By Carlena Knight
Head Coach of the defending Antigua Premier League (APL) champions, Rowan “Porridge” Benjamin, is of the opinion that blame should not be placed on Minister of Sports Daryll Matthew for the ongoing saga with the local football fraternity.
To date, football has yet to decide on the 2019-2020 season which was abruptly halted because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Presently, the sport can only be played on a recreational level despite news surfacing of upcoming CONCACAF qualifiers in October.
The implementation of protocols, the Liberta Blackhawks Coach says, is the responsibility of the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association (ABFA) and not the Ministry of Sports.
“The minister cannot be blamed for this situation here. These protocols are supposed to be set up because there are protocols established from the world governing body (FIFA) and they send these things to each national association who is supposed to set their protocol up from that and with their medical team – that’s the ABFA medical team – they will have a sit down with the Ministry of Health not the Ministry of Sports, the Ministry of Health, that’s how it is done all over the world,” Benjamin explained.
He believes that the permission of recreational sports was not a good approach and that a reopening should have been done in stages.
“There is where the mistake would have been made when they said, go and play for recreation and things like that. You cannot play football for recreation. There is going to be 20 versus 20 on the field and it’s not the ministry supposed to handle that.
“Up to this day the Football Association has produced one protocol. Football is not going to come back just like that. They have to do some work and try to convince the Ministry of Health that, according to your protocol, we are still practicing social distancing and so forth but there is still a bit of restrictions that you are giving us.”
The former national player also spoke on the upcoming home and away format for the qualifiers. He is suggesting that the ABFA can use some of the funds received recently from FIFA to ensure the various measures are in place.
“The ABFA has so much money now from FIFA that they can create a bubble for this national team. They can have one of these hotels, take the players there, put them up, pay them and train them up at YASCO.
“Just get the health officials to go up there, make sure everything is in place and create a bubble for these players to start training because we have qualifiers coming up. We cannot wait on Mr Molwyn Joseph or the CMO to make these kinds of decisions.
“You have to set your protocols in place, then go to them with your protocols and sit down and see the best way that we can resolve this thing. If they are not going to do that then we are not going to have any football for the rest of the year,” Benjamin stated.
He made these comments while speaking on the Good Morning JoJo sports show.