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By Neto Baptiste

Despite the obvious excitement over the possible return of competition in major sports like football and basketball, Minister of Sports Daryll Matthew has warned that school sports will remain on the backburner for the remainder of the school year.

“We are still not at a place where we are comfortable that those activities — not directly the mandate of our education system — we are ready to bring on board. So, while we are focused and have been focused for the past year on ensuring the children receive their academic instruction to learning, that sporting part of their development has been put on the back-burner,” he said.

“It involves additional time around a group, whether you’re practicing or playing, and given that we are trying to mitigate against the spread of Covid amongst our children, then the more we can keep them out of these social type groups and as much as sports is an important part of the development, we believe we just need to,” he added. 

Matthew confirmed last week that government has approved the return of recreational sports but added that he would meet with the heads of all sporting associations to map the way forward and set a course for the return of major competitions. 

The sports minister is hoping that by the new academic year, a decision could be reached regarding school competitions.

“Our students, I believe, they have been deprived over the past year because they have not been able to participate in these activities, but given where we are coming from and where we are now, it is still not possible. However, we are looking forward to a resumption once things improve over the next few months, in the new academic year starting hopefully in September,” Matthew said. 

He however assured that all major stakeholders will be consulted ahead of any decision regarding the fate of school competitions.

“We must get feedback from the parents at the appropriate time and it’s not just the parents, we will have discussions with the Ministry of Health officials, we will have discussions with the school administrators and the coaches themselves,” he said.

“Where vaccination is concerned, you may be aware there is at least one vaccine that has now been approved in North America for children of a particular age to be vaccinated, but we are not at that point as yet in Antigua and Barbuda. September is some months away so between now and September a lot could happen so perhaps we will get to that point by September. We will continue to hold strain until we are in a position where we feel comfortable that school sports could resume without compromising the children’s academic pursuit,” the minister added.

Some sports like golf and cycling continue to operate given the limited contact required between players but major team sports like football, basketball, netball and volleyball have been suspended since March 2020.