By Neto Baptiste
Former national football coach Rowan “Porridge” Benjamin has called on Cabinet to rescind a recent decision that all athletes must be fully vaccinated before they can participate in competitions put on by the national associations.
Benjamin, who is also coordinator of schools’ football within the Ministry of Sports, made the call on the Good morning Jojo Sports Show on Tuesday and labelled the decision as counter-productive given the large numbers being allowed to gather at public sporting facilities for recreational purposes.
“Please sit and rescind this decision of banning [suspending] competition; look at it again in the upcoming Cabinet meeting. How do we know when all of these competitors will be fully vaccinated so that a date could be set for competitions to start? Ask the associations to submit their protocols, they can submit a date that they would want to start their sport, and so what would happen is that the [players] would start to practice,” he said.
Benjamin, the coach of the Liberta Blackhawks football team, suggested that associations should be allowed to return to competition, which would, in turn, result in teams returning to training. There, the coach said, management would have easier access to players and could continue the push for vaccination.
“For instance, I will be at Liberta and I can start to talk to the players about the importance of getting vaccinated and you never know, these players may one day say ‘coach, can you get the mobile unit to come out and all of us will try and get vaccinated’. We have to keep working with these players but as it stands now, you don’t have no control over them because what they are doing now as players is enjoying themselves on Saturday mornings, Sunday mornings at the various grounds with 50 plus people playing football,” he said.
Two weeks ago, Cabinet stipulated that all athletes taking part in competition put on by the various associations must be fully vaccinated. The decision re-ignited debate over the vaccination process and the push by government to achieve herd immunity.
One association, the Antigua and Barbuda Cricket Association has since said the new stipulation has caused them to abandon plans to host any competitive cricket for the remainder of the year.