By Zaheer Mohamed
Despite five of its players being denied entry into Nicaragua the Guyana male Under-20 team had a commendable outing in the 2020 Concacaf Men’s U-20 Qualifying championship, finishing second in Group A.
The young Guyanese entered their final match tied with the host on nine points, and despite being reduced to 10 men for most of the contest; they matched their opponents in every department.
It took a 49th minute strike from Pinoleros’ Ezequiel Ugalde to separate the teams at the Nicaragua National Football Stadium on Sunday night last. Guyana registered three wins from four games; in their opening match they defeated Montserrat 6-0 before beating St. Vincent and the Grenadines 3-0 and defeated US Virgin Islands 2-0.
In recognition of the young Golden Jaguars feat, the Guyana Football Federation (GFF) held a reception for the players yesterday at their head office, Section ‘K’ Campbellville. Speaking at the ceremony, President of the GFF Wayne Forde said this is a historic milestone in the development of the game.
“This has been the country’s best performance at an international U20 male competition,” he posited. Forde stated that this is certainly a proud moment for Guyana and a fitting tribute, on the occasion of the country’s 50th Republic Anniversary.
He congratulated the players and the management team. “These exemplary young men rose above the daunting challenges that began upon their arrival in Nicaragua, which persisted agonizingly throughout their campaign and only ended when the final whistle blew. This can best be described as a courageous display of the temperament and character of a true Golden Jaguar.”
“You all played with passion, confidence and pride and have conducted yourselves as true ambassadors on and off the field- we are extremely proud of you,” he posited.
“It is clear that the GFF has been making steady progress in many of the key areas of football development, but there is quiet a distance yet to cover in order to impact the quality of the sport across Guyana.”
Forde expressed gratitude to their youth development partners-National Milling Company, Pele Alumni, KFC Guyana, Ansa McAl and the Government of Guyana among others which included the media.
Prince Johnson of Pele Alumni said they are proud of the team and are very much appreciative of the efforts and they have given to the GFF; he thanked Forde for giving them the opportunity to render assistance.
Finance Controller of NAMILCO, Fitzroy McLeod congratulated the team and urged the players to make the most of the opportunities provided. “It’s better to be ready for an opportunity that never comes, than to have an opportunity that you are not yet prepared for.”
“I have seen some faces that would have been here when we started this journey. It is important for you as the trailblazers to continue to do well and move from one level to the next. You have now set the bar for the group that is coming behind you. They now have a better view of what is attainable and will set high standards. However, it is not for you to sit on your laurels. We have seen good progress, but yet we want to see so much more, we want you to understand that this investment is because we believe in you and we want you to believe in yourselves, this is just a part of the journey, the best is yet to come,” he stated.
Head Coach of the Guyana Senior Men’s National Team, the Golden Jaguars, Marcio Maximo commended the players. “I am proud of you. I was told that there is a lot of talent in Guyana and when I came here I started to gamble with playing more local players; we didn’t know what answer you would give us, but you have shown that our gamble is correct with your commitment and discipline. It is very important for you to keep your dream.”
He congratulated the management team and players adding that youth programme has paid off. “I am sure the next two to three years you will be part of the national senior team. You have opened the way for new players to come through and this shows that you are going in the right direction.”
Coach of the U20 team, Wayne Dover said the performance of the team is evidence of the work done by the club coaches, ATC across the country, national U15 and U17 coaches all of which made his job easier. He thanked the Technical Director Ian Greenwood for his support and Coach Maximo who invited the team to integrate with the senior team prior to the competition. “Those sessions with the senior team helped us a lot during the championship, I am happy with the performance; the lads tried to execute to the best of their ability,” he said. He commended GFF President Wayne Forde and spoke highly of the discipline shown by the youths.
Technical Director Ian Greenwood lauded Coach Dover and his staff. “The challenge was set for the players to earn the right to wear the badge on and off the field and they have done that. The players displayed solid and positive performances throughout the tournament. You have followed the GFF philosophy which we can now see embedded in all our national teams, both male and female which started back with a lot of you coming through the ATC programme.”
“It’s good to see the coaching staff and players have started to play the Guyanese way and that will help us moving forward. The players were very composed playing out from the back, you were dominant mid-field areas, clinical in the final third; what was very pleasing is that you were very discipline and organsied out of possession and you should be very proud of yourself for that.”
“It has been an excellent journey as part of the learning process moving forward to develop on a 10,000 hours of practice to ensure that you can be the next group of elite players for Guyana. You now have a real understanding of what this level of international competition consists. You must continue to show character and take the opportunities with the senior team. There is a bright future, for you have represented this country with pride. The onus is now on you, we want to see how many of these players can push and play outside of Guyana so you have to do the work.”
Guyana’s Captain Nicholas Mc Arthur ended the tournament as the joint highest goal scorer (five) along with Centeno Hernández Nicaragua.
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