Current Affairs

Current Affairs


Historic match
Waterhouse hosts Tivoli in football game for first time in 24 years
Observer Reporter
Saturday, November 01, 2003



AGA... over the years we have been breaking down the barriers that divide us as a society

IN what was being described last night as further evidence of a maturing of Jamaica's sometimes volatile political culture, West Kingston's Tivoli Gardens Football Club will today face Waterhouse at the West Central St Andrew team's home stadium in Drewsland -- the first time that either team will have played each other at home in nearly quarter of a century.

"We wish to commend the management of both teams for the mature and positive discussions which have brought about this dispensation," said Raymond Anderson, the second vice-president of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) of today's match.

The last time either played on the other's home territory was in 1979 when Waterhouse went to Tivoli's Railway Oval.

DAVIES... it represents a maturing of the politics and a changing of the relationship between the communities of St Andrew

The kick-off time for the National Premier League match is 3:00 pm.

Tivoli Gardens, which carries a reputation for gritty inner-city toughness, is considered the heart of the West Kingston constituency of Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leader, Edward Seaga. The community is intensely loyal to Seaga and his party.

Waterhouse, on the other hand, is in a constituency represented by young JLP MP, Andrew Holness. But in Jamaica's so-called garrison constituencies there are often political enclaves of gripping support for either of the island's two major political parties.

In West Central St Andrew, Waterhouse is one such community where the ruling People's National Party (PNP) has intense backing, although Holness has won the seat in the past two general elections -- 1997 and 2002.

Recollections of the specific incident that caused the 24-year hiatus between visits by either team to the other's ground and forced their matches onto neutral territory have dimmed down the years. There was vague talk last night of a shooting at the match.

But the larger picture of the time was of Jamaica deeply divided along ideological lines, the violent manifestation of the Cold War on the streets of Kingston's inner-city communities and the society's riveting tension ahead of the bloody campaign for the general elections of October 30, 1980.

The PNP was in government. It was led by the late Michael Manley, who espoused democratic socialism, but its critics said it was taking Jamaica to Cuban- style communism.

The JLP, led by Seaga, was vigorously opposed to the Manley Government. The JLP was close to the United States and portrayed itself as the party of free market capitalism. Its critics called it fascist.

In that environment street gangs aligned to either party fought each other and often took the lives of their opponents with impunity. Supporters of one party kept distance from supporters of the other in communities only metres apart.

In fact, for 27 years, until 1999, when he attended the opening of the Arnett Gardens football stadium in South St Andrew, Seaga had not set foot in a community a stone's throw away from West Kingston and Tivoli Gardens.

Indeed, Seaga last night underlined the symbolic and practical social value of today's game.

Said he: "Over the years we have been breaking down the barriers that divide us as a society. It happened with our visit to Arnett Gardens sometime ago and now it is time to conquer the last frontier, which is Waterhouse. Tivoli is looking forward to it."

For South St Andrew MP and finance minister, Omar Davies, who had invited Seaga to Arnett Gardens, the match is a continuation of a significant process.

"It represents a maturing of the politics and a changing of the relationship between the communities of St Andrew ...a breaking down of the barriers," added Davies, who has been a member of Parliament since 1994 and is credited with working closely with Seaga for the political thaw.

In fact, until Davies' involvement in the process, teams from Arnett Gardens and Boys Town, in Rema, did not cross the road to play each other at home, although they were officially part of the same political constituency. Rema was also seen as a sort of satellite of Tivoli Gardens.

"Now teams and people go and come," Davies said last night.

Indeed, the stadium where today's match will be played was inspired by the one that Davies spearheaded in Arnett Gardens. Davies was the special guest at its recent formal opening.

"They say they have followed the Arnett model," said Davies. "We have a strong and positive reaction to what is taking place."