INSTEAD of clashing in the gayelle, stickfighters are – once again – fighting with the National Carnival Commission (NCC), threatening to boycott the hosting of this year’s national competition.
Unlike in 2020, when stickfighters refused to enter the ring at the National Stickfighting Championships at the Arima Velodrome, after a dispute over money, the issue of contention this year is a change of venue for the February 3 prelims.
The NCC’s updated 2023 Carnival calendar, posted on its Facebook page on January 20, listed the Arima Velodrome as the venue for preliminaries. Notwithstanding this, the NCC has been running advertisements saying the prelims will be held at the Moruga Multi-purpose and Sport Facility.
But according to members of the St Mary’s Gayelle in Moruga, the venue has now been shifted to Mayaro.
NCC chairman Winston “Gypsy” Peters on Friday confirmed the change of venue to Newsday citing the unavailability of the Moruga facility on February 3.
However, Emmanuel Pierre, one of organisers for the popular Return of the Gayelle stickfighting in Moruga, which has been attracting significant interest over the last couple weeks, said the venue was available as it was booked for the weekends from January 13 to February 17, from 7pm to 2 am.
“I am the one who booked the venue,” he said.
Pierre said he was shocked to suddenly learn that the venue was unavailable.
He said the development has left the stickfighters disgruntled and unhappy.
He said if this is not rectified, most of the stickfighters from the St Mary’s Gayelle would not compete this year.
“Yuh say yuh doing something for we and then yuh snatch it from our hand,” Pierre said.
He said the stickfighting hosted in Moruga over the last two weeks has brought significant attention to the rural community. He said it was anticipated that hosting the prelims would be accompanied by increased economic activity to boost the community.
“The first weekend we had this it wasn’t much advertised but we said we staying too long, let’s get started. We had 300 people show up just from the community. The second weekend we had over 800 people coming to this venue. People messaging me saying, ‘Allyuh could ah tell meh the gayelle start.'”
He said the presence of defending King of the Rock, Roger Sambury, and other former champions have enhanced the reputation of the St Mary’s Gayelle.
Pierre said what the NCC was doing was disrespectful to the Moruga community. But Peters was adamant that the change in venue was a forced decision.
He said, “I don’t want to get into any quarrel with the stickfighters. The day before yesterday they called and say the venue unavailable. We had no alternative. We had to hurry up and find a venue.” He insisted, “We wanted it in Moruga.”
Peters said the NCC holds the stickfighters in high regard and would do nothing to disrespect them.
“I want us to respect them as athletes. Stickfighting is like wrestling, boxing, it’s a professional game with professional players. I love stickfighting. Moruga, Mayaro and Sangre Grande are the traditional stickfighting areas.”
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