Have you ever read something but you just can’t believe it? Last week, I picked up the T&T Guardian newspaper and there was the headline big and bold, "Youth Vballers face $$$ deadline." Why? Why? Why does it always have to reach to this?
Every time a national senior or junior team is leaving this country, the same old funding story is repeated; you can almost close your eyes and tell the type of story it will be. This time, it was our country’s youth volleyballers awaiting the release of government funding.
I thought that this madness had stopped. I saw the Minister of Finance Colm Imbert get up in the Parliament during the reading of the last budget, puff out his chest and in a rather exciting tone (then again he is always excitable), say that the days of any national team leaving these shores to participate in a regional or international competition and begging for money mere days before the competition is a thing of the past.
In his speech, he never clarified, to my understanding, if this policy was for junior and/or senior teams. I suppose that is why many national sporting organisations tried to get clarity on the statement, as they were unsure what type of funding and in what context it would be given. Maybe someone in the Ministry of Sport or the Sport Company of T&T (SporTT) needs to let him know that what he said and what is actually taking place are two entirely different scenarios.
Naturally, the usual roles will play out. The ministry will say the T&T Volleyball Federation (TTVF) applied to the ministry or to SporTT too late and the TTVF will deny the accusation. From what I have been able to gather and if my information is correct, the TTVF could not get the payment for airline tickets to Jamaica. Indeed, Jamaica; not Australia.
From my understanding, all the necessary protocols were observed; funding for the team’s travel was approved by the Sport Company, so one can assume that the application must have been sent out in good time and all contractual arrangements were made with Caribbean Airlines (CAL) and a downpayment was issued.
Little did the TTVF realise that trouble had only just begun, as the deadline for payment was July 1. However, when no monies were forthcoming, the deadline was extended to July 8. Apparently, when the TTVF called SporTT to do a status check, they themselves could not understand the problem and because the TTVF could not get the funds physically, they asked for a letter of comfort to give to CAL. Even that was not forthcoming, so the TTVF had to sweat until July 8 to get funds.
The worst part about this whole sordid episode is that we are dealing with our Under-18 girls and U-19 boys. Unlike some other national sporting organisations, one cannot accuse the federation of not trying to help themselves. They had a bar-b-que, a boat cruise, donation cards, sponsorship letters and even parents made personal donations. Surely, the sum of $8,800 to cover the youngsters' airfare, accommodation and uniforms was not too demanding.
I had wished instead of reading about the woes of the young volleyballers, I would have been reading about some of the up and coming star volleyballers. What are our chances in both the boys' and girls' tournaments? Are there any of these youngsters who could light up the Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association (CAZOVA) Championships? What has been the preparation like? Are the coaches satisfied with the preparation for the tournament?
Volleyball is not one of our major sports in the country, so it is great to give the necessary exposure to these youngsters who would be so excited and proud to represent T&T. I wish that the powers that be remember that this is the future of the nation, be it volleyball, basketball, badminton etc. We must give our youngsters the opportunity to showcase their talents on a regional and international stage.
I am truly sick and tired of always reading about how our national teams are struggling for funding to attend foreign tournaments. I know the Prime Minister is very keen on sports and it may be a good idea for him to ask some pertinent questions as to the reasons why our national teams, when going abroad to participate in tournaments, always seem to get funding at the last minute. But then again, he may find that is not important so let the players and officials sweat and when they don’t perform at an optimum level, we can all jump on the bandwagon and criticise them profoundly.
However, if they do well and win the Caribbean championship and come home in glory, I wonder who will be the first people at the airport to greet them besides their parents.
The tournament's dates are July 21-28. Let us wish our young volleyballers the very best of luck and may you represent the country with distinction.
On a brighter note, heartiest congratulations to our 15 and Under boys' water polo team who beat Puerto Rico 12-9 in the final of the Central American and Caribbean Swimming Federation (CCCAN) with Nathan Hinds scoring a half dozen.
Well done young men, the country is proud!