Home African Caribbean Sports Is Meant To Unite Us, Not Make Us Feel Miserable And Depressed

Sports Is Meant To Unite Us, Not Make Us Feel Miserable And Depressed

by Tony Kelly
1 comment

May until late August  is the height of the  sporting season so to speak in England what with county and international cricket, grass court tennis including the  climax at Wimbledon, Formula 1 motor racing,  golf, athletics and horse racing including the Epsom Derby and Royal Ascot to name a few of the more prominent sporting events.

With a Jamaican visitor I attended  Birmingham’s Edgbaston cricket ground known as the Warwick Cricket Club  to watch the fourth day’s play of the first test match as part  of the Ashes series featuring England and Australia.  I accept it was not the West Indies playing but I could count on one hand the number of Black people at this sold-out test match which Australia eventually won. I am of the view that West Indies  supporters would have been there in abundance if the Caribbean cricketers were playing but another school of thought springs to mind.  Whilst travelling today, 1st July  in my car with the aforementioned  visitor on our way from Stratford-Upon-Avon the home of ‘The Bard’, William Shakespeare,  Classic FM radio station broadcast the news that the West Indies cricket team was beaten by Scotland and therefore knocked out at the World Cup  cricket at the qualifying stage. I  could not believe my ears and am finding it rather difficult to fathom what has gone so drastically  wrong with the game which is so appreciated by sports loving fans from the Caribbean Diaspora. It really is a crying shame and I don’t say that lightly.

It  is high time something is done to drastically turn around the cricketing fortunes of the sport that us  from the Caribbean Diaspora have all loved  and supported over the years. Action is certainly needed as that speaks louder than words. I can remember the days when most people in Jamaica were  glued to a transistor radio as the West Indies team,  equivalent to the biblical story of the  little boy David with his slingshot took on the might of the England team, Goliath the giant,  at both home and abroad and on some occasions  won the entire series sometimes known as a whitewash. I recall making trips from the parish of St. Thomas to watch test matches too at Sabina Park in Kingston and one never left the grounds disappointed.

What on earth is happening to both cricket and football in the Caribbean as I  remember journeying to Paris in 1998 with one of my former Happy Grove High School class mates based in the United States  to witness the Reggae Boyz make their debut at the world cup football  against Argentina who thrashed them. The ambience in the Paris stadium with a sea of black, green and gold colours  reminded me of sporting events I used to attend in the national stadium in Kingston.  Later in another group match the team scored a victory over Japan who have since then  featured  strongly in subsequent world cup competitions  whilst Jamaica’s football team has gone in to freefall and retrogressed. The decline in both sports is so noticeable and needs urgent attention.  One theory often  heard is that youngsters are more attracted to playing basketball, American soccer or British football where the monetary rewards and sponsorship deals are more lucrative. I am also led to understand that in some Caribbean countries the subject physical education (PE) which was compulsory during my school days  is no longer on the curriculum; that  is unthinkable.

As an aficionado of track and field athletics since my days of competing in various disciplines in Jamaica back in the seventies I am really looking forward to the August world  athletics championships in  Budapest.  I hope the Caribbean athletes and in particular the ones representing Jamaica give us all something to cheer about to lift the doom and gloom as the cricketers and footballers have really lost their way over the years.  A major overhaul/review needs to take place to find out why these grassroots sports have fallen by the wayside and left us the supporters feeling so disappointed and in despair.  As an eternal optimist I can only hope that things will improve as I harper for the glory days of West Indian cricket dominance against teams such as England, Australia, New Zealand, India and Pakistan. That is not much to ask for as Scotland and Ireland beating the West Indies cricket team although it has happened is hard to accept.

Finally, I would be failing in my duty if mention was not made of the 317-page report  published by the Independent Commission for Equity  on the 26th June which stated English cricket suffers from ‘widespread and deep-rooted’ racism, sexism, elitism and class-based  discrimination at all levels of the game and urgently needs reform.  As the report highlights ‘It is  not banter or just a few bad apples.’  As someone who is passionate and champions equity, equality, diversity and inclusion  having worked in that field for over 40 years and continuing to do so as a  diabetes ambassador/activist volunteer since early retirement, the report clearly addresses several areas of major concern. Although the English Cricket Board issued an unreserved  apology for the experiences of those who have faced discrimination, it is the actions  going forward of the many recommendations which should be the catalyst for change. Overtime a plethora of reports in other areas in and outside of sports  have ended up gathering dust on shelves so I hope this brings about improvements for everyone.

Tony Kelly

Tony Kelly

London born Tony Kelly of Jamaican parents grew up in Jamaica and returned to live in Birmingham in 1979.
He is a graduate of Mico Teachers’ College and taught in Kingston high schools prior to working for 30+ years as a middle manager in central and local government with an emphasis on equity, equality, diversity and inclusion. He has a masters’ degree in socio-legal studies from the university of Birmingham.
For over a decade Tony has volunteered as a diabetes ambassador firstly for Diabetes UK and now for the National Health Service – Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group. A multi-award winner doing a yearly average of 150 health and well-being events, locally, nationally and internationally focusing on type 2 diabetes. He was diagnosed with this medical condition 18 years ago. However with a combination of physical activity and diet he has never taken medication thus proving with the right mindset and discipline it can be achieved.
As a diabetes advocate/activist Tony will continue delivering the message of healthy options to readers of CaribDirect.com .


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1 comment

Ronfoote July 4, 2023 - 4:29 pm

Well done Tony Kelly.,looking forward seeing your next episode.


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