By Santokie Nagulendran
This past week has seen the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Championships take place, with clubs
from across the region vying for a lucrative spot in the 2015/16 CONCACAF Champions League, and a chance to face teams from USA, Mexico and Central America in front of major crowds. Guyana had the fortune of having two club sides entered into the tournament: 2013/14 Super League winners Alpha United, and runners-up Guyana Defence Force (GDF).
However, whilst these were the best two sides in Guyana last year, their contrasting fortunes in the CFU Club Championships this year highlights the problem within domestic football in Guyana: aside from the lack of a domestic league this season, there is also a major gap in quality between the one professional team in the league, Alpha, and the rest of the teams who have traditionally featured in Guyana’s National league.
Last season, Alpha United, the kings of Guyanese football for the past few years, were the first Guyanese team in history to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League, where they were given a brutal introduction against some of the best sides in CONCACAF. The team seemed to be stuck in a footballing catch 22: too good for the domestic league in Guyana, where they won all 15 of their games easily, yet not good enough to compete with the best teams in CONCACAF. Alpha’s lack of real challenge from other clubs in Guyana had in essence, stifled their development, as competition is the best form of development for any footballing
side. However, this year, there have been slight developments.
Bakewell Slingerz FC, covered in last Sunday’s column, surprisingly defeated Alpha United in the final of the 25th Kashif and Shanghai tournament. This firstly suggests that in the future they could rival Alpha as Guyana’s most dominant side and provide much-needed competition to the National League. Secondly, the rare loss by Alpha to a fellow Guyanese side forced Coach Wayne Dover to self-reflect and analyse what needed addressing in his team. The fact that Alpha failed to score against Slingerz in the K&S finals made Dover reflect on the finishing qualities of the team, and Kithson Bain, a striker from Grenada, was added to the team to ensure a lack of goals did not hinder the team in the CFU Championships as it did against Slingerz. If Alpha had not faced a challenge from Slingerz FC, they would not have been forced to reflect on and consequently develop their team for future performances. Competition in Guyanese football is what is badly needed.
Thus, in their first CFU game against Surinamese champions Inter Moengotapoe on Wednesday, Alpha were effective and assured up-front, scoring three goals and creating enough chances to score more. Kithson Bain was amongst the goal-scorers and as a result of that performance, today at 4pm, Alpha will play Central FC of Trinidad and Tobago to see which team will qualify for the next round.
GDF, coached by Denzil Thompson, (former coach of Guyana’s National Team in 2014), are officially, if the league is to be used as a standard-bearer, the second best club side in Guyana. However, their performances in the CFU Championship this week have shown how far behind they are in terms of the rest of the Caribbean. A 7-1 drubbing to Trinidadian side W Connection was followed by a 2-2 draw with Antiguan side SAP, which ultimately eliminated GDF from the tournament. The lack of competitive domestic games this season hindered GDF, as did the strange decision by the club to opt out of the Kashif and Shanghai Tournament and miss the opportunity of competitive games in order to practice for the CFU Championships.
Without the introduction of a professional league in Guyana, teams from the country without the professional status of Alpha will languish and routinely face heavy defeats when facing professional sides such as W Connection in these regional competitions.The CFU Championships have produced contrasting fortunes for Guyana’s representatives, whereas Alpha have shown they are one of the best sides in the region, GDF have shown that other Guyanese teams, who are not professional, are nowhere near the standard required for regional competitions. A professional league in Guyana is needed if teams from the country want to develop and prosper in tournaments such as these, and whilst it would take many years to implement a fully-functioning league in Guyana, the rewards will be priceless for football in the country.
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