The various concerns of athletes and their sports associations took the spotlight as several of them met with Minister of Sport Stephen Lashley at his Sky Mall, Haggatt Hall, St Michael office today.
Addressing some of those concerns during a media conference that highlighted Barbadian athletes who had done well in their disciplines, Lashley said there was a proposal to look at special citizenship arrangements for athletes who had not been born on the island. He referred to 14-time female squash champion Karen Meakins who is not Barbadian by birth but has worn national colours with pride.
“I can assure you that we in the ministry are looking at a policy framework to make recommendations to the Cabinet on the whole question of citizenship arrangements for athletes who are not naturalized Barbadians but who have earned their stripes by representing Barbados,” he said.
Lashley said he had also listened to the requests of many of Barbados’ top athletes, including 2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Shane Brathwaite who reportedly called for pictures of national athletes to be placed at points of entry to the island such as the Grantley Adams International Airport. The minister said he totally agreed with Brathwaite and pointed out that Barbados had such illustrious stars that they should be celebrated. He added his ministry would speak with the relevant airport authorities and the private sector to place billboards at the airport and on the ABC highway to acknowledge athletes, as well as artistes, in a more “visual way”.
“I visited Colombo, Sri Lanka about three years ago and when I was driving through the capital I did not have to guess as to where I was and as to who the persons were that were being celebrated. They had high billboard signs of the members of the Sri Lanka cricket team and there is no reason why we can’t do the same. We need to acknowledge in a more visual way our athletes and of course I was reminded that I am Minister of Culture and therefore I should not leave out our artistes and our creative practitioners,” Lashley said.
Barbadian professional volleyball player Shari Mathews who was also present at the Press conference said forums such as the conference did not occur often and therefore she took time to put her case for the sport of volleyball which she said did not have a permanent home in Barbados.
Mathews, who was inducted into the Alex Rivera Athletics Hall Of Fame at Central University in North Carolina on September 13, said: “I believe everyone here has a home in terms of sport but for volleyball we have no home and to not have a home is a very hard thing. I have played professionally and in Italy you see small domes and those are like small basic stuff that I think would push volleyball itself. As a national player, we train once or twice a week going into a tournament and we are going against people who train every day,” Mathews said.
The local Rockets player explained that for local athletes to accomplish so much and not have the adequate facilities to train was difficult. She pointed to the frequent inaccessibility of the Wildey Gymnasium, as well as that at the Barbados Community College, while noting that playing indoor volleyball was not the same as playing outdoors. She stated there were things that had to be done for volleyballers to progress, while noting that they were often asked to be professional but were not treated as such.
Lashley assured Mathews that his ministry would do what was necessary to make sure they were fully accommodated when the time came for them to train at the Wildey Gymnasium.
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