OPINION: Why is the government still green-lighting football at the National Stadium? 

Last Updated on Sunday, 10 January 2021, 19:56 by Denis Chabrol

2021 came with a lot of renewed hopes for sports and sporting men and women; lots of federations, associations, clubs and organizations have begun training and a have hosted a few events subject to the approval from the government.

One such body which had the privilege to host an event was the Kashif and Shanghai organization with their ‘bounce back’ football tournament; a two-night extravaganza held at the Guyana National Stadium, Providence

Don’t get it wrong, it was great to see the return of the New Year’s football tradition that Guyanese had come to know and love and kudos must be given to the organizers in that regard. However, it still remains to be answered why the Guyana National Stadium (GNS) Providence was used.

Conceptualized, designed and created for the Cricket World Cup in 2007, the Guyana National Stadium or Providence stadium, as it is commonly known, has in the past played host to numerous events.

From track and field to hockey, rugby, and in some instances; parties. And yes, football but was once hosted there.

But, at the time when the New Year’s Football was in the height of its tenure before a swift decline, there were limited sporting venues that could have dealt with the crowds; provided the space and lighting available to host night football; even more limited was a venue that had all three.

In came the GNS. It was perfect in a time where facilities were limited and as the old saying goes, ‘if you ain’t got mammi, then you gotta use granny.’

But this is 2021; there is granny, mommy, a host of baby sitters and even cousins to help out. So why still use granny?

The idea here is not to incite a ‘sport war’ between two disciplines; real sportsmen and women will understand the plight of having a purposed venue used and destroyed by another sporting discipline.

After a traditional football game at the stadium, hundreds if not thousands of ‘peg’ prints are left in the cricket pitch surface, more so if it has rained recently and the clay is soggy. If you’re Guyanese, you’d know it always rains during the Christmas period.

This requires unnecessary work and money to bring the cricket pitch back up to the standard compulsory to host international and regional matches; the latter of which is scheduled for early next month.

Why would you want to spend thousands of tax-paying dollars to repair a venue after a football match when there are venues better suited to that? Why then are we still playing football at the National Stadium, Providence? Is the government or more specifically the Honourable Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport daft to his options for hosting football? Let’s chalk it up to oversight as we are all interested in sports development. Still, I’ll list a few better venues for future consideration.

1.    The National Training Centre 

This should have been the first choice for the two-night football extravaganza. It is a properly designed artificial turf conceptualized and created for the world’s biggest sport. Even more upsetting was that the bounce-back tournament was sanctioned, in partnership with the Guyana Football Federation (GFF) which holds a lease for the Eccles/Ramsburg land where the facility is built.

One might argue pitch quality but that would be a most stupid endeavour. The facility has played host to matches of international calibre during the KFC goodwill tournament and the player response was good.

Additionally, referencing a Guyana Chronicle Article published on their website on April 5 under the heading ‘Guyana’s debut CONCACAF U-17 Boys squad shaped by CSEC dates’ shows the National U-17 team preparing to participate in an international competition by training at the facility. If it’s good enough to train the national team, wouldn’t you want to play there?

So why then would you want to take football out of its natural habitat to take it to a venue where it would have to be forced. It’s like trying to fit Square peg in a round hole.

2.    National Track and Field Centre

Let’s say for a second that by some longshot, there was an issue with the National Training Centre of the Guyana Football Federation – for reference however, it is all-weather so rain won’t affect play and it is substantially higher than its surroundings so flooding isn’t an issue either – then the next viable option is the National Track and Field Centre (NTFC).

Now, here is a venue, which had taken over the football hosting mantle from the GNS stadium for hosting football matches since it has hosted Guyana’s last slew of CONCACAF qualifies. It boasts an artificial turf on the inner ring of the 400m track, adequate lighting to the entire venue and seating arrangements for officials and fans.

As it stands right now, the CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship is scheduled there in July. Wouldn’t that be an obvious choice?

Those are only two venues in a list that could go on for a few more paragraphs about possible hosting sites outside of the Guyana National Stadium. It cannot be overstated, however, that this not an attack on the sport of football or the Kashif and Shanghai organization; both are very near and dear to the hearts of sportsmen and women. It is to understand the reasoning behind taking something that doesn’t belong and forcing it along.

Knowing the vibrancy at which the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport operates, surely before the end of the week, a response will be published.