THE majority of Tobago’s sporting clubs are yet to get the ball rolling after government announced a return-to-play policy for vaccinated athletes, coaches and officials.
For the first time since the covid19 pandemic in March 2020, local sports have been given the green light to operate, but as safe zones. However, the new policy has not inspired confidence among most of the athletic fraternity in Tobago.
A recent Newsday story highlighted only eight athletes from two of the nine registered athletic clubs in Tobago, competed at the first National Association of Athletic Administration (NAAA) development meet, at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo on January 29-30. The Tobago clubs are usually well represented at games in Trinidad, as the majority of athletic meets for national selection are held there.
Athletes are currently using the development meets to attain the required standards for forthcoming regional and international games.
Secretary of the Tobago Athletic Committee Jayann Campbell told Newsday it is too early to make an informed assessment on the impact the policy has had on Tobago’s participation.
However, she said, following consultations, two clubs reported a vaccination rate of at least 50 per cent, while in some clubs, the rate was as low as ten per cent.
Mercury Athletic Club, in a media release, said its members are not in agreement with the sport minister’s safe zone sports policy.
“We see this as counter progressive to sport development, athlete involvement, and full participation for all interested persons,” the club said,
“We have already suffered for two years, adhering to the stringent lockdown measures, and many have lost opportunities to further their careers and education, through university scholarships.
“We accept that the pandemic is real, however with life, there is opportunities to charter a way forward. The one proposed by the ministry poses a worrisome end product that will be detrimental to our society’s long-term existence.”
Mercury Athletic Club said its vaccinated athletes, coaches, administrators and parents have found a way to safely function with their unvaccinated comrades.
“Some may argue over the science of vaccines, but we stand firm on our position that the individual’s right to choose, as endorsed by the United Nations Convention and the constitution of Trinidad and Tobago, must never be tampered with or trampled upon…
“We strongly advocate for any policy that encourages sports for all, that does not disenfranchise any athlete across sporting disciplines. We recommend a position that upholds the strict application of established health protocols, allowing the vaccinated or unvaccinated to find an equal place in sports.”
In a recent letter to the general secretary of the NAAA, an official of Kaizen Panthers Athletic Club sought answers as to whether the governing body will discuss the implications of the new policy.
The letter noted the importance of the Carifta games to young athletes and the stipulations of the technical manual for the 2022 Carifta Games, in Jamaica, where the participants only require a negative PCR test.
One parent at a Mason Hall Police Youth Club training session last weekend, held at Jubilee Park, Scarborough, said the government policy was confusing. “Vaccinated and unvaccinated children can go to school together, but they cannot play sports together?” she asked.
The parent argued that outdoor sports are safer than holding indoor Carnival events for vaccinated patrons.
An official at RSS Phoenix Athletic Club who wished to stay anonymous, said their vaccination rate is less than five per cent.
“The government policy is madness; if the other clubs agree, we are willing to take all our unvaccinated athletes to the games on Sunday and line up outside the stadium, for everyone to see the amount of athletes that cannot go into the stadium.”
One prominent coach, who has produced many Carifta athletes, said, “I am not vaccinated, and I am not taking no vaccine to go in a stadium. If the government persist with this policy, I done coach.”
An athletics official/coach said athletic meets were granted exemptions under strict health protocols prior to the safe zones, and there were no covid19 outbreaks. “Our athletes were training hard and looking forward to compete, so they are very frustrated,” he said. The second NAAA development meet is scheduled for the Dwight Yorke Stadium, Bacolet on Sunday.