By Neto Baptiste
The Minister of Sports, Daryll Matthew, said his ministry was not consulted on a decision to deny a request by the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association (ABFA) for fans to be admitted into the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground during the country’s CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier against Grenada on Friday.
Cabinet, on Wednesday, rescinded a decision by health authorities that the Group A qualifier should be played behind closed doors, stating that fully vaccinated persons would now be allowed to sit in the stands.
“There was no consultation with the Ministry of Sports in that decision and so the matter was raised as recently as over the weekend, and the Prime Minister did raise the topic that it was something we were considering. It was discussed at length in the Cabinet [on Wednesday] and we considered what the risk was and it was decided that, in keeping with the position we have taken even with the promoters to have events, once you are able to demonstrate that persons were fully vaccinated, then they would be allowed to participate in certain activities and in this case, the attendance of sporting activities,” he said.
The original decision to bar even fully vaccinated fans from entering the venue sparked public debate over the past three days with most calling for it to be rescinded.
Matthew stated that the Cabinet decision was not made in an attempt to appease or pacify anyone but rather to demonstrate that with vaccination, the country can return to normalcy.
“First of all, persons would need to come to the game, especially given the short notice, with proof of their vaccination which would be the vaccination card and the photo ID, fully vaccinated persons only. I don’t want to look at it as an incentive because when you say incentive it sounds as if it’s a calculated move. It is simply a way to demonstrate that if we are to get back to normal activities, we must ensure that we can protect ourselves and protect society and so it stands to reason that as more persons become fully protected, then they should be able to reengage society in a meaningful and normal way,” the minister said.
Matthew also highlighted that persons 17 years and under would not be allowed to enter the grounds, given that they are not yet eligible for vaccination.
The football association has said that fans could purchase tickets at the ABFA’s Training and Technical Center on Factory Road between 9 am and 4 pm on Friday, at a cost of $10 per ticket. Those purchasing tickets must bring along their vaccination card and a valid government issued ID.
The Benna Boys have four points from their two matches having beaten US Virgin Islands 3-0 on March 27. They drew 2-2 against Montserrat on March 24. El Salvador, meanwhile, trail on goal difference following their 1-1 draw with Montserrat on March 28 after previously defeating Grenada 2-0 on March 25.
Friday’s match is slated for a 4 pm kickoff. Following their clash against Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda will travel to El Salvador where they will face the home team.