Zone Blitz: What's to be done about racism in football?

By Mariah Ramharrack, Wayne Lewis& Lance Whittaker February 18, 2020

Porto striker Moussa Marega walked off the pitch during a match against Vitoria de Guimaraes Sunday after he was subjected to racist abuse from opposition fans.

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  • Holder, Pollard, express confidence in respective Super50 squads ahead of 2021 tourney Holder, Pollard, express confidence in respective Super50 squads ahead of 2021 tourney

    Barbados Pride Captain Jason Holder said his team is excited and focused on winning the CG Insurance Super50 competition set to begin on February 7 in Antigua.

    Barbados last won the title in the 2016/17 season and Holder believes that with a shortened season before them, they need to be ready to win consistently.

    “We are really looking forward to the first tournament of the year. It’s great to be back and there is a lot of excitement in our camp. We are focused on winning,” Holder said.

    “It will be important to hold our nerve under pressure and execute under pressure. The team that is most consistent always wins, and we have to look at being consistent and win for our country and our fans.”

    Meanwhile, Red Force Captain Kieron Pollard believes his team is blessed with a good blend of youth and experience to advance to the finals and eventually win it all.

    “I believe we have a very good team in terms of youth and experience and we can go that step further and make it to the finals,” he said.

    “In the last few years, we missed out, reaching the semi-finals and being beaten, once by CCC and once by Leewards. Hopefully, we have all the energy and all the gas in the tank and go all the way. This promises to be a really good tournament, and I know players will be aiming to impress and improve their careers.”

    Both captains are among several West Indies stars set to participate in this year’s tournament.

    In addition to Holder and Pollard, players such as Roston Chase (Barbados Pride), Shimron Hetmyer (Guyana Jaguars), Sheldon Cottrell (Jamaica Scorpions), Hayden Walsh Jr (Leeward Islands Hurricanes), Nicholas Pooran (Trinidad and Tobago Red Force) and Andre Fletcher (Windward Islands Volcanoes) have signalled their participation in the tournament.

    Whilst COVID-19 related constraints mean that 2019-2020 Champions, the West Indies Emerging Players, are unable to defend their title, eight of those talented young winners from the 2019 tournament have found spots in the competing franchise teams, including Keon Harding, Dominic Drakes and Justin Greaves (Barbados Pride), Kevin Sinclair (Guyana Jaguars), Ashmead Nedd (Leeward Islands Hurricanes), Jayden Seales (Trinidad and Tobago Red Force) as well as, Kimani Melius and Roland Cato (Windward Islands Volcanoes).

    Full squads:

    Barbados Pride: Jason Holder (Captain), Joshua Bishop, Shamarh Brooks, Jonathan Carter, Roston Chase, Dominic Drakes, Jonathan Drakes, Justin Greaves, Keon Harding, Chemar Holder, Akeem Jordan, Nicholas Kirton, Zachary McCaskie, Ashley Nurse, Tevyn Walcott; Dexter Toppin (Head Coach)

     

    Guyana Jaguars: Leon Johnson (Captain), Shimron Hetmyer (Vice-Captain), Christopher Barnwell, Anthony Bramble, Asad Fudadin, Chanderpaul Hemraj, Tevin Imlach, Keon Joseph, Ramaal Lewis, Gudakesh Motie, Akshaya Persaud, Kemol Savory, Romario Shepherd, Kevin Sinclair, Nial Smith; Esuan Crandon (Head Coach)

     

    Jamaica Scorpions: Rovman Powell (Captain), Derval Green (Vice-Captain), Fabian Allen, Dennis Bulli, Sheldon Cottrell, Javel Glenn, Brandon King, Andre McCarthy, Jamie Merchant, Romaine Morris, Paul Palmer, Jeavor Royal, Odean Smith, Aldaine Thomas, Oshane Thomas; Andre Coley (Head Coach)

     

    Leeward Islands Hurricanes: Devon Thomas (captain), Montcin Hodge (Vice-Captain), Colin Archibald, Sheno Berridge, Quinton Boatswain, Keacy Carty, Nino Henry, Amir Jangoo, Nitish Kumar, Jeremiah Louis, Ashmead Nedd, Kieran Powell, Ross Powell, Hayden Walsh Jr, Terance Warde; Stuart Williams (Head Coach)

     

    Trinidad and Tobago Red Force: Kieron Pollard (Captain), Darren Bravo (Vice-Captain), Akeal Hosein, Imran Khan, Evin Lewis, Jason Mohammed, Sunil Narine, Kjorn Ottley, Khary Pierre, Nicholas Pooran, Anderson Phillip, Denesh Ramdin, Ravi Rampaul, Jayden Seales, Lendl Simmons; David Furlonge (Head Coach)

     

    Windward Islands Volcanoes: Sunil Ambris (Captain), Andre Fletcher (Vice-Captain), Alick Athanaze, Roland Cato, Keron Cottoy, Kenneth Dember, Larry Edward, Ryan John, Ray Jordan, Desron Maloney, Obed McCoy, Preston McSween, Kimani Melius, Emmanuel Stewart, Kevin Stoute; Andrew Richardson (Head Coach)

     

     

  • Remembering Kobe Bryant a year after his tragic death Remembering Kobe Bryant a year after his tragic death

    “Thank you, God for allowing me to enjoy Kobe Bryant for 20 years as a great basketball player, athlete, husband, father, philanthropist, mentor and teacher of the game to many men and women of all ages, best friend of Rob Pelinka, and brother to Jeanie Buss. He will always by my Lakers brother for life. Laker Nation we will always remember the brilliance, the legend, the Mamba mentality of #8/#24.”

    Those were the words posted on Facebook on Tuesday by Los Angeles Laker legend Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson on the one-year anniversary of the tragic death of Kobe and Gianna Bryant and several others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday, January 26, 2020.

    I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was sitting on my bed having a chat with my wife when the ‘breaking news’ alert popped up on my phone. Suddenly social media came alive. My wife’s alerts began to go crazy. I turned to Google and there it was, the beginning of a nightmare for fans of the Lakers and basketball fans across the world.

    It was Magic, who reminded me that a year had passed; a year when the tears spilt uncontrollably from my eyes and the hurt of my sister’s passing a month earlier and Kobe’s tragic death became too much to bear.

    It was Magic who brought me to basketball and then the Lakers.

    Back then, in the late 70s, there was no cable but we had sports magazines and newspapers and in them, I developed a passing interest in college basketball and to a certain Earvin Johnson, who had just won the 1978 NCAA title for Michigan State University.

    “The Magic Show,” said the headline of the Sports Illustrated magazine. The story inside made me a fan of Magic.

    It was the start of what I came to see as the enduring rivalry between Magic and Celtic great Larry Bird, who representing Indiana State had gone up against Johnson in that historic NCAA final.

    “While Earvin directed a balanced offence, and the defence deterred Larry Bird, Michigan State won the NCAAs. Magic, who scored 24 points in that final, declared for the NBA draft and became a Laker as the number one pick, the following year.

    Bird was the sixth pick for the Celtics, the year before.

    With Magic at the Lakers and Bird at the hated Celtics, the 1980s was a dream for me, the newly minted basketball fan of the NBA. Back then, the NBA wasn’t a big deal for my schoolmates, who were more interested in English League football and the FIFA World Cup.

    The Lakers won five championships in the 1980s, the last of them coming in 1988 when they squeezed by the Detroit Pistons 4-3. In 1989, the Bad Boys of Detroit thrashed the Lakers 4-0 to win the title that year. They were then humbled 4-1 by the Bulls in 1991 in what marked the beginning of the Jordan era.

    I drifted away from the NBA then, tired of the over-glorification of Michael Jordan and the corresponding failed experiment of Nick van Exel and Eddie Jones. The Lakers got so bad that I considered never watching the NBA ever again.

    Five years passed and then news began circulating that the Lakers had acquired this teenager from Charlotte by the name of Kobe Bryant.

    Magic Johnson revealed in an interview that Jerry West, ‘The Logo”, the Lakers great who suited up for the franchise between 1960 and 1974, that they had just signed the next Lakers super star. West, who was General Manager in Los Angeles at the time, had an eye for talent and he was sure that this kid, who spent a few years living in Italy, was the one.

    So, it was Kobe that brought me back to the NBA.

    My first impression of Kobe was that he was not very convincing. Yes, he was wet behind the ears but the incredible talent West had touted looked like a wannabe more than anything else.

    A year later, I saw something that made me start to believe. It wasn’t a game-winning performance but if you were really paying attention, it was quite stark, and it came in the playoffs against the Utah Jazz.

    Don Yeager writing for Forbes recalls:

    “If you don’t know the story of that game, it was a pivotal moment in Kobe’s career. Most people remember it because of how spectacularly bad Kobe was that night: 4 for 14 from the floor (0 for 6 from three-point range),” he wrote.

    “Now, the only reason he saw extended minutes was due to a cavalcade of Laker misfortune—Bryan Scott missed the game with a sprained wrist, Robert Horry was ejected, and Shaquille O’Neal fouled out with under two minutes left in the game.

    After averaging around 15 minutes per game during the regular season, suddenly, the game belonged to Kobe.

    He promptly launched four airballs in the game’s closing minutes.

    After the game, as a bunch of reporters gathered around his locker, I remember several people questioning his unconscionable shooting. After all, it’s embarrassing enough to shoot one airball as a pro, much less two. But four? As your team let a must-have game slip away with each of your misses?

    We all wondered how he would defend himself.

    “I had some good looks,” he said. “I just didn’t hit the shots.”

    That was it. He said it without a hint of regret or self-doubt; it sounded like something a decades-old veteran would say, a matter-of-fact statement about the sometimes fickle nature of the game. What he was saying, in effect, was ‘this is a chapter I have to get through in order to write a book worth reading.’

    Michael Jordan would later remark that Kobe was the only one on that Laker team brave enough to take the shots.

    Fast forward three years and Kobe would win the first of three consecutive titles and begin cementing his legacy as a Laker great.

    Getting out of the West back then was so much harder than winning the Larry O’Brien trophy. The Lakers had to overcome stern challenges from the Sacramento Kings and Portland Trailblazers and San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals.

    I remember Kobe taking over the third quarters of the series against the Tim Duncan-led Spurs. I remember how he and Shaq battled back from 15 points down in a must-win game against Portland. It was nail-biting stuff but watching Kobe and Shaq rising to the occasion in the face of elimination was the stuff of legend.

    Two more titles in 2009 and 2010, ensured that Bryant would go down as one of, if not the greatest Laker ever but it came with a series of challenges that would have broken lesser players. It was one of the characteristics that made Kobe great. He thrived when facing challenges.

    I remember exactly where I was when the Lakers defeated a talented Boston Celtics team with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Rasheed Wallace to win their fifth title of the decade. In a way, it mirrored the beginning of my connection with the Lakers versus the Celtics.

    “Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise,” Kobe once said.

    “The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do. Winning takes precedence overall.”

    You could argue that this mentality is what go him scoring 40 points a game each time he came back from a trial date regarding those rape allegations in 2003, a time when I was certain he was going to be jailed for a long time, but he survived that too.

    He then went on to rescue his marriage to Vanessa and became a model dad to his girls.

    That is the same mentality he displayed when nursing a bad knee, he scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors in a 122 to 104 victory. Bryant shot better than 50 per cent in the game in which the Raptors led by 14.

    Only another Laker, Wilt Chamberlain has ever scored more in an NBA game.

    And who can forget his final game for LA, 60 points in April 2016 to put the cap on a magnificent career during which he scored 33,643 points, won five titles, was a two-time NBA finals MVP (should have been three), and was an 18-time All-Star.

    Walking away from a successful career and being recognized as an all-time great would have been enough for most players, but that was only just the beginning for the Mamba, who would go on to coach his daughter Gianna who became one of the best age-group players in the USA, win an Oscar and a Grammy Award.

    One wonders what other wonders he would have delivered had lived. Why it is so painful is that we know he was going to do even greater things off the court but we will never see what those greater things are.

    How good a coach would he have been for Gianna? How much better a dad would he have become? How much better a human being would he have evolved into.

    I don’t know. I don’t have the words so I resolve to borrow from Jamie Foxx to express how it feels that Kobe Bryant is no longer with us one year on.

    “I know God doesn’t make mistakes but this one leaves me numb still. After a year it’s still hard to wrap my mind around this. Rest in Power. You and your precious little one will forever be remembered and cherished in our hearts and minds.”

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • 'Face more balls, score more runs' - How simple advice from batting star Kohli helped WI batsman Blackwood 'Face more balls, score more runs' - How simple advice from batting star Kohli helped WI batsman Blackwood

    In-form West Indies middle-order batsman, Jermaine Blackwood, has credited brief advice received from top-class India batsman Virat Kohli as helpful in changing his mindset towards scoring runs.

    The 29-year-old scored his first century against England in 2015, a plucky 112 unbeaten in a draw in Antigua.  Following that impressive achievement, however, Blackwood seemed unable to cross the double-digit threshold.  In fact, before finally breaking the streak with 104 against New Zealand, in December, Blackwood had managed to score 10 half-centuries in-between but always fell short of a triple-digit score.

    Included in that number were some figures frustratingly well clear of the 50 mark, but falling just short of the 100 mark, when for all intents and purposed the batsman seemed well set to do so.  The tally includes three scores in the 90s.  He scored 92 against Sri Lanka, in Galle, in 2015; 95 against Pakistan, in Abu Dhabi, in 2016, and 95 against England, in Southampton, in July of last year.  Prior to that, Blackwood also registered 85 against England, in Bridgetown, in May 2015.  During India’s tour of the West Indies, Blackwood took the opportunity to seek the advice of run-machine Kohli when the two briefly interacted off the pitch.

    “I just asked him how come all the time I score so many half-centuries and just one century, and he just replied, ‘What did you do when you scored the century? How many deliveries did you face?’ I said I faced 212, and he said that’s it, once you can bat some balls you will score runs,” Blackwood recalled.

    “I took a lot from that and I’ve always told myself, after that conversation, once I can bat over 200 balls or 300, I’m going to score runs.  Once I’m there, the way I bat, I’m going to score runs regardless of who I’m playing against or where I’m playing.”

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