WORLD CUP 2018 in Russia is fast approaching and perhaps its arrival is triggering pique here in TT given our failure to qualify. But whether or not this is so, we strongly condemn the violence that broke out at the La Brea Football League on Thursday night. We further call on the authorities to take action against those who participated in this unacceptable conduct. A firm red card needs to be issued. Hooliganism may be a feature of football life in other countries, but it should be nipped in the bud here.
There is no place in the game for the conduct captured on video circulated on social media last week. Footage showed a referee Michael London being attacked by players on the field after he issued a penalty. London had to later be warded at hospital. His injuries included a fractured jaw and bruised ribs. He is now home recuperating.
Violence is unacceptable anywhere, and it is important for the law enforcement authorities to act. But the incident must also be understood in terms of the wider social context.
On the football field, the referee stands for the notion of authority. His or her decisions are final. If people disagree, there is an avenue of redress. There is normally a procedure to appeal or, failing which, to register disagreement or to protest. It is not appropriate, however, for the referee to be subject to mob attack. There is no place in any sport, and indeed in life generally, for such conduct. We must also understand sport in context of youth development. One of the great things about the game of football is how it unites and inspires so many people. Sport has long been regarded as an arena to which young people can positively devote their energy.
With crime and violence plaguing the nation, it has long been suggested that increased participation in sport can be a way to keep youth away from dangerous gangs and illicit activity. While the State’s attempts to do this in an organised way has met with mixed success (the scandal of the LifeSport programme is still fresh in the memory of many) sport still has a viable role to play in our social intervention programmes. However, the entire purpose is defeated when sport itself becomes an arena of violence. Similarly, sport should also not be a zone of sexism or of any form of prejudice and discrimination.
Therefore, Thursday’s incident should be dealt with in the strongest possible way. We may not be in the World Cup, but we still have a lot at stake.