jobs much more than they are gaining a job,” Moulton said. “It is not a good feeling to not know where you stand in the sporting industry and as a sportsman in your country.”

His teammate, Nicholay Findlayson, who also highlighted the mental and financial challenges they have had to endure by football’s continued absence, is asking for assistance to guide them out of their difficult situations.

“We have to look out for the players. There are Jamaican footballers who want to perform for their country as well. So you have to take that into consideration – that mental and financial support is really needed,” Findlayson said.

“This is very difficult and very rough and trying times because of the pandemic. Not having any football playing is really difficult for us, knowing that this is where we get our income from. No football means no earnings,” added Findlayson.

Sporting associations must apply to the Ministry of Sport and the Ministry of Health and Wellness for approval, with the final decision resting with the ODPEM, which falls under the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. Efforts to contact Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie proved unsuccessful.

Competitive track and field will return this weekend with the staging of eight meets across the island.

daniel.wheeler@gleanerjm.com