Jan 11, 2015 Sports
By Santokie Nagulendran
A recent media release by the Guyana Football Federation has outlined Guyana’s potential road to qualifying for the FIFA 2018 World Cup. Qualifying games will take place in June 2015 in the form of a two-legged play-off match against St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, or Grenada. If this was 2011, such ties would not strike any fear into a confident and experienced Guyanese team, however, such has been the turmoil of past years, these opponents now represent a very serious challenge for a Golden Jaguar side now beginning their development from scratch.
Having failed to utilise a full-strength side since late 2012 (by full-strength I mean a side that has contained the best foreign-based and domestic Guyanese players), Guyana’s development as a Senior International Team is currently non-existent. The recent 2014 Caribbean Cup qualifiers were the lowest point in Guyana’s footballing history, with the failure to win a single game or even score a single goal in the competition summarising the dreadful reign of Christopher Matthias at the helm of the GFF.
The team chosen for that competition had talent, but in no way did it contain the best players in Guyana, either based in Guyana or overseas, and as such, the performances were not reflective of Guyana’s true capabilities.
Potential World Cup opponents St Lucia even inflicted a 2-0 defeat on Guyana during the competition, their first win over Guyana since 1995, and will be confident of another victory should the teams meet in June. It is useful to note that only two years earlier, Guyana had comprehensively beaten St Lucia 3-0 in 2012 Caribbean Cup qualifiers, so it is clear there has been a regression of the National Team since 2012.
What begins now is a re-building process; Guyana must start, in essence, from scratch, as they look at forming a team that can once again become one of the best in the region. Whereas other Caribbean nations have spent the past few years building a side and creating a team identity, Guyana’s development has been hampered by inactivity and can no longer rely on some of the players who led the team during their historic 2012 run in the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers. Carl Cort, Leon Cort, JP Rodrigues and Kayode McKinnon, all key figures in that Golden Jaguar side, have retired, whilst other National players such as Shawn Beveney, Devon Millington and Charles Pollard have hung up their boots in recent times. Thus the core of the team no longer exists. Without any GFF Super League taking place last year, there has also been little opportunity for the next generation of Guyanese stars to develop their game and replace the icons of previous years.
However, a recent leaked document containing the squad to face Barbados on 1st February in an International Friendly does give fans reason to be cautiously optimistic. Historic Captain Christopher Nurse, who plays his club football in Florida, is set to return to the National Team and lead again, now in his peak years. His experience will be priceless for a side that contains a lot of young players, who will need senior players such as Nurse to guide them on the International Stage.
Exciting prospects in the squad to face Barbados include Pernell Schultz, a striker for Caledonia AIA in T&T, who first played for Fruta Conquerors in Guyana before moving to T&T and becoming a success, recently scoring his first league hat-trick for the team. Alongside him will be Trayon Bobb, arguably Guyana’s brightest young talent, who currently plays in Lithuania and stood out in 2014 World Cup Qualifiers by scoring two superb goals against El Salvador.
Domestically, Daniel Wilson should also be a great addition to the squad, having scored a remarkable 11 goals in 6 games from midfield for Alpha Utd in the recently completed GFA Banks Beer Tournament. Having played in Finland and also previously featured in the Senior National Team, Wilson is now more of a developed player and one of the most talented midfielders in the CFU region. Fellow Alpha United stars Clive Nobrega and Dwain Jacobs will also provide excellent competition for the midfield positions. Finally, Colin Nelson, of Slingerz FC, has developed into one of Guyana’s finest defenders and should excel on the big stage. The team rumoured to be chosen should be able to give Barbados a very challenging game next month.
With more overseas-based players rumoured to be joining the team in time for the World Cup Qualifiers in June, the future of Guyana’s National team looks bright. Rumours have also been abound in the media this week that Jamaal Shabazz, the most successful coach of the National Team, will return for a third spell in charge during the World Cup qualifiers.
The FIFA Normalisation Committee have tried their best to put Guyana’s National Team back on the right track after two years of utter stagnation due to the policies of the previous administration led by Christopher Matthias.
The committee has implemented a clear policy by picking a squad featuring the most in-form players available to Guyana, and if the rumours are true, the hiring of Shabazz as Coach will be a move that can only benefit the team further.
Guyana’s lacklustre performances in the 2014 Caribbean Cup means that the entire CFU will be under-estimating the Golden Jaguars this year, they have been inactive for the best part of two years and the abysmal performances in the Caribbean Cup will only make other teams under-estimate their potential. Yet, that is no reason to lose optimism: the squad chosen for the Caribbean Cup was not reflective of the best Guyana has to offer, and as the last World Cup Qualifiers proved, the Golden Jaguars love to surprise the experts and roar louder than anyone thought was possible!
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