Sunday, April 21, 2024

A THORNY ISSUE: Pinelands deserve better


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THE UWI BLACKBIRDS’ recent 21-0 mauling of once mighty Pinelands wasn’t a true reflection of the standard of the Barbados Football Association’s (BFA) Premier League, but more so an indication that the present crop of Pinelands players may take it for granted what football used to mean to their community.

In the midst of all the negative things said about Pinelands in the distant past, their sportsmen and women would always rise to the challenge of proving that something good could come out of Nazareth.

They were on a mission to define where they came from and not the other way round. If you believed for a second that you could walk over a Pinelands cricket, netball, basketball or football team, you were in for a rude awakening. You had to wheel and come again.

I followed the exploits of the footballers closer than the other disciplines, so I had a good insight about their goals and why they wanted to be exemplary figures for their community. If their mantra was born out of an inferiority complex, they were still determined to show at the end of the day that their community was capable of producing men of character and quality.

Their motivation to be the best they could be was symbolised by focus, intensity, passion, flair and the will to succeed. They understood that when they won, they were catalysts for changing negative perceptions and when they lost they were guilty of strengthening the hand of detractors from near and far.

Unwanted burden

It was up to them to balance the scales in a manner that didn’t degrade fellow constituents. And during their halcyon days in the 80s, they seldom let their guard down because if they did, it would have been an unwanted burden to carry.

It wasn’t by chance, nor accident, back then that the emerging Pinelands Creative Workshop also made a tremendous impression on the national psyche as true pioneers of community arts. Soon others were happy to use the Pinelands model to develop artistic expression and keep the youth within their reach constructively engaged.

So, there was a collective movement around the period I am speaking about to make Pinelands stand out like the proverbial diamond, a beacon or a lighthouse. They combined through sports and culture to make others see the positive side of their community.

Not only that, they managed to inspire the whole district and surrounding areas like St Barnabas and Haggatt Hall to rally with them. There was no Pinelands football game at the Stadium that you could miss staunch supporters like Qulette and Maxine. You could hear their voices from the “C” Stand throughout the Stadium urging on the players. They and others completed the army that drove the team to high standards which have now obviously fallen to the point of embarrassment.

Perhaps there have been societal changes which have caused some polarisation in the ranks and for that reason all of the best players are not available for selection. Maybe there have been circumstances which have made it difficult for competent administrators to hang around long enough to make a significant difference in key areas.

Divisive force?

Is it possible that conventional politics has been a divisive force in the way teams are formulated, to the point where if you don’t favour personnel from one party, you don’t link with the team and you seek to play elsewhere?

I would honestly hate to think that the players are allowing themselves to be used as pawns in a game of football politics. Their allegiance should be first and foremost to their community because politicians on both sides would come and go, and life still has to go on.

It could be that the current players are not as dedicated to training and committed to high standards like their predecessors were 20 years ago.

Whatever it is, it is not good enough for Pinelands, considering the strong foundation that was built by people who must have thought they heard the wrong score against the Blackbirds.

The good that can come from such a caning is that it should lead to a measure of introspection and soul searching, which could see Pinelands return to their glory days, but on the face of it, it’s going to take lots of work to repair the damage that has been done.

• Andi Thornhill is an experience award-winning journalist.


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