– sees bright future for Schools tournament
By Rawle Welch
While expressing delight with the high quality of play exhibited during the final and for a large part of the latter stages of the competition, Digicel CEO Gregory Dean speaking with Kaieteur Sport on Wednesday urged all stakeholders to complement the effort of the Company.
Dean, who along with other members of staff witnessed the culmination of the month-long tournament that involved over 150 schools nationwide, disclosed that they will need the assistance of entities such as the Guyana Football Federation, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Sport and clubs around the country to maintain and in some cases lift the standard of the game across the country if Guyana is to continue on its upward path in regional and international football.
“If we could get the stakeholders to add their support and have the players playing at a consistently high level then we could begin to see the fruits of our efforts in the near future and not a distant one,” he opined.
The Digicel Boss in offering his opinion about this year’s tournament first reflected on the inaugural one last year which he referred to as a Pilot Project, stating that if one is to compare the two, you will definitely see an increase in participating teams this year, while the standard of play also improved and these two aspects according to him has given the Company overall satisfaction.
“When we got into it last year, we saw it more as a Pilot Project, but as we’ve seen this year there were more teams in the competition and clearly the standard has risen as well. Schools such as the two finalists Christianburg / Wismar and Waramadong seem to have some kind of coaching programme and if we could get similar developments in the other schools then we are heading for a great future,” Dean reckoned.
Dean felt that if the relevant stakeholders could take advantage of what Digicel is trying to do which is to aid in the development of the sport from the youth level then he sees no reason why we cannot continue to be a potent force at the regional level and then perhaps at the international level in the near future.
He expressed optimism that the standard of play will certainly raise as schools see the importance of preparing adequately, but cautioned those who feel that the tournament is the real solution to Guyana’s football development, adding that it certainly isn’t.
Quizzed on whether he felt some of the unhelpful situations that surfaced this year could impact on the tournament next year, Dean responded in the negative, stating that the event is still in its infancy and every year the Committee that runs the tournament is learning to cope with possible obstacles and he is confident that they are capable of rectifying and even eliminating any violation of the rules.
According to him, Digicel does not possess the kind of resources to do all the things necessary to have a smooth tournament and it is incumbent on the schools, Ministries, GFF and the clubs (if players are members) to ensure that accurate information is submitted, while the job of spotting talent cannot be left to Digicel to identify.
He said having early registration done is one possibility of eliminating the occurrence of players being registered above the stipulated age limit because it would give the committee sufficient time to conduct verification, but was, however, firm in stating that whatever information the schools releases should be accurate enough to survive suspicion.
Dean insisted that it is unfair for a teacher or coach to submit a player’s name who is either over the age that is permitted to participate or someone who has not been attending school within a specified period.
“All it does is rob other teammates who are eligible to participate in the tournament the opportunity to showcase their skills because some persons decide to flout the rules and regulations that govern the tournament and that is not a good idea since it denies so many other players from further participation,” Dean said.
He, however, stated that the tournament must always be seen as relevant for the development of football locally.
On the subject of spotting talent, Dean called for more involvement from the relevant stakeholders, adding that apart from those who’ve signed on to assist it is also the responsibility of clubs and community to play their role in identifying special talent.
Asked to gave a few reasons why he feels the tournament has enjoyed overwhelming support after such a brief existence, the Digicel CEO pointed to the higher level of play, the media coverage which he noted was unprecedented and the fact that they were able to get into far flung communities where the sport is extremely popular.
“Our greatest satisfaction about the tournament is the fact that we were able to go to most parts of Guyana and for us that is the main thing. To go nationally and be able to include schools that had expressed an interest in playing is definitely the high point of the tournament for us,” Dean reported.
Another reason he mentioned was the quality of play which he believed may have served as an unyielding advertisement for the tournament.
Dean pressed to identify why the teams from the outlying regions have done so well in the tournament referred right back to their superior system where some of them have coaches and play regularly unlike those in Region 4, while they also see it as an advantage to get valuable exposure for their skills.
He pointed to goalkeeping as a weak area among many schools and this discrepancy according to him could be remedied by the major stakeholders through clinics or even clubs willing to absorb some of the players into their system.
Dean said he would like to see the sport return to the schools where there could be continuity, then and only then will Digicel feel satisfied with its effort.
Dean extended thanks to the Organising Committee, Media, members of Staff, participating schools, Ministries of Education and Sport, fans and the various communities for their much needed support throughout the tournament.
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