Fourteen years after an unsuccessful attempt, Joseph Harmon goes after the GFF Presidency
Michael Benjamin speaks to GFF Presidential hopeful Joseph Harmon on his aspirations
The year was 1999 and the football affiliates were preparing for the Annual General Meeting of the Guyana Football Federation (GFF) and the election of office bearers for the new dispensation. The incumbent, Colin Klass, was highly tipped to be returned to the position but he had to firstly get past Joseph Harmon, whose ambitions were on par with the support for his elevation; many felt that he had the ideas to transcend the sport to another level.
Few could forget those nerve-tingling seconds during the voting process when one of the voters claimed to have experienced a nauseous spell that tampered with his faculties and forced him to opt out of the process. That was the vote that would have made the difference and propelled Harmon to the helm of the GFF. Instead, he was forced to concede a 9-8 defeat and once more Klass had prevailed. Now, fourteen years later, Harmon has once again thrown his hat into the ring as he attempts to clinch the coveted position that fate had once deprived him of.
While his optimism is high, Harmon would be required to secure a nomination and someone to support it if he is to contest for the prestigious position. This appears to be easier said than done as already, another contestant, Christopher Matthias, has received the blessings of the Georgetown Football Association (GFA), the largest sub association, after securing 9 votes; Harmon barely managed one vote while Bruce Lovell clinched 2. Yet Harmon is confident that come nomination day he will be able to satisfy the criteria and come Election Day, he will ascend to the helm of the Guyana Football Federation.
Harmon, a former Colonel in the Guyana Defence Force, said that he has played football as a youth and continued during his early tenure in the GDF. He said that he has also competed at the veterans’ level but has never played at the national level. He does not view this as disadvantageous and as he put it, “Administrative skills are far more important in the proper administration of the sport.” He said that what he lacks in actual participation is compensated for in his passion to improve the lot of the affiliates. “I am cognizant of the benefits that could be accrued by the youth and the ability of the sport to transform their lives and that knowledge coupled with my desire to apply it for the betterment of local footballers would adequately compensate,” he said.
Harmon reflected on his failed attempt in 1990 and his reasons for contesting in the first place, “I recognized then that football was going nowhere under Colin (Klass); that the structures were compromised by an incompetent executive incapable of managing the game.” Harmon said that back then a core of reputable businessmen had confided in him that they were reluctant to support a sport devoid of personnel with integrity.
The aspiring president admitted that since then there have been some positive changes in the management policies but not enough to adequately impact on the developmental process. “Those changes have resulted in the reinstatement of support from some members of the corporate community but to my mind the game is yet to realize its full potential and this might just be because of the laxity of past executives,” bemoaned Harmon. He asserts that the money required to effect the changes are available but members of the corporate community need to be encouraged by competent leadership and accountability, two variables he said that are sadly lacking in the GFF. “A Harmon led GFF will restore that confidence by employing an all inclusive tact that engages the players, corporate community, members of the Diaspora and other relevant stakeholders in the developmental plan,” advocates Mr. Harmon.
He is adamant that there is a need for a paradigm shift that entails stringent focus on the club structures, better administered and structured clubs and intense efforts to harness the skill of players from as early as the Pee Wee stages right up to the senior and veteran players. “The veteran players still have an important role to play in the development of the sport; they could provide moral support for contemporary players,” exhorted Harmon. He also spoke of the need to provide adequate opportunities for local ball weavers and even hinted at the installment of a local professional or semi-professional league.
Mr. Harmon is quite aware of the quality of the other aspirants but has already begun to conceptualize on the needed changes for a better fraternity. He feels that the job should start internally and he will implement those changes starting from his executives. “We will need to reexamine the modus operandi of the executives; the way things are done at that level; it cannot be business as usual,” he said. Among his projections are independent audits which would foster internal accountability and by extension, encourage adequate corporate support.
He also plans to dole out grants to the various clubs to facilitate their development instead of plugging most of the funds into the administration of the sport. “You cannot ignore the needs of the footballers; they are important to the development of the sport and any planned initiative must incorporate their input,” exhorted Mr. Harmon.
He is a bit peeved over the minimal returns from the FIFA grant saying that the past executives are unable to show tangible returns for the millions of dollars doled out over the years. “Much could have been attained but unfortunately there isn’t much evidence that local footballers benefitted from the grant,” lamented Harmon. Consequently, he aims to focus on architectural and social changes that will also see the vibrancy of the sport in the schools even as he works towards the establishment of a well organized and functioning Federation with a firm club structure. “This is but a minute aspect of what is necessary to propel Guyana from its dismal position to a decent world ranking,” said Harmon. He feels he has the necessary tools and desire to do the job. He will just have to wait until April 12 to ascertain the effect of his outlined plans and projections and if the electorate will buy into them.