By Santokie Nagulendran
In January 2014, the GFF announced Mark Rodrigues as Technical Director for the Men’s Senior National Team,
which up until that point, had not played a competitive game for over a year. Rodrigues, who resides in USA, has vast experience of coaching youth and women’s teams both within the USA and also in Guyana, where he was previously Technical Director of the successful Women’s Senior Team from 2009 to 2011, helping the team, which comprised of mainly Canadian-born players, reach the CONCACAF Gold Cup for the first time in Guyana’s history in 2010. Rodrigues was named GFF Coach of the Year in 2011 as a result and there is no doubt he has a very good track record in women’s football.
However, questions have been raised this year as to the specific nature of Rodrigues’s role within the Men’s Senior Team, mainly the fact that he has not publically communicated his long-term vision on the selection policies of the coaches, selection criteria for players, player performances or a general plan on how he will help to grow the game in Guyana. In fact, since his appointment in January, Rodrigues has only publically commented on Guyana’s under-17 team, who were eliminated in the first round of CFU regional qualifiers for the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup, and at the time he made no remark as to how the senior team was being assembled.
This should be a cause for concern for Guyana for a number of reasons: firstly, the role of a Technical Director is crucial to the formation of any National side, their role is to identify talent and build the best possible squad for the manager to work with and also to help develop football at a grassroots level with the aim of helping football grow in the country, yet some fans would argue the game has shrunk in Guyana in recent times. Antigua and Barbuda hired Piotr Nowak, a former International player for Poland and former assistant to the USA National team, as their Technical Director, whilst Barbados have also recognised the importance a director plays, having recently hired Brazilian Marcos Falopa as their Technical Director in order to increase the quality of the side.
Falopa brings with him a wealth of experience: he was assistant manager of Brazil in the 1980s, managed famous Brazilian club Santos FC, and most importantly, was Technical Director of CONCACAF for seven years, looking after North America, Central America and the Caribbean as a whole. Falopa is a man with fantastic credentials, whose knowledge of the game will undoubtedly elevate football in Barbados, as Technical Director, he will advise and provide technical assistance to both players and the management team of the
National Team. By no coincidence, Antigua comfortably qualified for the 2014 Caribbean Cup, whilst Barbados performed exceptionally well in the qualifiers and were one win away from making the final tournament for the first time since 2008. Both teams are reaping the rewards of having globally experienced staff in their camp. Guyana, on the other hand, were eliminated in the very first round of qualifiers for the first time since 1994 and scored 0 goals in the process, with many fans calling it their worst performance at the tournament in history and describing it as a National footballing disaster.
What baffled many observers during Guyana’s Caribbean Cup campaign, was the fact that 15 of the 18 players chosen were making their International debuts and the key players in leading club side Alpha Utd were omitted from the squad, as well as any players plying their trade outside of Guyana. Whilst GFF President Christopher Matthias and manager Denzil Thompson cited the decision as one in line with their vision for “development’’ of the National side, no comment was made by Rodrigues, the man whose specific role is to assemble the team, on what criteria was used to build this very young and inexperienced side. Matthias further said that Rodrigues would comment on the situation on National Television, yet nothing has been heard from the Technical Director.
Mark Rodrigues is based in USA, and therefore surely not able to observe the domestic football taking place in Guyana that would allow him to discover and follow the most talented coaches and players in the country, as well as build relationships to grow the sport and develop his staff in Guyana to work towards his long-term vision. With Matthias declaring “foreign’’ players were a detriment to the development of Guyana’s National Team, it seems strange that he has hired a Director not even based in the country, and thus “foreign’’ himself according to Matthias’s definition. Furthermore, Rodrigues has no experience of working with Senior Men’s teams, domestically or internationally, and this puts Guyana at a distinct disadvantage when compared to the calibre of Technical Directors at most International teams.
Rodrigues cannot be blamed for the taking up the position, yet he remarked in January during his first press conference that, “Our women had very good success leading up to 2010 in the World Cup, we achieved history for this country, something that I’m very proud of for Guyana, we created a legacy…our men have another legacy with what they have done, we need to build on that and it’s something we have never really capitalized on.” With the Senior Women’s team not being entered for World Cup qualifiers this year and the administration discarding the legacy of the previous men’s Golden Jaguar team by excluding overseas-based players; it seems as if Rodrigues’s words are ringing hollow.
With the current GFF administration coming under criticism from many members of the public in Guyana for a lack of transparency, it remains to be seen how much say Rodrigues is actually allowed to have in his role, but nevertheless he must be held accountable for playing a part in the abject state of the National Team at the moment. Failing to respond for comment when contacted numerous times, Rodrigues’s position can only be speculated on for now, but one thing is for sure, his role is a mystery that needs to be made transparent.
Editor’s note: Santokie Nagulendran is a United Kingdom based journalist, who has a deep interest in football and will be writing a weekly column for Kaieteur Sport.
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