Orville Higgins | KC’s African Pandora’s box

first_imgThe Arymanya Rodgers controversy is still fresh in the mind. Who can forget what was virtually a national debate as to whether the then 16-year-old Ugandan should have represented Kingston College in the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championship (Champs) three years ago, after turning up at school after the September deadline? At the time, I was taken to task by many friends at Kingston College (KC). My view was simple. I felt that the sports governing body, ISSA, should never have allowed him to compete at Champs that year. I could not accept at the time that ISSA should have bent the rules for a foreign athlete who started school late, when they were not prepared to do the same for all Jamaican based athletes. Most neutrals agreed with me, but the KC community virtually declared me persona-non-grata for the position I held then. A few years have passed and the issue of African athletes competing for KC is now right back on the front burner. The North Street giants are getting ready to unveil, not one, not two, but three new Africans for the upcoming Champs. My understanding is that the three are not from Uganda this time, but from neighbouring Kenya. Two, I am told are distance runners, while I understand the other is a sprinter. One of the three is supposedly also a good footballer, and like Ari Rodgers, may well end up playing Manning Cup as well as representing KC in track and field. I remember some people with North Street loyalties who were insisting, with a straight face, that Rodgers was brought to Jamaica primarily for academic purposes. With three more Africans in their track and field programme, it would be interesting to see if the KC folks continue to maintain that rhetoric. More to come? I had a very frank discussion with an old KC stalwart this week, and he was admitting that it was not outside the realms of possibility that even more Africans could find their way into their track programme in a few years. I pointed out to him that if the Africans helped the KC track, and football programme, then other high schools could go the same route. ISSA recently passed a law restricting the number of recruits from one local high school to another. Those transferred will still have to serve one year of inactivity. Whether they intended to do so or not, KC has expertly found a way to circumvent these rules. Its not far fetched to see other schools going this route. What is to stop other schools from getting talent from Africa, or indeed from Asia or North America? Have KC opened a Pandora’s box that could have a serious ripple effect? Will Champs be a truly international meet in a few years? It is clear that schools are prepared to go to the extreme for the bragging rights they get when they win Champs or Manning Cup. ISSA has been relatively quiet on this issue. At this point, there is no rule against a massive influx of overseas athletes coming into a Jamaican high school to enhance their sports programme. All this could change. Will ISSA be forced to apply the same restrictions to overseas athletes as they now do to locals? Interesting times are ahead. Orville Higgins is a veteran broadcaster with more than 20 years experience in the field of sports.last_img read more