Rough Cuff And Riot, Shake Hand And Cup

Earl Best
Date Published: 

Earl Best questions Village Olympics violence

THE 1973 chapter of the Prime Minister's Best Village Competition came to a close last weekend at the Queen's Park Savannah. One week before, the curtain had come down on the Village Olympics (V.O.).

"This year," ran the Express report of Tuesday October 23, "villages took part in seven sporting events . . . Apart from the trophies, teams will get medals — including runners up".

The report, accompanied by a picture of the nine trophies being contested, goes on to list the names of a dozen firms which "already . . . have donated sets of medals".


Which, for those of us who suspected the change in emphasis inherent in the change from "Better" to "Best" Village, is a clear statement of what V.O. really means to many of its devotees.

The V.O. was introduced in 1972 to revive the seemingly moribund Prime Minister's Best Village Competition and at the same time to involve hundreds of disenchanted young men and women in an exercise which would ensure that many, many energies would be harmlessly expended.


We cannot, with the best will in the world, find any justification for the opinion that the V.O. Competition was conceived with a view to improving community sporting life since it is abundantly clear that Sport does not rate high on the list of Government's priorities.

One has only to look at the numerous playing fields that feature on the casualty list, the annual hustle-and-scrunt of the Trinidad Football and Olympic Associations, etc., etc.

Anyway, two weeks ago, the final of the football competition between Barataria and Point Fortin prematurely ended in a scuffle.

TAPIA (Sunday August 19) carried a report about a V.O. game between Tacarigua and Tunapuna that ended in a virtual free-for-all.

Our reporter took the view then that, free-for-all notwithstanding, the V.O. Competition was performing an important function since it was clear that the community allegiances were being born.

He pointed out that the community crowd no longer finds itself ranged in opposing camps in support of Colts, Malvern, QRC, or St. Mary's.

"What was important about this match", he wrote, "was that the game was well attended, the spectators were closely identified with the teams". I think we need to look rather more closely at this, because of the Barataria/Point incident.

Firstly, what of the near antagonism existing between partisan crowds at North/South games? This is by no means a new phenomenon. And surely the kind of community spirit which he hails is present here although perhaps is less concentrated form.

It was present too in the kind of crowd support evident in a clash between Tunapuna's Invaders and Arima's Fulham of an era now past.

Secondly, has the advent of the Village Olympics brought any real change to the traditional rivalries?

For instance, does any Malvern supporter from Tunapuna support them less against Maple because "Godfrey and Jack playing for Maple and them does play for Puna!"?

It may certainly be true that when footballers play "as mercenaries for clubs in Port of Spain they never put into their game any effort comparable with when they are representing their community."

But we must ask ourselves what is behind this unwonted zeal.

What are the real reasons for the unusual enthusiasm with which both players and spectators seem to be fired at these V.O. games?

Was it merely a momentary overflow of community consciousness that cause the two above-mentioned incidents?

We all recognize what a profoundly revolutionary situation we are now in, and we know that no action nowadays — especially those involving collective violence — is apolitical.

So that when Tunapuna's crowd, forgetting that Tacarigua is in no way responsible for the daily hardships that confront them both, loses its revolutionary cool and joins violent batle on the football field, we all immediately see that someone somewhere is rejoicing at our folly. ("The brothers are killing themselves over some medals and trophies, Sir").

And what about that "consciousness" bandied about on every block since 1970? Where is it. when for the dubious honour of receiving a pile of medals, the Jaggernauth shield and handshake from some bigwig, we are prepared to cuff and kick and bite and scratch we own brothers?

Ask the Barataria fellas if having won the big Shield and the medals dem getting rice any more easily than the Pasea fellas who defaulted in the first round?

Fighting, that is, the fact of fighting over so trivial a matter at this point in time, is a total waste of much needed energies.


It was like using high trumps to take a 10 when there is still a jack to be hung. MAN PLAYING FOR WHA HE SEE!

I may well be wrong in thinking that it would be contrary to the plan of the promoters of the Villiage Olympics for the communities to benefit from it in any meaningful way.

What is incontestable, though, is that it can (even if it does not at present) be used as an instrument for serious organization of the communities.

But clearly, if this is to happen, the present emphasis has to be changed. It is imperative that we deemphasize the fact of winning the trophy and all the attendant sterile acclaim.

We must turn our attention to raising the level of community involvement in community sporting life: proper facilities, serious coaching programmes, organized competition, exposure to top class talent, literature, the assurance that outstanding talent will not feel obliged to go to town.


If we can involve the whole community on the basis of a real interest in contributing to the life of the community and not on the basis of immediate gains to be had, if the forging of intra and extra-community links can be seen to be important in itself, then and only then will we realize the full potential of the Village Olympics.