MIAMI – Pressure increases and excitement is heightened as the 18th annual Florida Netball Classics draw near. Teams throughout the Caribbean embark on Floridian shores in attempts to be crowned the champions.
But for some Jamaican teams this opportunity will not be foreseeable as some seven teams have been denied visas to compete for this coveted title.
Most recently, twenty players attended their US Embassy appointments and were denied approval prior to the intended interview. The 3 day tournament is scheduled to take place on October 16-18, 2009 at Nova High School, in Davie Florida, the event will be supported by teams from Grand Cayman, Bermuda, Bahamas, St. Croix, Trinidad and Tobago.
The recent actions of the Embassy raises question as to what are the underlying fears and concerns regarding Jamaican athletes leaving the island. If regulations have changed, what are the new requirements, and how can promoters of the sport truly do a good job if athletes are placed under such tight scrutiny.
The 18th Annual Florida Netball Classics faces turmoil as several Jamaican teams are refused visas for US entry.
A process not foreign to Mr. Allister Roper, CEO of 4 Tors, Inc., these sudden changes have become a major concern. “We have been working with the Embassy for several years, and never have we had this experience. Our players are professionals with reputable companies on the island, so denying what has been a simple process for them, is unfathomable.” The teams in question are members of the Jamaica Netball Business House league, which comprise of teams from the corporate establishments in Jamaica.
With Jamaican athletes performing so well in international competitions, it’s surprising that more support is not given to promote netball in foreign markets. Despite concerns on the increasing decision of the US Embassy to deny qualifying athletes entry to the US and subsequently the competition, Roper remains optimistic that the event will be a success.
“It’s an ongoing issue for the teams, but this year, more than ever, our patrons are being turned down at an alarming rate,” stated Roper in a recent interview, “we’ve had teams of seven or eight girls going to the US Embassy and only two girls getting visas, consequently teams are having to cancel their trips.” This is neither good for the athletes’ morale nor the sport.
Calls to the Embassy have not been fruitful as to why this is happening and in trying to ascertain their reasoning. In addition to highlighting the natural ambiance of Florida, the Florida Netball Classics encourages community participation and embraces the unique Caribbean style of playing the game. “This situation is not going to stop us, we have dedicated lovers of the sport, so I know they will be coming out to support their teams and country”, stated an enthused Roper.
The 2009 Florida Netball Classic tournament will start with a launch party on Thursday, October 15 at Ginger Bay Café, Hollywood, Florida followed by the tournament. Featured activities include the Hurricane Shootout which pits players in the tournament in a shootout against spectators for prizes and ends with the special Zoneball Beach final at South Beach in Ft Lauderdale.