During Budget Debate, Sports Minister Scolds Athletes Over Recent Funding Claims

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By Neto Baptiste

Minister of Sports Daryll Matthew has labelled the efforts of one national athlete to raise funding via the popular online fundraising platform, GoFundMe, as “misleading”.

The minister made the claim during his contribution to the 2021 budget debate in parliament on Monday, suggesting that the initiative gave the impression that the athlete had already qualified for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and that government was not providing the necessary funding for his preparation.

“The latest thing I saw on social media a few days ago was a particular athlete who put up a GoFundMe page, wearing the national uniform of Antigua and Barbuda, saying he is seeking to raise funds to go to the Olympics, but that is so misleading. First of all, you don’t just go to the Olympics; you have to qualify to go and there are no qualifying events taking place at the moment anywhere in the world,” he said.

“I give the athlete the benefit of the doubt because he may be trying to raise funds so he do additional training, do the circuit in the United States so he could build up himself so that when the qualifying events start he is able to participate. But we as a people are so quick to pull the trigger and blame Mr government. And so you see the posters says, ‘can you imagine this young man has to raise money when he wants to represent Antigua and Barbuda at the Olympics?’,” he added.

Although Matthew did not name any athlete, sprinter Tahir Walsh was the latest national athlete to start such an initiative.

Walsh, who was a 200 meters semifinalist at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, launched the “Help Tahir get to Tokyo” GoFundMe effort, on February 1, on social media platform Facebook. The post carried a photo of what appeared to be Walsh wearing a uniform bearing the national flag.

Matthew also sought to further debunk claims by another national athlete that he was not financially supported by the government throughout his career.

“Almost every single athlete in this country was trained by a coach who was financed by the government of Antigua and Barbuda over the years. When they travel to international competitions they are financed by the government of Antigua and Barbuda and the National Olympic Committee. They are given their airfare, accommodation, uniforms,” he said.

“We have athletes who are on national scholarships, we have athletes that are financed on a monthly basis as coaching ambassadors by this very administration. And so, when athletes can go to social media and say that ‘oh, they only recognise us when we win something or they only want to acknowledge us when we become great’, and so the country doesn’t love us or the government doesn’t love us, they are being disingenuous,” the sports minister added.

In December last year, national sprinter Daniel Bailey, suggested that he had not been given the level of funding required as a national athletes, accusing both the National Olympic Committee and the government of being a ‘sham’ and not caring about the nation’s athletes. Both the government and the NOC have since denied Bailey’s claims with reports that the NOC has given the athlete an ultimatum to either retract his statement before any consideration could be given for funding going forward. 

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