Sat | Mar 17, 2018

The greatest honour of all

Published:Sunday | January 14, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Nicole Aiken-Pinnock (right), then captain of the Jamaica Sunshine Girls, posing with teammate Malysha Kelly in 2015.

Money, it is said by some, is the cause of the greatest evils on Earth; to a few others, money is considered simply a necessity to live, especially to live reasonably comfortable; and to others, money is a means by which some men achieve the finer things in life, things which allow them to live the life of kings.

In other words, to many people, money, or the acquisition of money, is the most important thing in life.

To most of these people, nothing else in life matters to them. To some others, however, there is nothing in life to match their concern for their less fortunate fellow men, their brothers and sisters; and still to a few others, there is nothing in the whole wide world like the country of their birth.

These people are sometimes, or most times, called patriots, these are the people who sing, "Land of my birth, I pledge to thee", and "I vow to thee my country", and these are the people who will do anything, even the final sacrifice, for their country.

I first had that feeling one day in 1983.

The Jamaica table tennis team was selected for the Caribbean Championships in Guyana, and two or three days before the team left Jamaica for the tournament, my 13-year-old daughter, Sharon, came home with the team's playing gear, coloured black, green, and gold, and showed it to me.

Goose pimples appeared all over me. I felt like I was going to play for Jamaica. I hugged her. I felt proud. I will never forget that day as long as I live.

Last Sunday in The Gleaner newspaper, I saw a headline and a lovely photograph on the lead sports page. The headline read, "Aiken-Pinnock sets sights on fourth C'wealth Games," and I wondered just what was happening.

When I read the article, a lump developed in my throat.

The article stated, "I am available for selection," and then the 32-year-old former national captain, who last represented Jamaica in 2016, who plays professionally in the United Kingdom, and is the sister of Romelda Aiken, also said, "It's an exciting feeling and an honour when you put on the national colours and go out to represent your country, and so if I was given the opportunity again, I will do so with pride and dignity. It is just exceptional, and not many persons get that opportunity."

And somewhere in the report, she also said, "I know it is going to be a challenge, but for me, when you do the work, you will be rewarded, and I will do the work."

Those words were like music to my ears, so much so that I ended up hoping that Nicole will make the netball team - again.

I wondered, however, for a moment, why Nicole had left the team when she did, but that was only for a minute or two. Maybe the beat of the drum calling her back is too much to ignore.

I am a Jamaican who admires all Jamaicans who wear the national colours because when I was a youngster, like so many other youngsters, I dreamed of doing so. I never possessed the necessary skills, however, and as Nicole said, "not many get that opportunity".




Nicole's words reminded me of the problems of West Indies cricket and of my concern for some of Jamaica's problem.

Oftentimes I wondered, although the West Indies is not a country, even though the West Indies economy may be different from some of the countries that play Test cricket, and as important as money is in life, why did so many West Indies players abandon ship?

I feel disappointed by those West Indies cricketers who, in my opinion, jumped ship in a selfish search for more money.

And regardless of what they may say, and have said, even with the arrogance of those who run the show, earning more money is really what they are all about, and whoever still believes otherwise have only to look and see what has been happening since the 'amnesty' of last year.

Most of them, or the majority of them, have 'politely' refused invitations to play for the West Indies, giving as an excuse, and at the last moment, "personal reasons".

The search for more money is understandable because of the West Indies situation, but the need for money is not a unique situation to them, not when we remember other countries like Pakistan, India, and New Zealand whose players remain loyal and only participate in the money leagues when their country does not need them.

The absence of so many players really hurt West Indies cricket. For although some of them would not have made the West Indies team and some of them are now past it, their presence in the domestic competitions - be it on fast pitches, on bouncy pitches, or on slow and low pitches - would have helped the proper development of the younger players.

And in Jamaica, a little patriotism would also be wonderful.

Instead of every day coming up with another sport, and boldly and selfishly asking for more of Government's financial assistance to get on to the international scene, instead of trying to win gold medals by 'importing' talent from overseas, and instead of flying Jamaicans of all levels around the globe who really are not ready for any competition whatsoever, Jamaicans should look in the mirror and realise that Jamaica is a poor country and that things are bad, very bad, in health, housing, roads, education, safety, and employment.

Patriotism considers all these things and everybody. Patriots tend to deal with things on a necessity and priority basis. Winning medals is one thing, being in a position to enjoy them is quite another thing.

Well said, Nicole, and good luck on your comeback. Representing one's country is an honour, and it is an opportunity given to only a few.