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Mar 4, 2013

Petén basketball players bounce into national discussion

The Belize National Basketball Selection withdrew from playing in a Guatemalan tournament called “New Era of the Mundo Maya”, which was held in Peten and organized by the renegade National Sports Federation of Guatemalan Basketball. The team cut short its participation because local organizers found it distasteful that the Federation had included Belize as part of Guatemala, in the tournament’s paraphernalia.  While the team made it back, three well known Belizeans players stayed on to play with a Guatemalan team. There has been public outcry because of the current national focus on Belize/Guatemala affairs, but is it warranted criticism? News Five’s Jose Sanchez reports.


Jose Sanchez, Reporting

The logo on shirts and the official letterhead for a basketball tournament in Guatemala is the reason why the national team returned early last week. At the urging of the Olympic Association President, Hilly Martinez the B.B.F. had the team return after one night in Peten.


Charles Ellis

Charles Ellis, V.P., Belize Basketball Federation [File: March 1, 2013]

“Well it was oversight on our part. In our excitement to get practice time for the guys, we actually overlooked that. But immediately after being informed of it, we made a decision that we wanted our team to come back.”


Jose Sanchez

“I understand that particular body is not actually accredited by FIBA.”


Charles Ellis

“That is what we were also informed, but on their letterhead, they had Olympic-recognized and FIBA-recognized, but apparently they are a renegade organization. So us playing in that tournament could have jeopardized our chances moving forward also so it was a good thing that we decided to come back anyway.”


But that is only where the story begins. Winston Pratt and Kurt Burgess were invited to try-out for the national team, but the B.B.F. Vice President, Charles Ellis, confirmed that they only showed up to one practice and the organization didn’t hear from them following that practice.  Both Burgess and Pratt along with Raul Roaches played for one of the Guatemalan teams that participated in the tournament from which the Belize’s national team made a premature departure. The players would not make a public statement. However, through online social media Burgess said


“Isn’t Belize a free country? Basketball is basketball wherever you play it. I guess lack of information is the problem here. Hearing one side of the story and judging is typical Belizean. Then again I don’t have to answer to anybody because I’m me and I’ll do whatever I want and if playing basketball in Peten or Iraq or wherever it is makes me happy then that’s what I’ll do.”


But Guatemala has been promoting this map locally and internationally. At the OAS headquarters in Washington, Belize Ambassador Nestor Mendez protested following a video presentation by Guatemala.


H.E. Nestor Mendez [File: February 7, 2013]


“Following up on Belize’s point of order earlier, I just want to inform the permanent counsel that Belize will be formalizing its protest in writing by a diplomatic note. We find the use of that map totally unacceptable. It shows Belize and Guatemala in the same color—all the rest of Central America; all the other countries with a different color—the implication is that it is one territory. As we prepare to go to the ICJ, this provocative use of this map is not acceptable to our delegation and we will be formalizing our protest in writing.”


An ardent supporter of the three players, who bounced into a national discourse, is Glenn Tillett, former B.B.F. president.


Jose Sanchez

“On every level that this unified map is being pushed by Guatemala. I know that you are involved in some of the education process of the referendum, what is your reaction to this?”


Glenn Tillett

Glenn Tillett, Former B.B.F. President

“First of all, I know throughout my lifetime, Guatemala has been producing these maps. Like everything else in life, it waxes and it wanes. It has more to do with who is in government in Guatemala and how much control or authority the elements in the Guatemalan government who wish to push the claim may have. They are the ones who will see to it that maps like this get produced and distributed because that’s their way of trying to promote the claim. You could go years and not see a map and then all of a sudden you start seeing them around the place. I would dare say hundreds of thousands of these maps have been produced over the last six years. We have a protocol in place; when we find them, we protest we demand their withdrawal and usually that succeeds. I think is a little overblown; the reaction. But I understand we are living in a time of great interest where the Belize/Guatemala situation is concerned.  I think also that I may have heard the coach of the national say on public broadcast this morning that this is not the first time Belizeans have played in that tournament. And that that map is what the organization has been used for several years. Nobody just had not noticed before. So I think the onus is on the Belize Basketball Federation to have checked their statistics before they left and took our national team there. Where the three players are concerned, anybody who live in that border area know that Belizean athletes play in Guatemala all the time. And on the ground there, most people don’t pay too much attention to what they consider the politics of it.”


Raul Roches

Galen University is penalizing Raul Roches. Dr. Eugene Zabaneh, the university’s president says that to keep his scholarship, Roaches must “write a public apology to the Galen community and to the country of Belize at large by tomorrow March fifth.” Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.


Relatives of the players say that Belizean teams have played before for Guatemala while other players have played for foreign teams. They feel that the national team caters to Belizean Americans who spend little time in Belize therefore they have to seek international experience elsewhere. But we note that the national team is leaving this weekend for the Central American Games in Costa Rica. The team is looking for sponsorship by contacting Belize Basketball Federation Vice President, Charles Ellis, at 610-2969.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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12 Responses for “Petén basketball players bounce into national discussion”

  1. Belizean Pride says:

    if he doesn’t apologize make his scholarship null simple as that we need Belizeans with pride not traitors. we’re in a state of border and national concerns with the dispute and these fools seem to do is sarcastic to what we’re opposing. it’s making us look united as a nation.

  2. sickntired says:

    We youths need to understand that to show any support for guatemala being offensive is the same as saying it is ok for your neighbour to tek chance of your family as long as da neva you they knock. Eventually they will knock you too.

  3. Storm says:

    Those three traitorous players may just be dumb athletes, but Burgess’s “defense” of his vile conduct is disgusting. So he puts himself ahead of everyone in Belize, I say he should be shunned by Belizeans. Let him stay in Guatemala and enjoy being a foolish narcissist. His ego is too big for our small nation.

    Down with Burgess! Long live free Belize!

  4. Seletar says:

    I don’t think Roches should apologize for being an unBelizean fool. Just stay in Guatemala!

  5. roska says:

    “I don’t have to answer to anybody because I’m me and I’ll do whatever I want and if playing basketball in Peten or Iraq or wherever it is makes me happy then that’s what I’ll do..”

    Ok….So Please stay home and do what you want…. dont shame us on the international arena…

    Is this the type of people that represent our country abroad in international tournaments????
    No wonder our lack of discipline in sports has changed radically sports ethics at home…

    well what were we suppose to expect??… if the coach of our NATIONAL BASKETBALL TEAM can use so eloquently vulgar and obscene language on national television (when he was interviewed last week by channel 7 reporters) what can we expect from the team he is suppose to lead???

    What a shame…..

  6. BT says:

    The Belizean players in question were not members of the national selection who defected to Guatemala. Nor were they playing for the Guatemalan national team. They are simply athletes who found opportunity to play for CLUB teams that are based in Guatemala. If you are prepared to condemn these young men as being unpatriotic then you need to condemn every single Belizean who does any manner of business with Guatemala, attends schools in Guatemala, receives medical care in Guatemala, drinks a beer in Melchor, etc. People are totally blowing this out of proportion.

  7. alley cat says:

    I could be wrong but I believe one of these guys, Kurt Burgess, works for Government. I feel a way knowing that the public is paying his salary. Unless these the other two public apologizes then I believe they should be banned from ever representing Belize, Kurt Burgess needs to be banned, apology or not…

  8. belizeanfirst says:

    BT whilst that may be true the difference is that now Guatemala is giving rise once more to its claims and we cannot in any way accept this as a TRUE BELIZEAN!!! S

  9. belizeanfirst says:

    So will you tell me that you allowed your neighbours to come into your yard to play and you use their yard to play with them or chat with them, no problem. I AGREE. But imagine now that they decide to claim your property. Will you continue allow them to encroach on your property? Will you allow them to set up camp? Will you wear a t-shirt where they claim they own your property?

  10. Apalled and ashamed says:

    It never ceases to Amaze me how Belizeans are so lost in translation with the whole Belize Guatemala “dispute”. now they bring in a basketball game and player mind you into the scene. He is well within his rights to play anywhere as he sees fit, just like how Belizeans FLOCK to the border to spend their BELIZEAN cash in Guatemala on food and BEER……. For Galen administration to want him to issue a public apology for something he does for even them, i mean that is just wrong. That means All Zabaneh should be ousted out of the country for the ill-doings of their family members down south. :) i’m just saying….

  11. Dante Tyler says:

    Well said BT and I agree with you that they are blowing this out of proportion!!!!Might as well we bun fiya pan d the Mayor of Belize for going over to Guatemala and establishing sister city relations!!!

    We are in a state of concern according to Belizean Pride and yet the Mayor has gone over to Guatemala. Just this week, a reciprocal visit was made to Belize by the mayor of Santa Cruz, Guatemala. So do what now? It is ok for him to doing this but we condemn a basketball athlete? Who is the traitor ?

  12. bzwgyal says:

    I totally agree with BT…what is the issue with these guys playing for clubs outside Belize? Doesn’t harrison cafu roches and Shane orio play for football clubs outside Belize??? It just so happens that these guys are\ were playing for a Guatemalan club….and maybe if any of you all with the negative comments were true athletes with great talent then u would probably understand….either way how would u feel to work your butts off and in the end they bring so called belizeans from abroad to represent Belize..come on give the guys a break….

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