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Take a bow, Mia Mottley

We are often quick to criticise our political leaders when they fail to deliver on their promises, shun taking decisive action in constituency or national matters or simply turn inertia into a career.

Under those circumstances, they should be hauled over the proverbial coals.

But when they are involved in major social undertakings, especially at their own expense, then we must be equally swift at heaping praise upon them.

Enter St. Michael North East Member of Parliament, Mia Amor Mottley.

Her involvement last year in the inaugural LIME Pelican Football Challenge Tournament which was her brainchild was met with some initial scepticism. Strangely, some of the sceptics were to be found in her own Barbados Labour Party and their absence from matches was often quite glaring.

But Mottley’s track record in entertainment entrepreneurship, community endeavours, inclusive of sports, convinces us that her heart is in the right place.

To suggest that coming up with the concept or that her involvement in the football challenge is self-serving and politically motivated is Lilliputian nonsense. Why? She is not a pharmacist or dairy farmer, she is a politician and this fact should not preclude her from undertaking any venture from which some public good ensues. And if her public profile is enhanced as a result, it is well deserved and only fair exchange.

At the tournament’s inauguration last year Mottley stressed that it was time for people to “start walking the walk instead of only talking the talk” with respect to changing sports in Barbados to semi-professional and ultimately professional status.

Football, as a mass-based sport, was the obvious route to take within the thrust toward developing semi-professional sport in the island. The overwhelming success of the 2011 tournament is now exceptionally pleasant history and if the numbers and enthusiasm present at Sunday’s launch of this year’s tournament at Kensington Oval can be used as the gauge, then we are about to witness something very special in 2012.

Footballers in Barbados are not usually among those seen driving rally cars, riding polo horses or putting on the greens. Their numbers are mainly drawn from lower and middle-income earning groups and generally they play the game for the love of it. Purchasing gear and supplements, training, paying fees, tending to injuries, getting to and from games, are all expenses which they often bear on their own.

“People in Barbados play football for the love of it and long may that last because the passion for the sport is critical to ensure its continuity and to ensure its dominance, but at the same time, people have to pay bills. People have to make sure that in developing that expertise that they are not counting themselves out of being able to support their families,” Mottley said last year.

It is within this context that Mottley and her Pelican Creative Services Inc., and indeed LIME, are worthy of the highest praise. In such harsh economic times, this lucrative football tournament which has a monetary component that trickles relatively far down the food chain is a God-send for hundreds of young footballers.

In addition to the $100,000 first prize, there are also substantial prizes for teams that will not win the tournament. There are significant monetary incentives for nightly individual performances. The franchise structure of the tournament will result in both owners and players reaping rewards.

Persons attending the games also stand to benefit from incentives which organisers are once again presenting. Vendors, taxi drivers, tailors, sports shops, security personnel, caterers, and others, will once again be caught in the ripple effect of what transpires on the football field at Kensington Oval over the next two to three months.

We often hear talk about stimulating the economy, Mottley has decided once again to walk the talk. But this is but a pebble in the ocean. There are others out there, corporate and otherwise, many with extremely deep pockets who can follow Mottley and LIME’s lead and throw their financial muscle behind other stimulating ventures, sports or otherwise, for the benefit of Barbados.

That this privately-funded football venture has been warmly embraced by Minister of Sports Stephen Lashley and the wider Government, as well as by the Barbados Football Association, speaks loudly for itself.

Miss Mottley, take a bow.

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