Posted: Wednesday, December 14, 2022. 9:37 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: The Ministry of Education, Culture, Science, and Technology (MoECST) has committed to supporting student-athletes in football and basketball, to start with, studying in the United States.
The Football Federation of Belize (FFB) identified 10 student-athletes studying abroad to receive a BZ$600 monthly stipend to assist with living expenses, and 39 student-athletes have been identified by the Belize Basketball Federation (BBF) to receive a tuition scholarship up to the baccalaureate level. Their chief executives, Sergio Chuc and Jacob Leslie, signed the memoranda with Ministers Francis Fonseca and Rodwell Ferguson this morning at the Old Government House.
According to Minister Fonseca, previously individual families had to approach the Ministry and so this process is more coordinated and structured: “We have been talking about this for some time. It is part of #planbelize and it is part of the commitment of the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Youth and Sports…These bodies [are] to identify these student-athletes, bring to us and say, listen, they’ve gotten these partial scholarships at this university or this community college but they need additional support on a monthly basis to assist with their living expenses, accommodations.”
Fonseca added that the link between sports and education is indelible and the opportunities expanding from North America to Europe to South America and Mexico. While basketball, football, and volleyball have gotten the most attention traditionally, there are also opportunities in athletics for example.
Ferguson, Minister of Youth, Sports, and Transport, spoke on the importance of the memorandums and expressed gratitude to the MoECST for supporting the initiative almost immediately when approached. Presidents Chuc and Leslie commended the ministry’s willingness to support the student-athletes and to take the necessary steps to transform that willingness into concrete results. They highlighted the significant impact that the MOUs and the support they guarantee will have on the lives of student-athletes.
According to Ferguson, “We are hopeful that one of them might be lucky to join the NBA or one of the major sports in the U.S.; as a small country it is a pity, we cannot provide for them in that category because we have a very small population, but as we grow, we believe we can do. So we hope that our athletes can start to achieve what they want in this life, and the Ministry of Sports and the Ministry of Education and the whole of Belize will be there for them.” He added that this is just the beginning as more children pursue sporting careers along with their education, as ten more athletes will be added each year; for now, they are focusing on the neediest.
And in the case of the Football Federation, whose President Chuc is a noted supporter of the United Democratic Party (UDP), politics have been set aside and the Federation and the Government enjoy an excellent working relationship.
So as Fonseca said, athletes can now begin to dream of emulating the likes of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Michael Jordan, and Stephen Curry, who each rose from nondescript backgrounds to rule the basketball world while also giving back to their communities, and Belize can dream of an appearance at the football World Cup that a world has watched transfixed for the last month, and which comes to our neck of the woods four years from now.
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