Current Affairs

Current Affairs




Waterhouse, Tivoli bury the hatchet
Patterson, Seaga witness tearing down of political barrier at football match
BY KARYL WALKER Observer staff reporter
Sunday, November 02, 2003




PRIME Minister P J Patterson and Opposition Leader Edward Seaga were among the large number of spectators who turned out yesterday to witness long-time political rivals Waterhouse and Tivoli Gardens bury the hatchet at a premier league football match at the Drewsland Sports Complex, home of Waterhouse FC.

The match, which ended in a 2-1 victory for Waterhouse, symbolised the end of almost 25 years of political divisions between the two inner-city communities, as supporters of both teams mingled freely, dispelling any remaining doubts of bad blood between them.

The mood of unity was underlined by the leaders of the two main political parties which share the loyalties of the two communities.

Patterson expressed his pleasure with the renewal of home matches between both teams. "All of us can live together as one regardless of the nature of the mission," he told the Sunday Observer after the game. "Whether it be sports or politics, all of us have to learn to play against each other but to do so in a peaceful manner and a fashion which promotes harmony."

Seaga, also speaking with the newspaper after the match, commended the host team for the welcome they extended to the members of the Tivoli Gardens community. "We felt quite at home today, the hospitality has been good and the facility is a good one," he said.

Perhaps the most profound statement was made by a Waterhouse supporter who was sitting with some Tivoli Gardens supporters.

"It is not about Waterhouse or Tivoli Gardens. It is about Jamaica's football. Every player on the field is a poor youth and if we can make the game enjoyable and people can move through free, the game will improve and some of them can go abroad go earn a money," the supporter, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Sunday Observer.

Although the match was played in a fiercely competitive manner, the spectators were well behaved for the most part and not one incident of violence or bad-mouthing was evident. A group of men, dressed in the colours of both teams, passed around a chillum pipe and smoked freely with each other.

"This is our peace pipe," said one man, ganja smoke swirling about his head.

Tivoli Gardens represents a community known for its unending support for the Seaga-led Jamaica Labour Party, while Waterhouse has always thrown the weight of its votes behind the ruling People's National Party. Matches between both teams have been played on neutral grounds since 1979 when gunshots rang out at a clash of the two teams at Tivoli's Railway Oval home ground.

The incident apparently was a manifestation of the violence associated with the politics of the day, as gangs supporting both political parties traded bullets in the bloody campaign leading to the October 1980 general elections.

The violence resulted in more than 800 deaths in 1980 and shattered relationships between communities, some of them only meters apart.

A thaw in those relationships eventually emerged in 1999 when Seaga visited the Arnett Gardens football stadium in South St Andrew, the constituency next to his West Kingston, for a football match between Tivoli and the home club.

Yesterday, Sonya, a resident of Tivoli Gardens and staunch supporter of the football team which represents her community, was glad that the political barriers were being removed.

"We need fi bruk down the barrier whe dem put up inna we way," the woman said as she cheered her team. "Everyone fi free fi go where them want and a time Jamaica move forward. We a invite the Waterhouse massive to come to Passa Passa (a street dance) every Wednesday night at West Kingston."

The Waterhouse Football Club was without a playing surface for the past two seasons and just recently began playing matches at home after receiving $24 million worth of sponsorship from the private sector.

Bruce Bicknell, managing director of TankWeld, one of the main sponsors, was a happy man.

"This is a good thing. Sports is the main vehicle through which we can unite the people," Bicknell told the newspaper.