Tue | Nov 13, 2018

Dalton Myers | Sports, Patriotism and Jamaican Independence

Published:Friday | August 3, 2018 | 11:19 PM
File Jamaica's Reggae Boyz in action against Mexico at the National Stadium in 1997. The teams drew 0-0 meaning that Jamaica qualified for the 1998 World Cup in France.

On Monday, August 6, 2018, Jamaica will celebrate her 56th anniversary as an independent nation. The island of just over 2.8 million people is still young but has stood firm in an age when globalisation has trampled on nationalism.

Since gaining Independence, sports and culture have been two of the primary areas to help build and sustain our sense of patriotism.

Our fight for Independence gave us the opportunity to represent the black, green and gold at major sporting events and dominate in many areas. It was not long ago that Trinidadian C.L.R. James mentioned the fight to have a black man captain the West Indies cricket team, representing the image and likeness of the majority of the region's people. Today, we've had many, including many from Jamaica, who have captained the regional side, becoming world beaters or just 'Universe Boss'.

SPORTSDEveLOPMENT

Our athletes, coaches, and in some instances, administrators have gone on to make significant contributions to the development of sports in the world. Many of our sportswomen and men are revered, not just in track and field, but in netball, cricket, football, and swimming, just to name a few. In this post-independence era, we've also explored other areas of sporting participation, like lacrosse, rugby, fencing, and winter sports.

Since 1962, we have had many successes on the world stage. These successes have been used to build a level of patriotism amongst our people. It may be dented by crime and violence, but each time we face these constant challenges, we get that sense of pride and happiness from our athletes participating in major sporting events, such as the World Championships, the Olympics, The Commonwealth Games, Netball Championships, Cricket World Cup.

UNITESCOMMUNITIES

Increasingly, sport is also used to unite communities through various sporting and entertainment activities. Each week, there's at least one sporting event that provides opportunities for our citizens to showcase their talents. Most of these are created and hosted by national sporting associations, but there's now the increasing participation in 'business house' competitions and events that cater to corporate companies. These are becoming even more enticing to sportsmen and women than the governing bodies' competitions.

Importantly, Jamaica has increased its focus on talented athletes with disabilities through Special Olympics Jamaica and the Jamaica Paralympic Association. These organisations have been working assiduously to give persons with disabilities a medium through which they can unearth, develop and showcase their talents and proudly represent their country. While able-bodied athletes have long been the focus, athletes with disabilities now feel like part of Brand Jamaica and

part of building our post-Independence society.

NOTENOUGH

While I think successive governments have not done as much as they could have to develop the local sport industry, especially in terms of athletes' support, there are improvements in critical areas such as our national sports policy that have been very helpful. The government-run Institute of Sports and Social Development Commission continues to provide competitions for our youth and communities, while GC Foster College remains probably the most important cornerstone of our sporting development by producing and developing some of the best coaches, athletes and administrators. Added to that, the funding from the Sports Development Foundation (SDF) through CHASE and the lottery has been the backbone of funding for sporting associations. With the increase funding, things are looking more positive.

As a millennial, I value and cherish what Independence means for Jamaica and also firmly believe that sport and physical activity are pillars on which our patriotism stands. Whether it is our 1998 FIFA World Cup qualifying moment, our netball team's success over top nations, our rugby team qualifying for its first Rugby World Cup, or Donald Quarry's exploits on Montreal, we have always felt a sense of pride and joy singing "Jamaica land we love" while seeing our flag lofted high.

There have been some moments to forget and some bitter disappointments; this Caribbean nation has faced many challenges in sports. As our island home makes another orbit around the sun, I hope that we continue to focus on the positives and learn from the negatives, but more importantly, treat our athletes better - celebrate their successes and help them when they fail as we forever sing, "Eternal Father bless our land."

Happy Independence, Jamaica!

Dalton Myers is a sports consultant and administrator. Email feedback to daltonsmyers@gmail.com