Hoop of Life popular but no dent in crime
By STEPHON NICHOLAS Sunday, March 10 2013
Laventille and Marabella will do battle tonight in Game One of the inaugural Hoop of Life finals at St Barb’s Basketball Court with $1 million on the line for the champion. It brings to a climax four months of competition at venues throughout the country in an anti-crime initiative conceptualised by the Ministry of National Security.
Speaking at the official launch of the tournament on October 17 last year, Minister of National Security Jack Warner explained that apart from being a positive activity for young people to participate in, what he envisioned was the removal of all border lines.
“Government is using this as one of the social interventions in our communities for the problem of crime...this programme is a chance to lift up heroes in the communities... (for) our young people to mend fences...to make friends across borderlines. You can’t play in St Barb’s, you can’t play in Plum Trace; if you in Plum Trace you can’t play in Picton; if you from Picton you can’t play in Beverly Hills — foolishness. There shall be no artificial lines whatsoever and we shall play. We shall have no more border lines,” Warner had declared.
The success of the Hoop of Life in this regard has arguably not achieved the desired result so far.
With 87 murders in 2013 including the gruesome beheading of Learie Ceballo in La Romaine last month, this country is experiencing one of the worse crime waves sweeping through the country. Just last week, three buildings in Clifton Hill, Laventille were set on fire in an apparent outbreak of gang warfare with Beverley Hills.
In a small survey with persons in Port-of-Spain yesterday, the consensus was that the Hoop of Life was not having an impact in the fight against crime.
One man who did not wish to be identified was adamant that the basketball tourney cannot stop crime.
“The fellas and them playing the basketball is not the fellas and them doing the crime. The next thing is that them seeing these players getting money and they want it too, by any means. You have to train the children from young because them fellas out there seasoned in crime. You can’t change them,” he declared.
Another individual called “Ras Frankie”, agreed and said more needs to be done when the basketball project has come to an end.
“You’re going to have a lot of police there for the final and everybody is going to be mixing with each other but when that is over, then what?” he asked.
“Half the people dying now is because they giving the police information about the criminals. It have plenty police living in Laventille, Maloney and other areas...Why they don’t say who the criminals are? They setting people up to die,” he stated.
Speaking to Sunday Newsday yesterday, Russell Ray, manager of the Laventille team in the Hoop of Life final, stopped short of stating that the competition was not helping the fight against crime but called on the Government to make a proper assessment of what it was able to achieve and to build on it.
“This is something the youths can grasp onto. This could be the catalyst that changes the mental approach of the young men (going in the wrong direction),” he said.
Ray called on parents throughout the country to be more proactive in guiding their children and showing them the right way.
He did note, however, that his team’s progress to the final has galvanise the Laventille community and he is expecting a massive turnout for the finals.
“If is one thing Laventille does support, it is sports. Anytime you have a Laventille team in a competition you will see the huge support. When we were going down to La Romaine (for the semi-finals), there were about 100 cars lined behind us with their hazard lights on going down to cheer for us. It was a beautiful sight and a unique spectacle. If it is one thing I would remember the most after this competition is over, is that,” he declared.
Malicka Aqui, manager of Marabella, is confident that the competition is helping reduce crime and noted that several young men between the ages of 13-18 in her community have come forward and asked for forms for the Ministry of Sports LIFEsport programme.
She said the biggest achievement for the team was the way they have brought the community together.
“We have a lot of fans here in Marabella. Everyone wants to watch us train and watch us play,” she said.
Minister of Sport, Anil Roberts, felt the Hoop of Life programme did realise its aim.
“The way the crowds and the community are involved, it has taken us back to decades where communities and families used to come out and support their teams. In fact, the venues we have now look quite small with the turnout we’ve gotten. This is a model we want to implement in other sports to get he community involved again,” he said.
He said he felt quite heartened to hear that young people were coming forward because of the Hoop of Life project to join the LIFEsport programme.
“I’m trying to get a report on that because there has been a cry for more (people to join). We’re in 33 communities right now and we’ve been having requests from young men who can’t read or write to join the literacy programme. Young men are getting mentored by some of our national heroes like (former national footballer) Angus Eve and Reynold Carrington. There are anger management classes as well and we’ve been trying to identify talents in people and get them into a skill,” he continued.
He did agree with Laventille coach, Ray, that parents need to play a bigger role in their children’s upbringing and noted that the country is facing a serious problem with fathers abandoning the home.