By Neto Baptiste
Sports, and the rivalry that came with it, has played a pivotal role in the positive development of the Gray’s Farm, Greenbay and surrounding communities and has produced some of the country’s most notable figures in many disciplines.
This is the belief of former prime minister and former parliamentary representative for the St John’s Rural West Constituency, Dr Baldwin Spencer, who said sports and the community’s dominance in whatsoever discipline it contended was tremendously important for many reasons.
“Absolutely critical. It was extremely important and a lot of it centered around our being able to demonstrate that we are as capable or even better than what we used to describe as the uptown people, so for us, sporting activities, cultural activities and those sort of things sort of brought out the best in the youngsters because we wanted to prove that,” he said.
“The community was described in various negative ways like the ghetto and whatever and so the idea was to demonstrate that we were just as good and, in most instances, better.”
Spencer, who is also a former president of the Empire Football Club, clarified that although the rivalry between teams from within the constituency was at times frightening it, in many ways, was the glue that held them together.
“Especially in football, the rivalry was strong because obviously, Hoppers coming from the Greenbay community, and they might have been other groups too because we can’t ignore Lion Hill because they were from the Gray Hill area, which is part of the community. And then of course you had Five Islands and so the rivalry was always there, be it in cricket or football,” he said.
“The rivalry was one, and this is how I assessed it, that we wanted to demonstrate that look, we are all good at what we do and in order for us to do that then we must have this rivalry going because it brings our everything in us,” he added.
Spencer, who served as prime minister from 2004 to 2014, however, expressed disappointment that not enough has been done from an infrastructural and an organisational standpoint to further aid the growth of sports in the community.
“I cannot say I am pleased, I believe that more needs to be done and not only in regards to the physical situation in terms of facilities, but the organisational work of keeping these clubs and groups together. I think, quite frankly, the situation was more organised than it is today and I am concerned about that because quite frankly, this community has produced some of the finest sports and cultural personalities throughout Antigua and Barbuda,” he said.
In addition to serving as prime minister, Spencer became Minister of Foreign Affairs on January 6, 2005.