We all have a role in kicking gangs out of football
Some us can recall the days when exciting football matches were played on a Sunday afternoon at a place called the Box. It was opposite the old Berkeley Institute building, which is being used at present by the Bermuda Electric Light Company. The Box was also known as the Sports Arena, and it was, in a sense, Bermuda’s national stadium, without seating.
It was the time of Key West Rangers and Pembroke Juniors, and whenever these two teams clashed there was a stream of football fans, many of them still in their church attire making their way to this venue, where some of our most outstanding stars left their names in the history books.
No, this is not a sports column, but it is impossible to remember those moments without mentioning stars such as Calvin “Bummy” Simons, Earl “W” Russell and Austin “Cheesy” Hughes.
These stars, along with many others, thrilled crowds. And when it was over, the only talk on the way home was who did what during crucial moments of the match. Many spectators walked home from the field in an orderly manner — some from miles away.
Since those days, much has changed, especially with some of our young men involved in football. In some cases, gang activity, which has become a part of our social underworld, has resulted in deadly consequences over the years, with stories of some players unable to travel to certain parts of the island.
This a deeply disturbing because a number of keen football fans have abandoned attending matches because they fear that the gang culture presents a risk they would rather avoid.
This should concern all sports clubs who depend on public patronage to keep afloat. Somehow, it would seem the clubs have a role to play in making certain no one with gang connections is allowed to represent them. If this was followed to the letter, there would be no need for the police to ban the use of their field by teams including players suspected of gang activity.
The fact that the police have chosen to take such action should alarm all sports clubs and force them to review their positions on this problem — at least to show a willingness to be firm in demanding that players must adhere to proper standards to participate. It would be a shame if a club — and we hope this never happens — decides to look the other way to keep a skilled player who is suspected of having gang connections.
The gang issue is not a political or police problem — it is a community problem which will not be solved without the entire Bermudian community placing greater focus on values and standards for all our young people.
The clubs must work closer with the police and other community groups to help ensure that those who wish to represent a sports club can do so by co-operating with rules and regulations to create conditions where families once again are willing to see our athletes perform without fear of potential gang violence.
The good old days of orderly, respectful crowds at matches should never be just a pleasant memory. However, unless higher standards are demanded, not much will change.
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