Blackmore’s Commanding Grand National Triumph

Jockey Rebecca Blackmore keeps giving us reasons to applaud her breathtaking exploits on the racecourse.

Having won Saturday’s Grand National at Aintree racecourse in Liverpool, England on Minella Times, Blackmore enshrined her name in sporting history for eternity. She became the first female jockey to ever win the 4m+ race that can be ranked as one of the most demanding activities in all of sport.

The Grand National is the biggest horse race in the world and Blackmore’s just went and won it with a superb piece of riding over 30 fences.

Blackmore was in 2018 one of my 6 persons of the year for coming so close to becoming champion jump-jockey in Ireland. Her runner up was as good as winning given how competitive jump racing in Ireland.

Having earned so much acclaim for finishing last month’s Cheltenham Festival as top jockey you wondered what further superlatives could Blackmore pull off for the season.

In Saturday’s big race Blackmore had Minella Times in the right place throughout the 9+ minutes. A habit this young Irish jockey tends to do in all her rides.

The reaction of Blackmore’s win by race announcer Rupert Bell on Talksport Radio and his colleague Lizzie Kelly (a former top-top jockey) in the commentary box was radio gold. Just raw passion for the moment.

Winning the Grand National is no easy feat. It is never just about how good a horse or jockey is to win such a prestigious event. Some of the best horses and jockeys in British and Irish racing history have not come close to winning the National.

Blackmore is just unique. Full credit to Minella Times‘ trainer Henry De Bromhead for giving Blackmore the top job in his stable. The way De Bromhead talks about Blackmore is just respectful and mature.

Blackmore has simply saved racing given recent scandals and the pandemic. So this period of Blackmore mania is great for racing and all of sport.

So what else is there for Blackmore 31, to do in 2021?

Well, she is currently second in the Irish jockey Championship and has every chance to over haul leader Paul Townend before the season ends in a few weeks time.

Blackmore occasionally rides (& wins) on the flat as well, so don’t be surprised if this superb jockey has further success during the summer at Royal Ascot, the classic races in Ireland, England and France.

On 28th September 2018 Blackmore rode a winner on the jumps at Downpatrick racecourse and later that said day she went to Dundalk racecourse and won a race on the flat. A unique feat in modern horseracing.

Let’s hope Blackmore’s racing agent is on the phone to top flat Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien to get on a horse for her to ride in the Epsom or Irish Derby for June.

‘I’m really quite emotional., You’re told from a young age that you can’t do it and Rachael has just proved that you can.

“I’m sorry I don’t mean to be emotional but it means so much and she’s such a nice girl. She really does deserve it.” – Lizzie Kelly, retired jockey

Rachael Blackmore: 'It's just a dream' - the Irish jockey's family react to  her becoming the first woman ever to win the Grand National - Independent.ie
Prodigious

Posted in horse racing, Irish Sport, jockey | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

West Indies vs Sri Lanka – Man of the Series: Garfield Burford

The Sri Lankan cricket team’s tour of the West Indies came to an end on Friday with the 2 test series against their hosts both ending in good draws. Due to the ongoing pandemic all of the international matches (West Indies won ODI & T20 series) were held in the beautiful bubble of Antigua and Barbuda.

Yet one of the highlights and indeed surprises of the games for me was the radio commentary of the matches from a certain Garfield Burford from Antigua and Barbuda Broadcasting Service (ABS).

Burford is well known to Jamaican viewers for years as a co-anchor for CVM-TV’s flagship daily evening news and host of a weekly current affairs programme on the said tv station. At all times on CVM-TV Burford came across as impressive and well prepared. A quintessential professional.

Burford rose to global prominence when he covered then US President Barack Obama’s visit to Jamaica in 2015.

In 2016, Burford left CVM-TV in Jamaica and moved on to ABS to work as a consultant/broadcaster. The next time I saw Burford on screen was when he interviewed Dominican Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit in 2017 in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria’s devastation of parts of the Eastern Caribbean.

So it was surprising to hear Burford’s voice in the commentary box during a number cricket matches in Antigua & Barbuda. I was not even aware that Burford liked sports. But according to Burford’s former colleague, Orville Higgins (host of Sports Desk on Klas fm), Garfield is a passionate fan of cricket. You could feel Burford’s fervour for the sport coming through during the matches.

Burford’s commentating during the matches was smooth, flowing, lively, informative and engaging. He was well researched, quick on his feet, ego-free and just a breath of fresh air.

Burford came across as a natural in the commentary box and had no trouble pronouncing the names of the Sri Lankan players, unlike numerous commentators across the globe that comes to mind.

If Burford had not moved to Antigua & Barbuda maybe this golden moment would have missed him – and us listeners.

I do hope Burford’s cricket commentating skills is not restricted just matches played in Antigua and Barbuda, that it develops and opportunities to do similar gigs will come his way.

Burford proved over the shortened West Indian regional cricket season that he is too good to just discuss news and current affairs and that a permanent seat in cricket’s commentary box is more than deserved.

Government of Antigua and Barbuda
Allrounder
Posted in cricket | Leave a comment

Cheltenham Festival 2021 – Red Letter Week for Blackmore

During this extended period of shutdowns, lockdowns, meltdowns, social distancing and sanitization overload, thankfully horse racing has been a welcome distraction for those who follow the sport, especially in the UK and Ireland.

Many folks that’s known me well over the years would be surprised to learn that I am a big fan of horse racing, but not just any old horse racing.

I like some sports with a certain degree of passion. But when it comes to horse racing such personal enthusiasm is on another level – especially jump racing, Irish jump racing. Yet it has nothing to do with my wallet because I have not gambled for years.

Maybe that love of horse racing goes back to my childhood days of 1980s Old Harbour, Jamaica where I  sat on horses at a farm in the community during the summer holidays. Old Harbour from the 1910s to the 1960s was the centre of Jamaican horse racing with its Little Ascot race track hosting race meets until it was officially closed in the late 1950s. But the track and grand stand (then described in the 1920s as futristic ) remained in use until it got sold off.

There was even a time when I had my own riding boots and headgear for a few sessions in Central London. Long story.

But there is something about horse racing in the UK and Ireland that has always stimulated my brain cells. Yet the racing in Ireland is a sport that deserves wider coverage and greater rewards, which leads me on to reviewing last week’s Cheltenham Racing Festival held in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England.

Cheltenham Festival is the Olympics of jump racing for the thoroughbred fraternity from the UK and Ireland. Each year, those 4 days in March brings about one of the best sporting theatres you will see anywhere.

The crowds are generally buzzing, the atmosphere is raucous and friendly and the horses and jockeys deliver endless excitement from the Tuesday to Friday. The emotions of the stable staff, owners and trainers is something to behold.

But with the pandemic still with us, thankfully Cheltenham Festival 2021 show went ahead.

No crowds, no owners, no bookmakers, not even the amateur riders were allowed at the Festival. But the horses, jockeys and media gave us socially distant fans a celebration of racing to remember.  But top British race horse trainers such as Paul Nicholls, Dan Skelton, Nigel Twiston-Davies and Colin Tizzard may think otherwise given they had no winners over the 4 days.

Not even the ghost of the disgraced Irish trainer Gordon Elliott’s ban could overshadow what was a terrific amphitheatre of racing and in particular the continued success of Rachael Blackmore who finished as top jockey of the meet with 6 winners. A tremendous feat when you think of the numerous heavy falls Blackmore had during the week from a number of horses.

The Irish winning 23 of the 28 races came as no surprise. Irish racing over the past 2 decades has been top draw, fiercely competitive at all levels and horses never stop delivering excellent finishes. Their trainers and jockeys consistently give great informative interviews to the media.

The prize money is far better in Ireland and Graded (top class) happens Sunday to Saturday unlike in the UK where such races occur mainly on Saturdays.

Throughout the season the Irish raiders have cleaned up on some of the big handicaps on UK soil. No doubt an Irish horse will start favourite for the Grand National despite English trained Cloth Cap currently holding that lofty tag.

Even one of those British wins was rather hollow this week given Galvin was only running under an UK tag because his real trainer, Gordon Elliott, received a 1 year suspension just days earlier for sitting on dead horse while posing with his phone.

Despite Elliott’s ban some his horses manage to do well under the names of other trainers knowing full well he will return to the stables. This did leave a bad taste in some punters mouth.

But Rachael Blackmore is just something else. Like I side 2 years ago about her rise to the top of the Irish jockey circuit ‘let’s just be lucky to have her and enjoy her success”.

Blackmore has this knack having the horse she is riding in the right place and with a winning chance. She is tough and uncompromising when fighting for a good position in the races. Her male colleagues know that any little gamesmanship from them in the race would not ruffle her.

It is really tricky to pick out which of Blackmore’s 6 wins was her best because they were all super smartly judged rides. Her victory on Honeysuckle (Champion Hurdle) has to get a mention and the mare remains unbeaten and a people’s favourite.

But her ride on Allaho to win the Ryan Air Chase was breathtaking given the speed that horse was going over the last 5 fences. Even Allaho’s trainer Willie Mullins (top trainer at the Festival) was taken aback by the horse’s performance.

Full marks to the media who placed a tiny camera on jockey Harry Cobden in the Ballymore and we were able to see Blackmore on Bob Olinger just crept up next to Cobden and find 3 extra gears and just whoosh away Bob Olinger flew.

 

Blackmore’s main trainer Henry de Bromhead also had remarkable Festival winning 6 races and achieving the rare feat of triumphing in 3 of the big championship races of the meet (Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase, and blue riband Gold Cup with Minella Indo).

Blackmore jumped off Minella Indo to ride the other de Bromhead horse, A Plus Tard and came a close 2nd. The scary thing is that de Bromhead  still has Monalee at home still to come into the reckoning for the 2022 Gold Cup.

Delighted to see trainer Sue Smith won a big handicap with the timeless Vintage Clouds. A win for the North whose record at Cheltenham is never great.

Predicting winners or placed runners at the Cheltenham Festival is near on impossible. But I do like to put my wits down for the big meets and to my surprise I did pick 16 winners and 6 runners up including the 1-2 in the Gold Cup.

Easy-peasy it may seem but studying Irish form in real time meant to me for Cheltenham have one simply strategy – avoid English trained horses.

I even managed to select Joe Kidder in the Fred Winter who won at a staggering 80/1, odds that baffled me given trainer Noel Meade was up to something with winning pilot Sean Flanagan, who literally flew into Cheltenham from Ireland under his new pilot licence.

The Gold Cup won by Minella Indo, under a spare ride for Jack Kennedy, was just a terrific race. The riding was superb. The runner up, A Plus Tard, under Blackmore did not jump as well as expected but fought relentless to try and reel in the winner.  Kennedy and Blackmore were just exceptional throughout the 4 days and it was fitting that they fought out the Gold Cup.

Despite winning 6 races Blackmore must thinking what could have been had she stayed on Minella Indo. But you have to say Kennedy looked so smooth and relaxed on Indo from word go.

2 Cheltenham Festivals ago Kennedy, on a hot favourite (trained by Gordon Elliott) chased home Blackmore who won with Minella Indo at 50/ in the Albert Bartlett.  [3rd was the aforementioned Allaho]

Who would have thought that in 2021 Kennedy would win the Gold Cup on Minella Indo from Blackmore and not a Gordon Elliott horse in sight?

That sums up jump racing for you. There’s always drama, a story or 2, the odd scandal and in the end, racing fans cannot wait for the next instalment of the Cheltenham Festival. version 2022.

But for now Blackmore’s brilliance is something to treasure.

Rachael Blackmore crowns dream week with more Cheltenham Festival history | The Independent

Blackmore – 6 of the best

 

Posted in cheltenham 2021, horse racing, Irish Sport, jockey | Leave a comment

Time for West Indies Cricket to Break Up?

Since the late 1970s I felt strongly that the concept of a West Indies cricket team was outdated and that the region should have broken up into 5 or 6 teams playing international cricket in their own right; namely, Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana and/or Combined Windward and Leeward Islands.

The cricketing (male) talent in the West Indies since the 1940s has been bountiful and yet its full potential was never allowed to maximise itself on the international scale. Thus too many good young players left the sport – over the decades – due to a lack of opportunities within the region.

I felt when the Caribbean islands started to gain independence, from colonialism since the 1960s, the regional cricketing administrators should have laid the foundation to go their own separate cricketing ways.

The Caribbean has always had the players, a rich cricketing pedigree, the passion and pride, the environment to make such a momentous move sustainable and rewarding.

Recently, the West Indies cricket selectors found themselves in an awkward position when picking a full-strength squad for the tour of Bangladesh, as many of the first team players decided to opt out including captains Jason Holder (test) and Kieron Pollard (ODIs).

As you can imagine some Bangladeshi cricket officials felt miffed by this overwhelming snub by the more recognizable players from the West Indies. No surprise then that the host whitewashed the West Indies 3-0 in the ODIs.

But when we saw the West Indies squad for the 2 test match series some felt the new players chosen would be classed as rejects or stop-gaps. Yet some of these newer recruits should have been in the test team ages ago based on their form and attitude in local/regional cricket; Nkrumah Bonner a prime example. Despite seeing him play just a handful of matches, Joshua Da Silva had shown a lot of potential for test cricket.

Some of us despairing Windies fans were hoping that the fresh faces in the test team would seize their moment, play exceedingly well and make life interesting for those senior players who opted out. Result!

So high praises to debutants Kyle Mayers and Nkrumah Bonner (man of the series) for their special performances in ensuring the West Indies chased down a record score to win the first test. Mayers was man of the match.

Bonner, Da Silva and Alzarri Joseph showed maturity and confidence with their batting in the 2nd test where Rakheem Cornwall played a match winning role with ball and in the slips to complete a 2-0 victory over the host. Proving once again the cricketing talent in the Caribbean is deep but not truly developed.

Interestingly, as that first test was on its way, a T10 overs tournament was being held in Abu Dhabi which involved at least 22 West Indian cricketers including many who snubbed the tour to Bangladesh.

There is no way that any other cricketing nation would have allowed their senior players to play some micky-mouse-well-paid lavish tournament when some of those said players would be have been expected to be padded up for the national side. This is the core of the issue today for me on the relevance of Team West Indies cricket.

  • Can the West Indies team truly be regarded as a national team?
  • Is the concept of Team West Indian cricket relevant given the independence status that most member nations have acquired since the 1960s?
  • Is the West Indies cricket concept selling its players, fans short by having 11 players instead of 55/66 representing the region at any one time?

West Indies Cricket Should Have Broken Up in the 1970

The (male) teams of Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Jamaica and the Combined Windward and Leeward Islands were worthy of test status since the 1960s due to its wealth of talent on display at the regional, club and junior levels.

  • The depth in quality was just unreal.
    • Guyana (then British Guiana) in the 1965-66 season of the regional tournament included Lance Gibbs, Joe Solomon, Rohan Kanhai, Roy Fredricks, Basil Butcher, Clive Lloyd and Steven Camacho, all test players.
      • Barbados team then had David Holford, Conrad Hunte, Charlie Griffiths, Seymour Nurse and a certain Garfield Sobers.
    • Barbados alone in the 1970s/1980s could call on the services of world class fast bowlers such as Wayne Daniel, Malcolm Marshall, Keith Boyce, Ezra Mosley (R.I.P.), Franklyn Stephenson, Joel Garner, Sylvester Clarke, Vanburn Holder and Hartley Alleyne.
      • Trinidad and Tobago had players such as the Gomes brothers (Sheldon & Larry), Bernard Julien, Rangy Nanan, Bryan Davis, Phil Simmons, Gus Logie, Ian Bishop, Deryck Murray and Anthony Gray.

[Gray and Clarke were as good as any of the well-established fast bowlers in the Caribbean but chances of making the team consistently was near on impossible. They both had stellar careers in English county cricket.]

  • In 1980, the Jamaican regional team included  Michael Holding, Jeffrey Dujon, Everton Mattis, Herbert Chang, Basil Williams, Richard Austin, and Lawrence “Yagga” Rowe. The last 4 mentioned came from 1 local club, Kensington. [Back then for years, in a country of 14 parishes, Jamaica’s first-class cricket was played by teams exclusively based in Kingston/St Andrew with 1 other team coming from St Catherine.]
  • The Barbadian team that played Jamaica in 1980 included household names such as Desmond Haynes, Malcolm Marshall, Collis King, Sylvester Clarke, David Murray, Joel Garner and Wayne Daniel. They could also have called on the services Gordon Greenidge, Franklyn Stephenson and regional runs machine, Carlisle Best.
  • The Combined or Windward/Leeward islands had the likes of Andy Roberts, Viv Richards, Richie Richardson, Winston Davis, Norbert Phillip, Eldine Baptitse, Winston and Kenny Benjamin, Ralston Otto and later on Curtly Ambrose.

With such quality then why should the Caribbean have settled on just one international team instead of 5 or 6? A golden opportunity was missed when cricket in the West Indies was king.

West Indian Identity

The concept of West Indies cricket stems from the British colonial age that lingers on in subtle guises.

Luminaries such as the writer C.L.R. James felt that the notion of Team West Indies cricket was the perfect model of the kind of integration that should be mirrored across other aspects of Caribbean society. James was passionate about a federation of Caribbean islands.

The Caribbean can look to rugby union and the example of UK international teams of Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England who each play independently; but every 4 years the top players from these 4 nations form the British Lions team and tour overseas to play either South African, Australia or New Zealand in 3 test matches.

International cricket on a whole suffers from having too fewer top nations and the addition of 5/6 new teams from the Caribbean could bring renewed interest from local fans and investment to help take this great sport forward in the region and wider cricketing public.

Today, the likes of Barbados, Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago have solid domestic cricket programmes and infrastructure to make a viable case for international status. The Windward and Leeward Islands have made some of the biggest strides in cricket development especially in terms of modern cricketing grounds and facilities.

Jamaica is not far behind but has continued to produce players of international level. These Caribbean teams can also tap local talent from the diaspora in the UK and elsewhere including the USA.

The 5/6 national teams in the Caribbean have the coaches, the former players (mentors) and fan base both at home and in the diaspora to support such an initiative towards independent cricket.

Caribbean Bloc – Politics & Sport Mixture

The working relationship between West Indies cricket teams and their board of directors has rarely ever been harmonious. Forever fractious and at times the tension revolves around national lines. The West Indian boardroom members are still at loggerheads today. Shame.

If the West Indies (when they were number 1 & box office) was carved up into test playing nations and acted as a bloc they could have had a greater influence in the boardroom of the International Cricket Council (ICC). As a bloc of 5-6 votes the West Indian suits could have greater leverage to acquire more revenue and games for themselves.

In international football, the UK has 4 national team(s) & administrations (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). In the boardrooms of FIFA and UEFA these 4 UK nations have long stuck together as a bloc of 4 to influence football policy to their way of thinking, much to the annoyance of some other members.

The traditional purists will think this suggested breaking of the West Indies cricket is a pointless and expensive exercise. But West Indies cricket officials need to finally look at the bigger picture of international cricket.

Why have they held back their respective nations from playing global cricket whilst other less traditional nations (e.g. Ireland) have caught up with them in the various rankings?

The fact that the likes of Afghanistan, Ireland, Scotland, Namibia, UAE, The Netherlands, Kenya and indeed Bangladesh have made great strides to be in top the 20 rankings of international cricket. Such meteoric strides just shows up how the Caribbean has sat on their complacent laurels a missed having greater influence on pitch and in the corridors of power.

Following West Indies’ victory over Bangladesh in the first test, Jofra Archer (England/Barbados) tweeted “Barbados has so much talent it’s unbelievable”.

Damn right.

Barbados team late 1970s incl. Trotman, Garner, Skeete, Haynes, Farmer, Murray, Padmore, Holder, Holford, Greenidge, King

Steady

 

Posted in Caribbean, cricket | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Politician’s Portmore Parish Plans

The Andrew Holness-led Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administration is going ahead with transitioning the city of Portmore – currently part of the parish of St Catherine – to becoming the 15th parish on the island in its own right.

Why break Portmore from St Catherine?

The Portmore parish idea was first mooted in the 2000s by the political class. Shame the residents of Portmore were not given a chance to have their own say via the referendum route.

Population-wise, St Catherine continues to grow at an alarming rate due to the raft of housing developments especially on former sugar lands. Government stats as at 2018 had the population of St Catherine at roughly 520,000. But we all know this figure is a gross under-estimation especially when you take into account how rapidly the town of Old Harbour and its immediate environs is still expanding.

A special parliamentary committee has been set up to prepare Portmore for this change of status with Andrew Wheatley (JLP) as its chairman.

When you speak to some folks from Portmore (a place I venture to weekly) you understandably get mixed reactions about the proposed parish plans. But all agree that the government should be more focused on developing a better infrastructure and facilities to meet the demands of an ever-growing community.

The need for a top tier public hospital for Portmore -despite numerous promises -is long overdue given there is none such entity of any description there. The area needs more one-stop-shop public services.

So it was interesting to read in the Gleaner recently the steps being considered by the authorities:

“Recommendations were also made for an additional 12 primary schools, eight secondary schools, and a tertiary institution to be built. There was also a proposal for the establishment of a Type A hospital, an additional seven Type Three health facilities, one more fire station, an infirmary, and a courthouse, among other social services.”

It does beg the question why did previous governments, up to 2020, not implement even half of the above recommendations? Recommendations that were clearly obvious required from the outset.

Better late than never but land space – for some of the proposed developments – in Portmore today is so limited compared to even a decade ago. Meaning some of these recommendations could have been developed years ago in erm… St Catherine, especially in Spanish Town and its environs. 

Why did it have take the idea of a new parish for Portmore to even consider implementing certain key developments? The lack of a top tier public hospital is nothing short of a disgrace. Especially given the current pressures across public hospitals due to COVID-19.

Naming Shame?

Given how modern independent Jamaica is today there is a discussion to be had over why its newish towns, since independence, fail to show greater homage to the African continent where most Jamaican’s ancestral roots emanate from?

Yet a broader assessment is needed on whether the names of many of the parishes & old towns in Jamaica today fit in with its independent status.

The last period when there were major changes to the parishes was in the 1860s when:

  • the parishes of St Catherine, St Dorothy and St John merged to become St Catherine,
  • St Mary and Metcalfe became St Mary
  • Clarendon and Vere merged into Clarendon.
  • Portland and Saint George, with the Manchioneal district of the parish of Saint Thomas in the East, became the parish of Portland,

Parishes were named along colonial lines. The parishes of Westmoreland, Hanover, Trelawny are such examples.

Historically, many of the towns and places in Jamaica were christened by European settlers that reflected their own heritage. E.g. Leeds, Clonmel, Islington, Rio Cobre, Aberdeen are names that have British, Spanish and Irish beginnings.

E.g. Port Esquivel – off the coast of Old Harbour/Bodles –  was named after Juan de Esquivel – the first Spanish Governor of Jamaica – who before his lofty appointment had rounded and killed many of the Tainos chiefs in nearby Hispaniola

Longville, in the parish of Clarendon, is home to one of the largest housing developments in Jamaica and was named after Samuel Long, a pro-slavery land owner of the 18th century.

In a nation where over 92% of the population are of African descent you would be pushed to locate towns/landmarks named from an African context with the possible exceptions of say, Haile Selassie or Nelson Mandela (no Winnie).

There seems to be a continued hesitance and blatant apathy by some influencers not to acknowledge the relevance and deep connections that Africa has on its descendants in Jamaica.

Even as Portmore has continued to develop over the past 50 years the names of the newish communities continue to have that Anglo Saxonian/British flavour including English racecourses.

Parish of Eddie?

As for the christening of this new parish in Portmore – will it be the named in honour of former prime minister the late Edward Seaga?

In the 1966 budget debate, Seaga, then Minister of Development and Welfare, did announce plans for a major housing development valued at then £30m for south east St Catherine which included Portmore and its environs.

Don’t be surprised.

Further reading:

Jamaica Observer February 2021: For Portmore to become a parish squatter communities need to be redeveloped.

 

Administrative Map of Jamaica - Nations Online Project

Map of Jamaica

 

Transformation of the Parishes of Jamaica, 1572 to Present - Fiwi Roots

Map of Jamaica – 18th century

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

PNP’s Senate Fallout is Messy

Mark Golding’s brief honeymoon period as Jamaica’s new President of the People’s National Party (PNP) and Leader of the Opposition has hit some potholes.

It is just over a month since Golding was elevated to those lofty political positions but he can thank his predecessor, Peter Phillips, as well as his frenemies in the party for the senator mess the PNP has got itself into, especially over the Norman Horne saga.

But Golding too has to shoulder a tiny bit of the blame centered around the Horne issue and the broader recent senate PNP appointments debacle. More of that later.

Having lost so pathetically in the general election to the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in September, Phillips immediately announced his intentions to resign as leader of the PNP.

Yet Phillips went ahead and nominated 8 PNP senators to parliament’s Upper House. This was a weird step by the then leader and just added to a trove of poor leadership decisions by Phillips since he took the helm in 2017.

Given senators are appointed to serve for the duration of the parliament and cannot be fired by their respective party leaders (who ever agreed to that bright idea?), how could Phillips have made such a shortsighted decision?

[Phillip’s baffling decision could be comparable to say if NFL football Head Coach/General Manager. Bill Belichick had resigned from his positions at the New England Patriots, but before leaving he ensured that the backroom coaches were immediately given cast iron 5-year contracts. Thus given Belichick’s successor little chance of bringing in his own people.]

Phillips succession planning on the senate was either fool hardy or a cheeky attempt to ensure leadership candidate Golding (if victorious) would have no chance of nominating some of his own people for the senate and in particular Peter Bunting.

Bunting had lost a bitter close leadership battle against Phillips in 2019. Since then some in the Phillips wing have been on a political kamikaze mission to destroy anyone linked to Bunting. Even if it means bringing the PNP into public disrepute.

Bunting did lose his parliament seat to the JLP’s Rhoda Crawford. Ironically in August, Horne had to come out and “deny claims from the JLP that he had endorsed Crawford.

Phillips lost the general election on 3rd September and by the end of month had pushed forward his senate nominations, thus snubbing  suggestions from Krystal Tomlinson, president of the PNP’s youth arm.

Golding rival for leadership, Lisa Hanna, showed a serious lack of conviviality after losing the leadership race and this meant the sour grapes from her camp just brewed and now has got out of control.

Yes, there may be bad blood on both wings of the PNP behind the scenes, but the Jamaican public could care less about these senseless battles of egos. The public expects the opposition to focus on their main job.

Where Golding went wrong is during the recent leadership campaign, he  should never have endorsed the senate names put forward by Phillips. Golding should have spelled out clearly that he would expect all 8 senators to tender their resignation and leave it up to the new PNP leader to decide whether to accept them. If any of the Phillips nominated senators had refused to do resign, then fine.

As for the current PNP senators it is hard to give the current crop a ringing endorsement. Some are holdovers from the 2016-2020 parliament and with the exception of Lambert Brown have not impressed and made any impact with the public. The PNP did need new passionate and articulate voices in the senate. Let’s hope they step up.

Golding’s plan to put Peter Bunting into the senate was a good move as he was an effective parliamentarian in the Lower House. Doesn’t take a genius to know why Bunting lost his seat in the general election.  But Golding’s move to nominate Bunting was bound to stir up anger from his many enemies within the PNP.

The PNP has to decide now whether to keep their infighting to a minimal level. As we know in politics there is no such thing as a unified political party. Just that such divisive members come together to fight the common enemy, which in the PNP case would be the JLP administration.

The senate debates are too friendly on the PNP side and lacked the adversarial combatable atmosphere it needs with the exception of Brown. Especially as the PNP has just 14 members in the Lower House compared to the JLP’s 49 there is little room invisible parliamentarians from the PNP.

Take Senator Sophia Frazer-Binns for example who has the shadow portfolio of environment. Environment has become a major talking point across the island thanks to the pressure and slick pr of civil society groups such as the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET).

Yet we never hear any comment of substance from Frazer-Binns on any of the hot environment topics such as the Cockpit Country. TVJ and RJR cover environmental issues on their flagship shows on a regular basis but you rarely hear any significant contribution to the debates from senior representatives from the PNP.

In a stark way the current senate debacle and ego clashes within the PNP is a blessing for Golding. These skirmishes should give Golding the impetus to make serious changes to the PNP internal mechanism in order to move forward as viable government in waiting.

But Golding should have come out last week and spoken to the press. Phillips should have issued a statement to clarify the confusion cause by the Horne fiasco.

The PNP needs to go on the offensive in a pragmatic way against the government and not on itself. The party has to be slicker, have substance in its monitoring of government policies and  be more active in its messaging to its membership, independents and those 60% of the electorate turned off by politics. The PNP has to be more forward thinking and stream lined in the delivery of its key objectives.  

Meanwhile, the Holness administration sits back sipping their green tea and laughing at the PNP for turning all of their political arsenal inwards.

Congrats to Nationwide Radio and Radio Jamaica’s Emily Shields for some sterling work on this first major political conundrum of the Golding era.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 1 Comment

Viva Maradona

I first became aware of the essence of Diego Maradona back in the late 1970s whilst I was growing up in Jamaica. Not that I had any chance of seeing the great man kick a ball then due to limited live tv coverage of international football beyond World Cups and English FA Cup finals.

Back then I was lucky to get my hands on copies of the superb UK based football magazines such as Shoot!, Football Monthly and World Soccer.

What was so unique about World Soccer was its regular coverage of league football in regions such as South America. [Who would have thought ten years later I would have an office across the road from where World Soccer was published on Stamford Street, London?]

World Soccer provided regular reports on Maradona’s performances for his club side Boca Juniors and when playing for Argentina from his first ever game. At the time I was also interested in Brazilian club football especially teams such as Flamengo and Santos.

So by the time I saw actual footage of Maradona on television in 1981/82 I was already hooked. Just the images of Maradona on the field in those magazine made him look like a football general. And like myself he was a left footer.

1981 – Zico (Flamengo) & Diego (Boca)

Maradona was the best footballer I had ever seen. Diego transcended football, sport and life. He was star than shone like no other across the hallowed turf. His charisma on and the field was unmatched. 

Many have rightly referred to Diego’s performances at the 1986 World Cup and his time in Italy for Napoli as his zenith. But Maradona was also terrific in the 1982 World Cup in Italy. Yes, he was over shadowed by the Brazilian team of Zico and Eder, yet Maradona stood out for me on so many fronts.

Who would have that in the 1982 World Cup second round that Brazil, Argentina and Italy would have been drawn together in a group of 3 where only one could go to the semis? Unreal.

Yes, Diego did receive a red card in the game against Brazil. But by then you could not blame Maradona for lashing out as he was kicked so relentlessly from the first game. The assault in the game of death match against Italy was not for the faint hearted with the likes of Claudio Gentile doing their best hatchet job to kick Diego out of World Cup 82. But Maradona stood up to the physicality and you could not help but respect courage of the man.

1982 – Diego & Gentile

Over the years I watched countless archived hours of Diego’s matches. To see Maradona in his pomp you need to see also his performances for Argentina at Copa America as well those early years for Boca. There you see Diego’s vision, his touch, his passion, his toughness, his positivity, his leadership and skills blended in each game. He was the best in the world from the late 1970s.

In the long history of football there have been many top players and there have been great players and then there is Maradona, all on his own as a genius with the heart of a warrior.

Diego was one of those rare star footballers who never hid in crucial games, he took responsibility, was unselfish and on many occasions was ahead of his team mates, his opponents and especially the cameramen.

Maradona played and celebrated football as if he was one of us. He knew he was above any player but that never separated himself from fans of football that adored him long into retirement.

Even today some English fans have not forgiven Maradona for the “hand of god” moment in 1986 and Peter Shilton (then England goalkeeper) is still bitter over “cheating” Maradona.  Sheer hypocrisy.

4 years later in 1990 in a big match between England and Brazil at Wembley, I saw defender England’s Stuart Pearce used his right hand to deflect a Brazilian shot heading to the England goal. I am still waiting for Shilton (who started that game) or the press to call Pearce a cheat for that move which the football official did not even blow for a penalty.

The stories about Maradona from former players and fans this week has been touching and enlightening. The photos and clips of Diego posing with fans and players are priceless. I was moved by the comments from Diego’s former team mate Ossie Ardilles and legendary manager Jose Mourinho.

I shall miss Diego Maradona. Despite retiring from playing football Maradona has been a constant fixture in our lives. Whether as a football manager or figure on the public stage in various guises.

But one of Maradona’s endearing moments for me was his public support for others sports where Argentinians were participants. Whether it be in the Olympics, Rugby World Cup the television camera would find Maradona amongst the Argentinians fans in the stands passionately cheering on his compatriots.

One of those defining examples of Diego was in 2016 when Argentina played away to Croatia in the tennis Davis Cup final in Zagreb. Maradona’s visual support was as entertaining as the matches itself in which his compatriots were victorious.

In our life time we witnessed a genius in the most popular sport on the planet. Thank heavens for You Tube and those fans for uploading tons of Maradona footage over the years.

Maradona was my kind of football.

Gracias Diego

Unfettered – 2016 tennis Davis Cup final in Croatia

Posted in football, Obituary, soccer, sport, sports | 1 Comment

Barbados Removes Nelson’s Statue

Earlier this week, Barbados removed the statue of the 18th century English soldier, Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson, from its National Heroes’ Square in Bridgetown. From all indications the statue will be placed at the Barbados Museum and Historical Society.

But what was equally momentous on the day was the speech given by Barbadian Prime Minister, Mia Amor Mottley, at the event that sent Nelson’s statue on its way. Mottley’s speech was deep, informative, on point and in the moment. Mottley spoke about Caribbean identity, colonialism, reparations, values, empowerment and the proposed move to a republican Barbados.

The highlights of Mottley’s tremendous speech were many and they included memorable quotes such as:

  1. “If these streets could talk they will be telling us the stories of those who wondered whether they were lucky or whether they were truly condemned when they moved from the boats to  the shore of this nation. They will remember those who didn’t make it. And they would come to understand they would held dear.. their love for one other that all this thing were taken from home”
  2. “We understand that those who went before us ran their leg of the relay race to allow you to walk these streets free. But are you really free?  Are you really free until your mind is liberated?”
  3. [on her phones] – “I keep a picture of Bob Marley as my screen saver to remind me always that the mission of our generation is the mental emancipation of our people. While Bob popularised it, Marcus Mosiah Garvey .. would have told us that this was part and parcel of our obligation and yet almost 100 years after Marcus Mosiah Garvey declared  those words we continue to fight for mental emancipation.”
  4. “There has never been any doubt that we are good as any human being  that walks this earth.”
  5. “How does a statue of Nelson get there in the same era of a Bussa (National Hero) who fought against chattel slavery so that none could be used as someone else’s property?”
  6. “You ask yourself how Sarah Ann Gill, another national hero, could exist at the time and in the shadow of Nelson’s statue being put there? But she knew that she could not allow black people and coloured people to worship the god that they wanted to.”
  7. “We must find symbols equally to recognise that those who wanted to worship a god and to have a liturgy that was reflected of the colour of our skin as opposed to the nation and ideology of a superior metropolitan power as they would believe they were”
  8. “When you hear people in the past tell you ‘come out of the sand you getting too dark’ it was intended to be a signal to you that dark is not good when black is beautiful.”
  9. “I wonder wow we have come this far for anybody to be buying bleach in this country or any part of the Caribbean.”
  10. “We need to explain to our children what truly are the things that are likely to undermine them, whether it is the mental infiltration in their heads, the notion that bleaching could help somebody, the notion that guns can make you powerful other than to put in (prison/cemeteries).”
  11. (As the workmen gradually pulled down Nelson’s stature Mottley remarked) “The irony is that as I have spoken this evening, workers of Barbados have taken the utmost care in placing a piece of sponge and crates around a bronze statue. If only some sponge and care had been taken for those who were taken off the ships at this same carinage.”
  12. “How do you bring about emancipation because it is cruel and inhuman and you compensate the owners for cruel inhuman punishment treatment of people but you leave the victims of that cruel and inhuman punishment to have nothing to start off with fair promises and in some instances no promises.”
  13. “We can pass legislation making everybody equal. We cannot pass legislation to emancipate people’s minds. That is the process of education and sensitisation. ” 

Mottley is a rarity in 21st century politics when it comes to heads of government across the globe. She is smart, pragmatic, impressive and commanding. Mottley never shirks from speaking up for the Caribbean on issues that some of her counterparts and predecessors tended to skirt around. e.g. Windrush and Donald Trump’s efforts to drive a wedge through CARICOM member states.

Mottley is for is me the politician of 2020 for a number of reasons including her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. She is head and shoulders above most other political figures today. But if you follow the western media and some academics about who are the impressive political figures today, they tend act as if the Caribbean could never have such people in their midst. 

Mottley also told her audience: “Earl Lovelace won the Commonwealth Book prize for a book that should be compulsory for every Caribbean citizen to read and it is called Salt (published 1996). The book speaks about the need for forgiveness and reparations if we are to move forward as one people, without the scars of history tugging us back into periods of time that we no longer want to visit.

In my modest opinion Caribbean citizens and others with some connection to the region should take a moment to listen Mottley’s significant speech. 

Barbados Today: “Good Riddance”

Mottley’s speech begins roughly 39 minutes in the clip below..

Posted in barbados, black history, Caribbean, Colonial | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

PNP Opts for Golding

Mark Golding’s victory over Lisa Hanna for the presidency of the Peoples National Party (PNP) was expected.

Some pundits and pollsters expected the race would be much closer. But Golding winning 1740 to Hanna’s 1444 ensured a hotly contested race which the PNP needed. Never again should the PNP coronate a president in an unchallenged election as they did when choosing Peter Phillips in 2017.

Golding ran an excellent and canny campaign. He made himself not only visible to his delegates but also to the wider Jamaica. Golding appeared on all the various media platforms sometimes in the most unlikeliest places such as on CVM’s flagship entertainment programme On Stage – that was a terrific move.  

Golding will need to ensure he maintains this level of public engagement consistently throughout his leadership; something that was lacking in the PNP leadership for the best part of 6 years.

One of the more surprising aspects of the leadership race for me was how very little seasoned PNP supporters knew about Golding. I was particularly surprised that some members were not aware that Golding was the son of the renowned Professor John Golding.

Hanna’s campaign was too underwhelming.

What was also noticeable from Hanna’s campaign was that the very few interviews she did was conducted mostly by female journalists. Was this a concerted plan by the Hanna camp?

Golding along with Peter Bunting have been the most effective PNP members in the previous parliament. So with Bunting losing his seat at September’s general election, Golding was the obvious choice to replace Phillips.

Golding’s victory speech on Saturday struck the right note. It was conciliatory, succinct and dignified.

Hanna’s bring-back-the-love theme seems so fake now given she chose not to hear Golding’s victory speech in person.

Hanna was also not present at Golding’s official swearing in ceremony yesterday due to illness and advice from her doctor. Was this advice from her medical or spin doctor? The optics were dreadful whatever the excuse.

Jamaica has been crying out for an effective opposition since 2016. So Golding has a lot of catching up to make. One of the first decisions he needs to make clear to his colleagues is that the PNP will take the upcoming local government elections seriously.

The PNP were crushed by the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administration in August’s general election and some seasoned observers feel PNP has a long way to go to even give the Andrew Holness administration a bloody nose at any polls.

That old adage of a week is a long time in politics is so apparent now. Since the general election the public has seen the wheels come off some of the JLP’s gloss such as their much vaunted road building programme literally has gone down the drains. An issue the PNP can make political capital if they play their cards smartly.

In the upper house of the senate Golding should ask all the current PNP senators to offer their resignation. He needs a clean slate and his own mandate. Then leader Phillips should not have nominated those senators straight after general election knowing full well he was resigning immediately from his position.

The PNP also needs a new chairman and general secretary. These are all positions for fresh progressive minds.

Given the PNP is so limited in numbers in the house of the representatives (lower house) Golding needs to have a set of PNP senators who will be shrewd, well-informed, formidable, visible and articulate.

Golding can consider the likes of Patricia Duncan-Sutherland, Ashley-Ann Foster, Peter Bunting, Danielle Archer, Owen Speid and Helen Davis-Whyte for some of these important positions.

There is also a need for Golding to have team of advisers with sharp, political and innovative minds. Not yes people.

Given there are just 14 PNP MPs Golding may have to hold on to the shadow finance portfolio which is a mountainous task given his mandate to reverse the party’s electoral fortunes and the looming recession due to the pandemic.

Hanna is currently the shadow minister for foreign affairs and foreign trade but Golding should reassign to a more substantial portfolio such as education, health or national security.

A female fronting the national security portfolio would make a welcome change -has that ever happened?

Golding needs to stamp his authority on the PNP and warn those senior comrades who have a habit of bringing the party into disrepute with their incendiary remarks.

Another major test for Golding will be the selection of Peter Phillips’ successor as the PNP candidate for the impending bi-election in East Central St Andrew.

Let the Golding mini-honeymoon period begin. The membership and Jamaicans have high expectations of him in his new role.

But if Golding fails to captivate the membership and wider society with his brand of the PNP over the next 2 years then a leadership challenge is bound to be on the menu. There is no room for complacency or incompetence in such a pivotal position.

Interesting times ahead. We hope so.

Hanna, Golding Sign Declaration of Unity - Nationwide 90FM
Hanna and Golding – Bitter Sweet?
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Jamaica’s General Election 2020 – JLP 48, PNP 15 (ish): Blow Out or Damp Squib?

Congrats to the Andrew Holness-led Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) for their drubbing of the Peter Phillips-led People’s National Party (PNP) in Thursday’s general election.

The opinion polls have long predicted a seismic victory for the governing JLP administration but few believed such a winning margin was really possible.

Even some JLP supporters were stunned by the size of their win but we know from previous Jamaican elections such big victories could turnaround quickly by the time the electorate next goes to the polls.

The PNP lost badly with many of its senior figures tasting defeat for the first time in their lengthy political careers. The defeats of leadership hopefuls Peter Bunting and Wykham McNeil is a blow to the party’s chances of having a vigorous race to succeed Phillips.

The JLP deserved their victory. They have been an aggressive force since returning to power. They started their campaign from as far back as March 2016 with slick marketing and positive smart targeted messaging while the PNP were still licking their wounds after losing power in February 2016.

The PNP defeat was on the cards the minute Peter Phillips became leader. As PNP leader, Phillips never really presented himself to Jamaicans on a regular basis. He relied on his past record as a former government minister in some of the big portfolios as his main pitch.

Normally when a leader of the opposition is constantly performing below par, the party powerbrokers tend to dump them before the general election is due. The PNP paid a heavy price for staying loyal to Phillips even when they could see clearly he was out of his depth. He just never had the political antennae to be a successful leader of the PNP.

The less said about Phillips’ handlers for not giving him a reality check; especially after he barely won the leadership race against rival Peter Bunting in 2019. At that moment Phillips should have walked away gracefully.

The JLP clearly appealed to a cross section of the electorate and the party’s push to put forward more female candidates worked perfectly. Here, the PNP has been rather languid in attracting (or keeping) more talented and appealing young men and women into front line politics. No surprise if we see some young comrades switching to the JLP if the PNP remains stagnant.

The JLP did put in the ground work years ago and never let up. On election day they got their base out whatever their ages and by any means necessary.

The PNP with just 14/15 MPs has little space to shuffle to choose Phillips’ successor. Maybe the next PNP leader will be in the senate (Upper House) in the interim.

The PNP needs to move quickly to choose their next leader and not wait over a year as they did in 2016 when then leader/former PM Portia Simpson-Miller held the lame duck position for too long. Phillips was formally appointed Leader of the Opposition in April 2017 succeeding Simpson-Miller, despite the PNP losing the general election way back in February 2016.

The PNP can take solace from the fact that just 37% of the electorate voted in the general election. [Even Afghanistan had a 45% turnout in their 2018 election despite the challenges Afghans faced from endless violent threats and attacks by the Talibans and Jihadists.]

The voter turnout in the last 2 general elections was under 50% and could imply that neither the JLP or PNP is appealing to the growing number of independents out there. Clearly there is room for some new genuine political force to attract independents and those turned off of the 2 main parties.

But the PNP will have to get their act together quickly and start develop that winning habit with the local government election also due (voter turnout in the 2016 version was 30%).

Another immediate test will come whenever Phillips resigns from his safe-ish seat which will lead to a by-election. The JLP machine may feel confident to take that seat from the PNP given the strong showing last week from their candidate Jodian Myrie.

With so many parliamentarians to choose from, Holness has the space now to craft out a cabinet of his own choosing.

I would expect the likes of Mike Henry will take his seat on the back benches and focus on his football club. No surprise to see a Holness cabinet includes the return of Andrew Wheatley and Pearnel Charles Jr. Floyd Green would expect to be promoted. It will be interesting to see if Christopher Tufton holds on to the health portfolio. Fascinating also to see how many women will make up both the cabinet or join the junior ministerial ranks.

Will Juliet Holness be in the cabinet?

Wheel and come again PNP. Jamaicans deserve an effective, modern and aspirational opposition that proves itself to be a realistic government in waiting.

If not, there is room in today’s political landscape for some emerging party that has the funds, philosophy and finesse to seize the initiative and impress on the 67% doubting electorate.

But for now once again green is king and queen.

Carnage! Jamaica's JLP party retains power in landslide | Loop News
Fingers on the Pulse? Juliet and Andrew Holness – Two Straight
Posted in jamaica | 1 Comment