Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Don't kick me. I'm down already.

I have to be honest and say that I was too absorbed by the first round of football in the Euro 2008 finals in Switzerland and Austria to really pay more than a passing interest in the possible fate of regional teams in the World Cup 2010 qualifiers that started over the past weekend. I also have to be honest and say that I know a bit about football and could not see any reason to focus on the local scene over what was on offer in Europe. I could not even find local coverage of the game; maybe I missed it or it was pushed out by the Test match.

I now hear cries around the island in Barbados after the national team got a proper pounding in Carson, California, going down heavily to the US 8-0: "Why dey sen wi boys to Califourneeya an spen nearly US$ 250,000 so dat dey could heng dey hed in shame?"..."Is jus greedy officials who luv fi shop, travel an get big up, an too proud to forfeit."..."How di team go win wen we na ha no facilities...no practice...ha fi borra any and anybody who can spell Bim fi play fi we?" Et cetera. Of course, Barbados had no chance of winning, unless the US decided to not play. The press there have had a field day, even suggesting that Bim could not even beat a local high school team--Ouch!--as is their right and usual: the US got its biggest ever international win; they scored their fastest ever goal (in 53 seconds), so Barbados in the record books.

Now, as of June 2008, FIFA ranks Barbados 121st; the USA is ranked 22nd, that's out of almost 200 countries (see the full table). The giants are Argentina (1st), Brazil (2nd), Italy (3rd), and Germany (5th), each of whom has won at least two World Cups and won 14 of the 18 tournaments between them (see list). So, Barbados followed the form book. They should not cry as much as little Bahamas--about the same size in population--who rank 167th, but got spanked good and proper by Jamaica (ranked 98th), 7-0 on Sunday and 6-0 last night, when they also played the "away" leg in Jamaica out in the bush in Trelawny, and I guess got lost on the way. The region wont be setting the world alight anytime soon, despite the heroics of Jamaica and Trinidad (ranked 89th) in making it to the finals dances and doing pretty well to show that whether reggae or soca rhythms drive the team, they can win' up good enough to not be shamed. Mind you, some of the Soca Warriors must have been liming too much to allow Bermuda (ranked 139th) to beat them in Trinidad. Spare a thought for Aruba, Anguilla, and Montserrat, who rank bottom at 199th with Papau New Guinea. No, we are not really on the world map for football.

I watched some of the video highlights from the Barbados game, and you can too. It's not X-rated. Barbados never looked likely to repeat the US's "miracle on grass", when in the 1950 World Cup group games, the US beat England 1-0, that after the Americans had lost their previous seven international matches by the combined score of 45–2.

But they did better than did the team of Long John Silver impersonators--one of my favourite sketches from Monty Python.

I also did a forensic analysis of the US team, their tactics and their personnel. Look what I found. They have secret signals. See how the hands all set the same? I never see no signs like that before, and I suspect that it may also mean that they are some aliens sending back to their planet the DNA of the Bajan players, which was then converted into that of tortoises. Everyone knows the US can' play real football, so how they win? Not because they spend billions of dollars and develop scholarships at university and set up a good league and get their players onto major teams in Europe. They good at basketball, baseball, American football, and win world championships only when they don't compete against anyone else but have east coast versus west coast. What? Play foreigners to know that the US is better than them? You cannot be serious!

They also had twice as many players on every ball. How the referee did not notice that? My views on FIFA's ability to organize and deal with officials are not worthy of printing, so here we have another lapse.

They can fly. That boy, Landon Donovan, fast but when you have wings on your feet, there's no Achilles heel on the team. For sure he's not using those ""blade runners" used by South African Paralympian Oscar Pistorius--maybe Barbados needs those, though. See how the Bajan boys' feet glued to the ground? In a few years time I'm sure that we will hear that the game should be given to Barbados, so if the US win the World Cup, Bim can look forward to having it awarded to the island, just like Marion Jones' Olympic medals.

Now, people here going to get all huffy that not enough money going to the sport, and, and.... Same old blah-blah about everything except cricket. But they better get real. Football is not a passion in Barbados; cricket is. People don't duck work to go watch football matches; they save that for cricket. Politicians don't speak in footballing metaphors; they use cricketing terms: They say "The honorable member for St. Peter is batting on a sticky wicket, and if he not careful I will have to send him to silly mid-on, if he continues with this nonsense." Rather than, "I think that the member for St. John has just scored an own goal with his recent remarks and I will have to show him the red card if his performance continue to be so foul." People don't flock to stadiums or fields to watch football; they do that for cricket.

Barbados does not care about sports other than cricket. I just spent 10 days in a medium sized French town that has a population of around 80,000 people. They have more football pitches provided by the mayor/municipality than there are pitches in the whole of this little rock. (They also have more tennis courts, rugby fields, swimming pools, cycle paths, buses, trains, shopping malls, supermarkets, etc.) The town, not strange for the country as a whole, votes for people who are interested in developing its youths and social standing and provides a range of facilities to ensure that. So, enough of the bleating and the crocodile tears. You reap what you sow. Very few Bajan players have enough opportunity to play on a decent field unless they make it to the national team and play abroad--the national stadium is being refitted to make it meet FIFA's standards, remember). It does not take much to realise that the standard here is too low, and that unless kids get a chance to play in better structures and on better facilities they will continue to suffer at the adult and higher levels. One Bajan player has managed to make it to a world class league (playing for Wigan in the UK premier league, though they just got relegated thanks in part to an own goal from him).

So, let's forget about the football. Put all of the sport eggs into cricket. We and Windies can rule the world there. No mind that none of the players can get into a university with the sport. No matter that it takes sometime up to five days to get a tie. No matter, no matter. Now send a US team down here for a cricket match. 8-0? Do they know how to count to a 1000 in runs? You wait!

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