Sun | Nov 17, 2019

Orville Higgins | Profit over patriotism

Published:Saturday | November 9, 2019 | 12:07 AM

The story involving St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS) sprinter Sachin Dennis was arguably the biggest local sports topic over the course of last week.

The story reported that Dennis may well be on his way to representing cash-rich Bahrain. He wouldn’t be the first Jamaican to make that decision. The story was interesting, not just from the sports angle, but also for the human-interest factor, where his parents are concerned.

Dennis’ mother stated that she has not seen her son for over a year, and while she was made aware of the potential move to Bahrain in the initial stages, she made it clear she was not kept in the loop in the last few months.

We then learnt that Dennis’ father was the one who had custody of the talented sprinter from he was eight years old and was supposedly the one pushing for the switch. It is not the norm, in the Jamaican context, for a father to be given custody of a child ahead of the mother. The reason for the courts to rule that way in this case is interesting, but that is for others to delve into.

As the story developed, I was told by sources close to Dennis that while there may have been an interest in representing Bahrain a few years ago, the youngster is now fully committed to turning out for his native Jamaica.

My use of the word ‘may’ is deliberate because none of the parties involved are saying definitely that Dennis had an interest in representing Bahrain. Dennis is a Class Two 100-metre record holder, and a Class Three double sprint champion.

His pedigree, therefore, is in no doubt, and yet one of the curious thing is he has never represented Jamaica at either the Carifta Games or any global youth competition.

People have often wondered why. Now that we are hearing about this supposed Bahrain arrangement, it is easy to see why people would feel he was kept back from turning out for Jamaica because of his handlers’ interest in him representing Bahrain.

MOUNTING CRITICISM

Since the story came out, a lot of criticism has been heaped on those close to the youngster. His coach, Reynaldo Walcott, and his principal at STETHS, Keith Wellington, have both been pilloried in some circles for wanting to ‘sell out’ the youngster.

Those critical of the move felt that those around Sachin should have been guiding him towards representing Jamaica rather than entertaining the thought of competing for another country. The way some see it, it’s almost as if treason was being committed.

This is where I differ.

If an athlete feels his talents would be better compensated elsewhere, what on earth is wrong with him choosing to take his talents there? I cannot agree with those who are saying patriotism should take precedence over economic compensation.

Making enough money to take care of himself and his present and future family should be paramount in the minds of anyone, athlete or not. As it stands now, Dennis may not be appearing for Bahrain after all, but so what if that was the case?

Representing one’s country is a great honour, but surely that should not take precedence over looking out for one’s future. The youngster and his handlers should not be pressured to steer him towards running for Jamaica if his talents would fetch him bigger money elsewhere. It’s as simple as that.

Orville Higgins is a noted media personality and sports broadcaster.