By Santokie Nagulendran
Recently there has been debate over allocation for the traditional year-end football tournament in Guyana. Kashif
and Shanghai were hoping to launch the 25th edition of their popular tournament this month, whilst various associations were hopeful that they would be given their own tournament during the dates, such as the GFA and their Banks Beer tournament, which was given priority by the GFF last year over other tournaments. The debate has sadly split the footballing fraternity, with some expressing disappointment at the Normalisation Committee’s handling of affairs in regards to the matter. With the Normalisation Committee having only been in place for just over a month, it is sad to see Guyana’s footballing fraternity once again divided so easily.
Eventually the Normalisation Committee, led by Clinton Urling, decided to deny Kashif and Shanghai permission to host their tournament during its traditional November-January slot, but offered them the opportunity to host the tournament at another date in 2015. The long-term plan, the committee has said, is to hold a GFF tournament starting from next year that incorporates teams from all the associations in Guyana. Such a move would benefit Guyanese football both from a developmental point of view and an economical one; a tournament containing all the best teams in Guyana from various associations is more likely to draw fans and generate more revenue in the process.
With the GFF administration under Christopher Matthias having previously taken the unprecedented step of imposing bans on members of the Upper Demerara Football Association (UDFA) for hosting a tournament final on the same day as another association (GFA), it is refreshing to see the Normalisation Committee encourage associations to host their own tournaments this year free of any such implications. As such it is thought the UDFA will hold their traditional GT Beer tournament this year once again, whilst the West Demerara Football Association have also declared interest in hosting a tournament, with more associations sure to follow.
Administration within football has never been an easy job, but for too long the focus has been on financial and personal gain in Guyana rather than developing football, so it is important the Committee is given the chance to fairly assess the current situation in Guyana and implement policies which they feel can benefit the nation’s football. The committee is formed by five people with successful track records in their various fields and all of whom are working for no salary, they are working for the benefit of football and must be supported.
When FIFA installed a Normalisation Committee in October, they had one alternative option which they were seriously considering: to ban Guyana from competitive football for an indefinite period of time. Whilst some would say football in Guyana has been at a standstill for years now, the implications of an official ban would be horrendous for football in the nation and as such, the committee needs to be given all the support it needs in order to ensure it does not fail in its task; or else FIFA will step in with a ban without any hesitation.
Such a ban would mean that the National side would not be able to compete in any matches, whether it be World Cup qualifiers, CFU events or friendly games. All levels of youth teams would be unable to compete, from Under-13s to Under-21s. The women’s teams varying from youth to senior level in Guyana would be unable to compete at any international events, and any development that players would gain as a result of competing internationally would therefore be non-existent.
A ban would also mean no club side could take part in any CFU competitions nor would Guyanese personnel be able to attend training or development programmes run by FIFA. This would mean a club such as Alpha United would not be able to participate in the CONCACAF Champions League as they have done so this year, nor would any coaches or staff from Guyana be able to attend the seminars that FIFA and CONCACAF hold in the region throughout the year, such as a recent FIFA Fitness course held in USA this October, which current Guyana Head Coach Denzil Thompson attended.
Guyanese players hoping to go abroad would also suffer as a result; clubs would be reluctant to sign players from a country banned by FIFA, and indeed, players currently playing abroad would have their reputations tainted. The long-term implications of a ban would affect football in Guyana for decades; it is something not even worth imagining. Nigeria was threatened with a FIFA ban this year for allowing Government interference in their football federation, but hastily realised the repercussions a ban would have and their fraternity worked together to seek a resolution.
Gambia was initially given a ban by FIFA in May for fielding over-age players in a youth tournament, but a Normalisation Committee was created to run their footballing affairs, like in Guyana, and the ban was overturned within two months as the committee demonstrated their ability to unite the footballing fraternity and ensure such an event would not happen again.
In essence, the Normalisation Committee is Guyana’s last hope of footballing salvation in a time of despair and it’s therefore critical that they receive full support from the footballing fraternity in Guyana. Whilst Guyana’s current footballing situation is at an all-time low, (exactly four years after being ranked 86th, Guyana is currently ranked 170th in the latest FIFA World Rankings), there remains hope for progress and hope that there will be change for the better with the Normalisation Committee in charge being guided and assisted by FIFA. If the Normalisation Committee cannot bring the footballing fraternity together to work as a unit, then FIFA will step in with a ban, and any hope remaining will ultimately be lost.
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