Thursday, July 18, 2024

Letter to the Editor: Hit the road Don…



Letters-to-the-EditorDear Editor

Kindly afford me an opportunity in your prestigious newspaper to voice my thoughts and opinions on the current state of affairs of Premier Football League of Belize. The purpose of my writing this article is based solely on my desire to see better come to Semi-pro Football. None of the topics and issues discussed is meant as an attack on anyone and is solely meant to stimulate discussion by looking at the facts so as to bring about a better solution for football in Belize. Firstly let me respectfully state that any owner, manager, player, or fan who seriously thought that better was to come or will come under the present leadership of the Premier League either don’t know the history of semi-pro football in Belize or are plain ol’ naïve like my three year old son to the reality of the current leadership of the League. It is often echoed that ‘insanity’ is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different results each time. In my dictionary that is stupidity. The current Commissioner of the league, aka Don Maito Perdomo, has been involved in football for many years and to a limited degree his presence over the years should be commended, even if reluctantly. When analyzing his leadership however one must ask certain questions: What has he accomplished during his almost fifteen or so years at the helm of the League? What has the League accomplished under his leadership? How has the League grown under his leadership? And finally, can we seriously depend on this kind of leadership to move the League forward?

Before I proceed to dissect the leadership of Don Maito, I’d like to state that I believe that I am competent enough to talk and write about the semi-pro league. I have served with the current FFB as National Teams Manager, my two elder brothers and I played in the semi-pro league for fourteen or so years and we were successful in winning several championships and awards and represented clubs and country internationally on different occasions. Thanks to the legendary Orvin “Stud” (Henry) Hendricks, I was born into football. As a matter of fact, I was born on a Sunday afternoon, November 14, 1976 immediately after one of my dad’s game at the BSI field in OW. The game either ended very excitingly for my mother forcing her into labor or I had seen too many games from inside her womb and now wanted to experience the passion of football from the outside. My first breath of air must have therefore been filled with the scent of football and sweet perspiration from a true football player and fan. Those who know me know that I breathe, eat, drink, and sleep football. It is dear to me and can be found in the blood that runs through my veins even to this day, even though I’m no longer an active player of the league. This article however, is not about me or the legendary “Stud” but rather about the leadership or lack of leadership of the great Maito, you be the judge.

The semi-pro football league in Belize became active and official in 1991 under the leadership of Maito. I believe he then went on to reign supreme for the next fifteen plus years managing the semi-pro league. The league became defunct roughly five years ago under his leadership and all the blame was cast on the then Federation President Bertie Chimilio, but the truth is the Don Perdomo was a guilty as the infamous Doctor for the demise of semi-pro football in Belize. He lacked the necessary leadership qualities and skills to properly run the league, and compounded this by surrounding himself with some of the worst supporting cast football has ever seen. Sadly some of these same cast members now occupy a few of the highest posts in Football in Belize. A year and a half ago following FIFA’s intervention into Belize’s football affairs, a new league was construed and thus the birth of the now Premier League of Belize. The election for Commissioner of the new League was contested by Mr. Sergio Chuc and Mr. Maito Perdomo in December of 2011.

Sergio’s leadership and genuineness for the sport was questioned by several owners, simply but they didn’t trust him and as such like the discouraged electorate voting out a party instead of voting one in, the majority opted for Don Perdomo. The victory for Maito can very well be classified as a default victory for many owners did not want him back at the helm of the semi-pro league, but neither could they have stomached Sergio Chuc leading them. The majority felt that Sergio could not lead the League objectively and impartially, as he had interest in Verdes FC and had also rubbed many owners the wrong way by being boisterous as an owner and arrogant in the eyes of some. And so after about five years or so Maito Perdomo returned to semi-pro football in the same leadership position he had held for about fifteen years while the Football Federation was under the leadership of Dr. Chimilio. During his reign in the past I do not believe Maito ran a dictatorship or was his reign secured by unscrupulous and repressive statutes and bylaws which ensured he remained at the helm until he decided to go. I believe and trust that his presidency was always legitimate and democratic, unless someone can prove otherwise. And so it is with this knowledge of seeing Don Maito running semi-pro football for fifteen plus years that I had to ask the question: what has he accomplished or what is it that Don Maito can brag or boast about accomplishing over all those years? To the best of my knowledge I must conclude that there is NOTHING! Nothing meaningful for semi-pro football has been accomplished under his stewardship! If you are someone who considers collecting registration fees at the beginning of each season, putting together a schedule each season, reporting on yellow and red cards each week, and using the limited league funds on general and administrative costs each season as accomplishing something then I say to you, that is sad. This is football; and for some football can be a matter of life or death. How dare you perform simple clerical functions of little value to the sport and call it an achievement?

The results of the stewardship of the league under the current Commissioner are therefore the equivalent of any other footballing body in the villages throughout Belize. Secure a little sponsorship here and there and organize a tournament for the fun of it. I dare to say that this is giving the current Commissioner too much credit as they were several tournaments where he was unable to even secure sponsorship for the winners of the tournament, and in several instances when a little sponsorship was secured, whatever little was collected all went to administrative costs and absolutely nothing to the develop of the league or as prize money to the winners. So it was in the past so it is at present. The semi-pro league has been run and continues to be run without any real sense of purpose and objectives. No short term goals, no long term goals. The semi-pro league is supposed to be a business, an industry; it should create employment and should contribute to the economic growth of this country Mr. Commissioner. Last year FIFA invested thousands of dollars for the development of the league, for there to be club structures in place, for there to be meaningful dialogue with the Government and business sector to bring back football to its glorious employment days when owners such as Rawell Pelayo, Tony Leslie, the Novelo Brothers, Evan X Hyde, Tony Zabaneh, and Andrew Papa Brown to name a few, invested heavily in the sport, albeit, it was done in an unsustainable manner. FIFA representatives came to town, laid out the road map, emphasized the importance of engaging Government and the Business Sector so as to make the product sustainable in the long run and what does the Commissioner and his Executives do? Spend the money on teams transportation cost and on unfit and inefficient game officials.

I wish to make it absolutely clear that the glorious days of semi-pro football had little to do with the leadership and vision of Don Maito. On the contrary, it had everything to do with the generosity, love and excess liquidity that many owners had at the time. So let’s not fool ourselves here. Never did Don Maito had or created a business plan for the league. Under his leadership the league was and has always been unsustainable. He simply administrated and oversaw the tournaments while doing next to nothing. If there was ever a business plan in place, do you think it would have been that easy and simple for Dr. Chim to dismantle the league during his time? It would have never happened. There would have been too much at stake and too much to lose: for owners, players, government, businesses and fans. However there was nothing in place; no vision, no progress, no plan, no goals to achieve and so the infamous Doctor did as he pleased with the then League. The record therefore shows that during his tenure Don Maito accomplished NOTHING! The least one could have expected during football glory days was for him to acquire some video cameras in an effort to start gathering footages of players while at the same time building a library or museum that showcases the history the league.

The videotapes could’ve also served as evidence to the Federation of the unfit, poor and incompetent officiating that takes place at games week after week. Thus twenty plus years since its inception, the league still does not own its own offices. This may sound ambitious, but if it only needs to house a desk for the secretary and a meeting room, how big must it be? Was it or is it that difficult to ask the government for a piece of land for such a socially commendable project? All these things were achievable during the glory days of football but where the leaders lack vision…the people shall suffer and so the players continue to suffer. Government was never engaged to seriously look at football as an industry. The level of our league will never rise unless it becomes sustainable. Begging for twenty dollars here and a hundred dollars there is no sign of sustainability. The league had and still has the potential of employing in excess of two hundred individuals, players and technical staff included; the Government and Private Sector should have long been engaged to come up with a comprehensive and viable plan of how to achieve this. I can tell you that ten or twelve years ago when football started going downhill there were teams struggling to make two points for the entire tournament. Ten years after this is still the same. Check the stats on the last two tournaments.

The Premier League of Belize is a BIG JOKE in the football world! Perhaps losing our spot in CONCACAF wasn’t a bad thing and shouldn’t be a bad thing if it happens again. Certain individuals will dislike that comment, but the reality is winning a tournament against inferior, poorly financed, mediocre teams and players (if by chance eleven of them even show up on any given Sunday) does not necessarily give you the footballing rights to represent Belizean football at the CONCACAF level. You are setting yourself up for major embarrassment and disappointment. Look at the last couple teams that went out….Wagiya, FC Belize, Verdes. Do you get the sense? Have some pride, have some ambition. Demand better leadership that will ensure your growth and development and thus lead you to success. When Belize’s Concacaf representative Belmopan Bandits lost its spot to CS Cartigenes of Costa Rica to play in this year’s Concacaf Champions League there was no real meaningful comments on the matter coming from the League’s leadership, when in fact he should have been riled up, really riled up about this lost and Belize’s opportunity to host the MLS champion L.A. Galaxy, and Salvadorian side Isidro Metapan in Belize. These teams will now be hosted by CS Cartigenes of Costa Rica instead. The Commissioner however had little to say and sat idle by whilst the FFB’s President misinformed the public about five stars hotel and air conditioned locker rooms. Rather than calling out the incompetence of the Football Federation’s President and General ‘Secretary who failed miserably at heeding the advice of Concacaf who six months prior to the inspection gave them the detail list of amenities that needed to be in place for Belize to partake in the Concacaf Champions League he said very little. In my capacity as Manager of National Teams and in the presence of the Vice Chair of National Teams Committee I spoke personally to the Concacaf representative who inspected the FFB facilities Mr. Carlos E. Fernandez. During his inspection visit, at which time he also served as Commissioner of the Belize vs Guatemale U17 Female game held at the FFB Field on June 2, 2013, Mr. Fernandez was clear on the points that Belize’s Federation failed on. These were mainly our inability to ready the playing surface of the pitch despite being given adequate notice, in his words “there are too many dark spots on the field with little or no grass and the pitch is extremely hard”. Secondly, the lights are poor and not properly positioned. These were the primary basis on which Belize failed. Anyone who says differently is being irresponsible and deceitful. The Commissioner of the Premier League knows this, but chooses not to call out the FFB President and his General Secretary for their ineptitude and the primary reason being as it is well known in the football family that they are from the same circle of friends or “caucus” as they call it. The Commissioner of the League must have not been able to say much on this as he probably was still thanking to the FFB President and General Secretary for the generous gift to the former semi-pro champs and sub-champs Belmopan Bandits and Police FC respectively who were able to walk away with a combined $25,000.00 from FIFA Development Funds despite that money being earmarked for football development in Belize. Instead was being used as prize money for the League which is autonomous and private, yet for the second tournament in one year the Commissioner was unable to secure adequate sponsorship. I shall not elaborate on the mismanagement and questionable administration of the FFB and FFB Funds for this is an issue that I shall responsibly address in a separate article. I shall end this point by stating that to further conceal their inefficiency to secure the Concacaf spot, and not bring further pressure on the League’s Commissioner the FFB leadership then created positions in the National Team Committee to sweeten the Bandits management so that they can fly to the Gold Cup at the people’s expense. I can only shake my head in despair and unbelief that a two weeks trip in the US was worth giving up four Concacaf Champions League games despite the fact that the Bandits would have been the underdogs in the group if the FFB leadership had only done the simple little things that were asked of them six months in advance.

The League’s management therefore doesn’t only fail to properly prepare and organize teams for its local competition but also fails to have meaningful communication with the Federation to ensure that the Leagues interest is being looked after and protected internationally. I must therefore resolve that the current semi-pro league is a league that prepares our players to fail both locally and internationally and that’s a fact Jack. The leadership of the PLB must go sooner rather than later. They had their turn; you had your umpteen years senor, too many years in my opinion, and you’ve demonstrated nothing but failed leadership. You were recently elected to office once again one year and a half ago and you have wasted no time in jumping out the gates and demonstrating that it’s the same old bull this time around; league stagnation coupled with lack of vision and no sense of direction . It baffles me how owners and managers can continue to put their trust in a Commissioner who goes out and appoint General Secretaries who have and can contribute little or nothing to football development in Belize. Hell the only time I heard the name of the former Leagues’ General Secretary mentioned in football circles was when the infamous Dr. Chim utilized him as another pawn for a short time during the Doctor’s long tenure. His term as General Secretary under the current Commissioner was shortly lived as well as and rightly so for his inability to function properly which was too obvious for the new Executive and team owners. In one year and a half, the Commissioner has seen two General Secretaries but absolutely nothing has changed. The current General Secretary of the League seems comfortable in his new role with no sense of urgency to revamp and revolutionize the League and so I must conclude that he shares the same visionless ideologies of the Commissioner. The mere fact that the Commissioner continues to head a poorly financed and poorly organized semi-pro league speaks voluminously of the lack of leadership and lack of ambition by both the Commissioner and General Secretary to bring semi-pro football to a meaningful point where it is worthwhile for businesses and fans to support. Running a tournament once again with poorly financed teams who lack the know-how of how to develop club structures and adequately source financing while at the same time developing strategic results oriented market plans is suicidal and foolish. What we will see again in the upcoming tournament is a few questionably financed teams and a group of poorly financed teams with some struggling to make a team to travel while others struggle to even win one game for the entire season. We have seen too much of this during your tenure Mr. Commissioner and he who does not learn from his past is a fool. Seeing retired players returning to the pitch and still outshining our young talents is proof of a league with no real development, of poor quality and a mockery to the sport of football. Your history is your judge Mr. Commissioner; it clearly shows that Don Maito and his Executives have failed semi-pro football development miserably.

It has now been announced in football circles that the League’s Congress summoned an Extra Ordinary Congress for Thursday, August 8, 2013 at the FFB’s Headquarters in Belmopan. It is my hope that common sense prevailed for a motion to remove the current Commissioner. It is my hope that individuals with possible influence over multiple teams will not derail this motion. Which leads me to point out that under FIFA rules as well as under the current league statutes on the integrity of the game this is illegal and does not represent Fair Play. No single owner should have or be able to influence the votes of multiple teams. But like with so many other things the Commissioner has failed to address this and so it is bound to become a sore within the league sooner or later. It is my hope that owners or managers who benefited from a fully funded trip to the recent Gold Cup in the US courtesy of the FFB will not derail the process. Yes, the current leadership of the FFB is hell bound to derail the process of removing the incompetent leadership of the League. It is now well known that the FFB President himself has been making courtesy calls and pulled out one of Dr. Chimilio’s tactics of inducing several of the voters, i.e. inducing owners and managers with fully paid trips to the recent Gold Cup in the USA at the expense of football’s development in an effort to safeguard himself and his GS as he very well knows that they might be next. I must show restraint however not to expand my discussion on the leadership of the Football Federation of Belize, for this article is not about him and his General Secretary, as I stated before I have reserved them for my second article which I shall publish in a week or two.

I conclude by applauding those owners who have called for the upcoming General Congress to remove the current Commissioner of the Premier League of Belize. I urge all those with voting rights to ensure that at the end of the night that there is only one winner: FOOTBALL. Please for players’ sake, for your sake and your legacy, for the Leagues sake, for your players’ development and future, remove the current defunct leadership of the PLB and let football win.

Dean W. Flowers.

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