Dear Sports Editor,
In my former role being the media officer of the Guyana Men’s team during the 2014 World Cup qualifiers much disgust and general disinterest is felt watching and reading from overseas all the dramas that has confounded both the men’s and women’s team since 2012.
However, two things always stuck me after my time on the inside; (A) Guyana needed continued foreign intervention to develop as a football nation (B) Guyana should move from CONCACAF to CONMEBOL.
Point B, I will start with first. I’ve always believed and know others do too, that Guyana moving to CONMEBOL can easily see this Cricket loving nation develop faster than it can in CONCACAF, in a similar way that Baseball loving Venezuela did.
Venezuela are now a solid team that have won games at home against the mighty Brazil and Argentina in post 2000 CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying which is widely acknowledge to be the most competitive in all the confederations.
Even though the game versus Mexico in Guyana 2012 never happened (why it didn’t happen remains one of the great modern scandals of local sports), the vague details I recall from the sponsorship deal that GFF was going to get for hosting that game is nothing compared to the money it can earn from a hosting Brazil or Argentina.
However, recently developments under new CONCACAF president, the Canadian Victor Montagliani and the clear efforts he has made to unite CONCACAF means the federation is potentially progressing in the right direction, hence tentatively staying in CONCACAF is fine for now.
The only tradeoff is that qualifying for a World Cup becomes harder for the men, but better for women.
Point A should have unanimous consent – but too often if one say Guyanese don’t have expertise to run a football federation on their own people get defensive or offended. This isn’t like cricket where if the current Guyana Cricket Board, who was recently called illegal by the current Minister of Sport George Norton, all incumbents are removed – there is enough cricket expertise in the country to easily take over their positions.
The only sporting entities in Caribbean who can claim clear local expertise in success is Cricket and Athletics in Jamaica & Bahamas.
Guyana Football has no sustained history of success. The evidence of success of varying degrees by people like Jamaal Shabazz, Claude Bolton, Richard Groden and Ian Greenwood off the field along with foreign born players that made the Lady Jaguars play in Gold Cups and then men’s 2014 qualifying run, proves this conclusively.
In assessing the credentials of coaches Ivan Joseph and Michael Johnson, if I were to sit down and think of a foreign coach, the criteria’s I would have looked for are: they had to be highly qualified and experienced, had to understand Caribbean football and in the perfect scenario had to have some Guyanese heritage similar to when Trinidad & Tobago got Stephen Hart.
Joseph with his background in North American football system in the women’s game fit this criteria perfectly. Although it was disappointed the women didn’t make it further in recent CFU Women’s qualifiers, the context was the team had a lot of injuries and because CFU decided to play games in a non FIFA window denied team presence of likely captain Chante Sandiford who plays professionally in Norway.
The obvious positives is that he was able to attract some talented new players most notably defenders Sydney Cummings, Niketa Persaud, English mid-fielder Hannah Baptiste and forwards Cameo Hazlewood and Brianne Desa.
Add that to large injury and other reasons absentees who had last played together in the 2016 Olympic qualifiers in USA such as the De Souza sisters, Olivia and Julia Gonsalves, Justine Rodrigues, Otesha Charles, Ashlee Savona, Bria Williams the potential depth in the Lady Jaguars could be its strongest ever – which would make Joseph’s hiring a jackpot decision.
The new men’s coach had a key added credential – ability to attract foreign born Guyana heritage players. This tactic has proved successful with Jamaica of late who got to consecutive Gold Cup finals with a strong presence of British born players.
It’s factually known that the Lady Jaguars have achieved more on international stage than the men, but there is no football nation on earth where women’s football captures the public imagination, draws sponsors and government support than a men’s team.
Canada currently is the only example of the opposite occurring.
So it was always crucial that the Golden Jaguars got a high profile foreign coach. Johnson’s credentials seems like a major fillip for GFF.
The federation also stated they earmarked English based players to recruit such as Matthew Briggs (Barnett), Callum Harriot (Reading), Ryan Fredericks (West Ham), David Stephens (Boreham Wood) and Anthony Jeffery (Sutton United).
Fredericks will be playing in Premier League next season, Guyana had players playing in the world’s most popular football league simultaneously with national teams similar to some CFU teams.
Therefore the GFF & coach Johnson have either already reached out to those players and have some sort of commitment before he was announced as coach and are preparing the nation for these guys inevitable arrival or it’s a risky public relations strategy to state they are going after them without players making a decision.
If it’s some version of the former instead of the latter, then the federation could hit the jackpot with its three targets of 2019 Gold Cup & 2026 FIFA Cup qualification along with top 100 FIFA & top 5 in CFU rankings.
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