THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT

Kenny Thompson’s recent Royal Gazette essay on the BFA’s plans to rejuvenate Bermuda’s football scene and develop young football players suggested that a freshly invigorated program will start with teeny-weenies, progress through teens, and then move on to adult players. The article said that there’d be emphasis on fun and enjoyment, team play, ball skills, human interaction, and other bits that would help form a more skilled player.

Fun is important. But one critical idea was missing. Despite using more than a thousand words, there was no mention of ‘discipline’. Not by Kenny. Nor by Chris Furbert who had been interviewed the week before.

The recent fuss over Rio Ferdinand and the response by England Captain David Beckham showed an element of discipline that’s present in highest level soccer and missing in the level of soccer that exists in Bermuda.

Discipline! Personal, human, individual, ordinary, everyday, humdrum, discipline.

David Beckham, despite his world celebrity status, still practices his ball skills every day. Still works on his cardiovascular fitness everyday. Does not ‘hang out’ six days a week and then try to play a top level game on the seventh. Our own Shaun Goater does the same. Above all, big-name players like Beckham, Owen, Goater… still turn up for practice every time.  Each big-name man knows that if he fails to attend for practice he’ll get tossed off the team – whatever team he’s on!

That’s where Bermuda football first begins to fail. Failure starts at the lowest levels where players with excellent ball skills but poor practice and preparation records get rewarded by being played as star players in every game. The seed of future failure is sown by not playing those youngsters who are disciplined ‘practicers’ and who do turn up for every practice and who do try, steadily, to improve their ball and team skills.

The result? The disciplined practicers, unrewarded for their discipline, drop out of the game. The skilled but undisciplined ‘stars’ stay on and get rewarded with lots of crowd adulation.

But the undisciplined stars never acquire the habit of disciplined practice, thus they never really improve on their basic skill levels. They never reach the higher levels of cardiovascular fitness required. They never develop their skills potential. Thus they arrive as young adults who are both undisciplined and undeveloped. Still, effectively, only as good as they were when they were ten year old ‘stars’.

But with all these undeveloped ‘stars’ playing against one another in our little Bermuda, they can make themselves – each other – look good. Even impressive. It’s when these Bermuda ‘stars’ come up against other more disciplined players that they don’t look so good. This is what happens now in Bermuda football.

To get out of this deep rut, Bermuda football will need the basic discipline to climb out. Bermuda’s footballers will have to develop the habit of disciplined preparation in order that they can do their best. Day in, day out, practice after practice: “Practice, develop, grow… practice, develop, grow…, practice,….” That’s what it will take.

If we won’t do simple basic stuff, there’s not much point in the fancier stuff of international tours. Nor is there any point in getting more money for the development of football, because any money poured in will be squandered six days a week with ‘star’ players attempting, as they do now, to play the Fourth Commandment in reverse.

The people who hold the master key to success in Bermuda football are not the players. Not the spectators. Not the people and organizations that can pump in the dollars. Instead, the people who really hold that key are the coaches and team managers.

Working for the game, coaches and managers carry the real task of setting the real standard of discipline that will encourage and demand disciplined and thorough preparation. If, or when, coaches and managers lower their standards of discipline in trying for cheap team wins, they cause deep harm to all young players and, ultimately, to the game itself.

If all of Bermuda’s football coaches and team managers agreed and maintained a simple policy that required that all players attend all required practices in order to get on any field of play, Bermuda football could start a real comeback.

Without that basic human and then team discipline, bringing with it the reward of better developed potential, Bermuda’s game of football will stay stuck in its current deep rut. Without such a fundamental change, the game cannot – and will not – change.

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SHARK BITES

 

Tiny Bermuda took on massive India and made India work hard to get us. After going down to Sri Lanka in 78 runs and 24 overs; Bermuda stood up to India, won 156 runs, and lasted for 43 overs. David Hemp unbeaten at 76; Dean Minor’s bails scattering stump-out; and Malachi Jones’ bowling and two superb catches showed how technically good we can be. Sluggo Leverock’s superb one-handed backwards falling catch was an awesome sight [see video below]. Janeiro Tucker’s fast moving catch gave us a slice of time that needs re-running many times over. That last big stand at the wicket matching David Hemp with Sluggo and his gritty determination gave us a series of big moments.

But more than anything else, tiny Bermuda stood up to big India, lasted for 43 overs, and scored Bermuda’s highest score in the WCC tournament. Though it will be our last game in this great adventure, I’m looking forward to seeing Bermuda take on Bangladesh.

 

I’m proud and I’m happy for our team and for us. Minnows? More like puppy sharks!

 

CUP MATCH AND COMMONSENSE

 

I was astounded by the news that the Bermuda Cricket Board of Control and the Somerset and St George’s Cricket Clubs were again seeking permission to bring in foreign Umpires for Bermuda’s annual Cup Match. I recalled their display of utter stupidity and crass ignorance at last year’s Cup Match.

If you’ve forgotten, here’s how I ended my August 2006 comment on their 2006 stupidity: “The Cup Match Umpire decision is similar to this situation. ‘A Bermudian man carefully woos and wins a beautiful Bermudian woman and marries her. When the time comes to start a family, he plays his Bermudian part by hiring a foreigner to do the work of copulation. The Bermudian man then strides about, nine months later, and lays great claim to his manhood'”.

Twelve months later, I feel even more strongly about it.

Cup Match is not a regular cricket game that is sanctioned – or even needs the sanction – of any international cricket body. Cup Match is a unique Bermudian celebration of a major event in the history of all Bermuda. Particularly, Cup Match is a unique celebration of a major event in the lives of black Bermudians.

Cup Match grew out of the celebration of the 1st August 1834 Emancipation of slaves. The next year, on 1st August 1835, throughout Bermuda, ex-slaves took the day off work and gathered and celebrated. They picnicked, partied, played games. From 1835 down to 1946, black Bermudian ex-slaves and their descendants – our great-grandparents, our grandparents, our parents – took that day off and celebrated. They took the day off – without employer sanction and without pay – to celebrate their freedom.

In 1902, the habit of playing separate inter-parish, inter-club, inter-lodge games crystallized into a single event. That event was a cricket match played between cricketers from Bermuda’s east end who got together to play a team made up of cricketers from Bermuda’s west end. The sponsor clubs were St George’s and Somerset Cricket Clubs.

The focus of the Emancipation Day celebration became the inter-club Cup Match.

Starting out, the game always took place on 1st August of every year. Game day changed only if the 1st August fell on a Sunday.

Not until 1946, a century and two overs later, did Bermuda’s ruling oligarchy agree to make the day a public holiday, and legislated a change in the days of play. Since 1946, Cup Match has been a two day public holiday. However, it remains a public holiday with the unchangeable history that I’ve just described.

The tradition of Cup Match is a part of Bermuda’s ‘black history’ and ‘black heritage’. There are often cries – loud cries from some black Bermudians – that not enough black history is taught, is being taught, or has been taught. Despite any such suggestion, this particular segment of Bermuda’s history – black history at that – is well known by members of every Bermudian family. This black history is a part of the DNA of every Bermudian who has ever enjoyed a Cup Match holiday.

Cup Match is not a ‘cricket game’ in the same sense as the games played by Bermuda’s national cricket team in the recently completed WCC tournament. Nor is it a cricket game in the same way that the County Cup games are cricket games; or the games in the current Test Matches between India and the UK.

Instead, Cup Match is a unique Bermudian celebration that happens to be played out as a cricket game between Somerset and St George’s Cricket Clubs. Cricket is merely the celebratory mechanism.

Having a foreigner officiate at Cup Match debases part of our unique Bermudian heritage. It would be a display of massive stupidity and crass ignorance on the part of the men (and women if they’re involved) who are responsible for organizing the 2007 Cup Match. It is akin to Americans inviting Brits to take over their 4th July celebrations.

If Cup Match 2007 is officiated by foreigners, then all concerned – from Work Permit issuers down to foreigner-seeking Clubs – will have displayed a complete and abysmal ignorance of, and disdain for, their own unique Bermudian heritage.

Further, these black – and they are all black – Bermudian Cup Match decision-makers are self-damaging and self-degrading their own unique Bermudian blackness, black history, black traditions, and black heritage. There is no white hand in this at all. This would be a pure display – a second successive display – of purely black Bermudian ignorance and stupidity.

If foreigners officiate – I won’t even listen to the game!