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Govt acts after football players lives’ are threatened

Government is working on a plan to separate gang violence from football after a recent Boulevard match was forfeited due to threats against its players.The Royal Gazette if it is fair for the innocent to suffer for the guilty, he replied: “Boulevard has a steward history but they're at the bottom of the charts not because of their skill. They can't go anywhere, they can't train. There's also the stigma attached not just to Boulevard, but to Dandytown and Cougars.”The Royal Gazette on the condition of anonymity said: “Six players said they had no fears and wanted to play last Sunday, while the others said they are not ready to die yet.

An emergency meeting was held this week with Government Ministers, the Bermuda Football Association and the Bermuda Cricket Board after the team refused to play Somerset Trojans on their home field.

Following that meeting, Premier Paula Cox asked Cabinet members to come up with hard solutions.

Minister Michael Weeks, who represents Pembroke East Central, was one of three Cabinet Ministers who attended the meeting. Constituency 16 encompasses St Monica's Road, Friswell's Hill, Parson's Road, and Deepdale. He is also the Vice President of Dandytown football club.

“I have talked to the Premier and she has given a few Ministers the remit to come up with solutions,” he said.

National Security Minister Wayne Perinchief and Minister of Families Glenn Blakeney also attended the emergency meeting.

Mr Weeks said: “My first reaction to the forfeiture was 'It's a sad state of affairs'. It's not just Boulevard, it's about the whole sporting fraternity. This is about our country.”

Two players received phone calls prior to the game. They were told if they showed up for the match one of them would have to 'lay down', or give their life in return for the lives of two high profile Parkside gang members reportedly marked for death.

As for proposed solutions, Mr Weeks said: “We may have to scrap Boulevard's senior programme completely. Boulevard is the one club affected by this, their programme has gone downhill.”

As a club man Mr Weeks is familiar with the problems associated with gang affiliations and the impact it has on the game as it relates to fans. There is also the ongoing issue of travel restrictions. “To think it's just Parkside and MOB, or that its confined to Boulevard, is unrealistic.”

When asked by

“We've had people shot at Dandytown on more than one occasion. That too is a travesty. The police and the powers that be need to look at this as a real serious issue. As long as it's contained in our black neighbourhoods, we keep skirting around the issues. Fans come to games with bulletproof vests that shows the country that this is a real problem.”

“Do we now outfit clubs with CCTV, if we do the fans will be negatively affected. Do we step up police patrols? Do we centralise games because Boulevard has a core fan base. If they can't travel outside their community, do we, or should we look at a centralised playing area for Boulevard?

“We have to look at with extraordinary solutions, we have to start thinking outside the box. As a grassroots club man and a father to say I'm disgusted is an understatement.”

There also remains the issue of travel restrictions which is also affecting the Somerset Trojans. Somerset requested a police escort back to the west end after the Friendship Trophy final against North Village at the National Sports Centre last month.

Terry Lister, the Government MP for Sandys South, admits gang violence is taking its toll on the west end community as well. “When I was at this same stage of life 40 years ago we had no fear of travelling to any part of the Island.

“We had differences, and at times those differences were settled by means of a fist fight. But at the end there was a shaking of hands and relationships continued.

“Soccer was a family affair, but that has fallen away, the crowds have diminished and now the players are afraid to enter certain areas. This not what any of us want to see in Bermuda.

“While the level of violence on the field appears to me to be no different than it was years ago, what is different is the perceived threat off the field of play. This is something we must work together to overcome. I am asking all coaches and officials to take a little extra time to work with our young men to help draw out the good and to suppress the bad.”

The BFA-BCB meeting was described as productive, but Mr Weeks said he did not agree with everything discussed. “We have to get our head out of the sand and realise this is a state of emergency.

“As a father of a 16-year-old I fear for my son and my older children everyday. These teams put on a jersey on a Sunday, but through the week when it should be just one community, it's not.

A longtime, diehard Boulevard supporter who spoke with

“If you knew there was a chance you may get killed just for a game would you go? We don't only have players on the bus, the driver has family who is a civilian running a business. This also puts him at risk.

“If a guy could ride from Somerset and shoot up Mount Hill, who's to say they would not shoot up a bus full of Boulevard players. We can't control our fans but protecting our team is a must. Playing football in Bermuda today could cost you your life, and for what? Not all players belong to gangs.

“If I had my way I would put them on an island and just leave them there, I'm tired, I've been watching these boys grow for years. I've been a Boulevard diehard fan for most of my life and I never thought I would see this day, it's almost surreal. The whole thing just makes me.”

l See further story in the sports section, Page 25.

Minister of Community Development Michael Weeks speaks at a press conference about his ministryís Throne Speech initiatives. (Photo by Mark Tatem)

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Published February 09, 2012 at 8:00 am (Updated February 09, 2012 at 8:51 am)

Govt acts after football players lives’ are threatened

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