Dear Sports Editor,
Mission Impossible, Lethal Weapon, Rush Hour and Bad Boys – what does my movie interests have to do with the strange world of Guyana Football?
All those movies have various sequels and as I observed the local media headline about the “third coming of Shabazz” ahead of the team’s upcoming friendly with Barbados, like the aforementioned films one can only hope this time that the Guyana football fraternity doesn’t mess this up.
Trinidad Media folks at times find amusement that he has returned, but Guyana is fortunate that his “obsession” with the nation (as he said) is still strong.
I was lucky to be the media officer for the Golden Jaguars during the 2014 World Cup qualifiers and after building a relationship with many of the players, I was disappointed like many from that campaign to see the team not kick a ball in two years.
However some of the criticism that former president Christopher Matthias tended to receive was very hard to understand.
If people felt the Guyana Cricket issues that the WICB has done an excellent job of making worse every year is bad, then noise coming out of the Guyana’s football echo chamber made deciphering the truth a needle in a haystack job.
One has to wonder how one of the worst run football administrations among the 209 FIFA affiliates, that has never had a serious professional league or clubs, a national stadium comparable to Ato Bolton Stadium in Trinidad or the Andre Kamperveen Stadium in Suriname or produced a player to play in the major European leagues – can have so much fighting.
FIFA installing a normalization committee with individuals who have no background in football to halt this drama is a clear indictment on all those who claim to be football administrators in Guyana.
FIFA must take blame though, since such a committee is probably 10 years too late. When Jack Warner was around he intercepted all complaints about Colin Klass and allowed the seeds of administrative folly to grow.
In my own research and conversations with former President Christopher Matthias I saw a lot of disconcerting documents regarding the financial state of the GFF. It was bad enough that if Guyana stopped playing football at all levels to just pay off all debts, I could understand.
Of course things were not perfect under him, but nothing was crazier that the criticism that Matthias did not want “foreign players” in the team.
It has to go down as one of the most misconstrued sporting interviews I’ve ever seen. What he said doesn’t need repeating, but established CFU giant Jamaica had the same issue with foreign players during the hexagonal stage of the 2014 world cup qualifiers. JFF president Horace Burrell went on a European hunt (even trying to get Raheem Sterling to play for Jamaica) seeking every player with Jamaican heritage to play for the national team. As the Reggae Boyz struggled versus the CONCACAF giants, Burrell was criticized for not putting things in place to develop local players properly since their only world cup appearance in 1998. Sound familiar?
If Guyana had managed to miraculously get past their group with Mexico and Costa Rica, they were set to do the same because I know many foreign players were contacted with some rejecting or putting the Jaguars on hold – most notably Aston Villa’s Fabian Delph and Denmark’s Martin Braithwaite.
CFU teams clearly need foreign talent if they want to challenge CONCACAF’s elite, but other than Trinidad & Tobago to some extent most nations have not got the balance between that and local player development correct.
Shabazz will do well – we have seen this movie before. The presence of a qualified technical director will certainly make his job easier than the first two times. But we have also seen the ending when he leaves and despite the current optimism in the air an equal sense of trepidation is also merited until the day Guyanese prove they know how to manage football unless Jamaal Shabazz is around.
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