By Carlena Knight
Two presidents of sporting associations have shared their reactions to the latest stipulation declared by Cabinet for the return of competitive sports.
Last Friday, athletes wishing to take part in national competitions were told they must first be vaccinated in order to do so.
The revelation came via the most recent Cabinet notes which indicated that a decision was taken during the body’s sitting last week, that athletes must be fully vaccinated in order to compete.
President of the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association (ABFA) Everton ‘Batow’ Gonsalves and Head of the Antigua and Barbuda Basketball Association (ABBA) Kebra Nanton both spoke with our newsroom on the matter.
Those two sports have been deemed the most physical and high-risk sports locally and have not seen any competitive play since last March when both competitions ended abruptly due to the coronavirus.
Gonsalves shared his full support for the declaration saying that, health wise, there is really no other option.
“I am happy. I am pleased. I know I could depend on the government for finding a way for competitive sports tor return. We would have answered the call and we would have created a jingle encouraging all our many fans and players to get vaccinated. I will do anything to ensure that health still remains at the top priority and we can work hand in hand with the government to ensure that Antigua and Barbuda gets back on track during and after the pandemic,” Gonsalves said.
He revealed that the local football body has already issued its protocols to the relevant officials and are looking forward to future discussions for the return of the sport.
“Our protocols are not a one-page document. It’s a whole binder full of stipulations and so we will go through it again with the Ministry of Health and by extension the Ministry of Sports now and discuss it and see if we have to tweak it to ensure that we get back sooner rather than later without cutting any corners,” he added.
However, despite Gonsalves indicating his full support for the decision, Nanton shared that she did not fully agree with Cabinet’s stipulation.
“I personally think that they should not make it mandatory because that may just take away the privilege from somebody who, let’s say, is a good athlete and for whatever reason they are against taking the vaccine. I am all for encouraging persons to take it, but I do understand the reason for it,” Nanton explained.
She mentioned that she would prefer to speak with the various teams to get a feel of where they stand on the vaccine issue first, as this will give the executive a better understanding of where their members stand on the vaccine issue.
“I don’t think it’s in my place as the president; persons may say ‘yes, you are the president it’s whatever you say’, but I actually disagree. In this instance I think we should definitely have some dialogue wit the teams just to even find out how they are feeling. We may think it would be difficult but everyone may be for it,” she added.
Nanton did indicate, however, that they are hoping to have a meeting sometime next month.
Regarding when she feels the sport will return competitively, she says she could not say.
Minister of Sports Daryll Matthew, when contacted by Observer media, said the move does not mean the vaccine is now mandatory for athletes, but rather a decision to ensure that those taking part in competition are safeguarded against serious illness and or death should they contract the virus. Following a meeting held two weeks ago between the Ministry of Sports and heads of the country’s associations, it was revealed that sporting bodies could seek permission from the proper authorities to host organised competitions. It was also agreed that the associations would make public appeals for their athletes and members to get vaccinated.