By Zaheer Mohamed
It is no doubt that some of the finest sporting talents emerge from rural communities, but due to the lack of adequate facilities in those areas, the athletes are forced to ply their trade in urban localities in order to attain maximum performance at the elite level.
The aforementioned is exactly what national junior female left back Samara Rodrigues plans to embark on after completing high school.
Speaking with Kaieteur Sport recently, the 16-year old Rodrigues who was born in Port Kaituma, Region one, but migrated to Kumaka, Moruca where she now resides, said her aim is to secure a place on the national female football team-the Lady Jags. “My aim is to represent Guyana at the highest level with distinction and I intend to work hard in order to achieve my goal,” she added.
Rodrigues, who attends the Santa Rosa Secondary School, represented Guyana at the U15 level in the Concacaf U15 female tournament in Florida and in 2019 in Curacao where she played in the Concacaf female U17 competition.
“Playing for Guyana is an honour and it brings joy to my family. That’s a different level, it’s challenging and exciting at the same time,” she posited.
Rodrigues pointed out that there is always room for improvement and she has placed emphasis on improving her speed, technique and how to slow down the game among other areas. However, access to quality coaching may be unavailable in her area at the moment, but the left-footer, indicated that following her CXC exams in 2021 she wants to move to the city. “I plan to move to Georgetown after my exams and connect with a club there so that I can gain more exposure,” she informed.
Like many outstanding athletes, Rodrigues developed a passion for the sport at a tender age. “I started to play football at the age of nine after I saw others playing. I started out by training with my sister Eldicka Benn, neighbours and friends. Shortly-after I became a member of the Golden Eagles FC in Moruca and hence my participation in tournaments,” she noted.
Rodrigues has the ability to play in any position on the pitch, a skill not mastered by many in the modern day game.
Playing as a striker, Rodrigues led Golden Eagles FC to a number of titles as she would often finish as one of the leading goal scorers. “The players always look up to me and we would support each other,” she said.
But playing for a club which is based some distance away from her home and school was always going to be challenging for the talented Rodrigues, so she decided to move to a club closer to her village and hence her connection with Atkinson Brothers FC.
Her last appearance in a tournament was in December 2019 when her team (Atkinson Brothers FC) won the Atkinson Brothers 5-a-side title. In that competition, Rodrigues and another national player, Annalisa Vincent who represented the club as a guest player, formed a formidable force up front. And it was a first half double by Vincent that handed Atkinson Brothers FC the title.
Athletes from across the country, especially the outlying areas do look forward to the annual Heritage games. This event is an important one on the sports calendar as it provides the athletes with an opportunity to showcase their talent and can pave the way for fruitful careers. The athletes participating in these events represent the cream of the sporting talent from those areas, and some of them have graduated to national teams.
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, many athletes still remain positive that this year’s edition of the games will be successfully staged. In the 2019 edition, Rodrigues’ Atkinson Brothers side lost to Sebai Invincible Talons FC in the final of the region one qualifier; the victory handed the latter team the right to represent region one at the finals in Georgetown. But Rodrigues feels that the best players should be selected from each team to represent the region following the playoffs as opposed to one team going forward. “This way the best players will be on show which will raise the standard of the competition and make it more exciting,” she noted.
Football is one of the most popular sports in schools there and in the last inter-house tournament which was held in 2019, Rodrigues led her team to victory. She explained that she played in defence, which is her favourite position, in this competition so as to give other players a chance upfront.
She wants to see more national players emerging from the region and believes with more developmental programmes there, more talent can be unearthed. “The players here have a lot of talent, but they need more exposure. Sometimes they suffer from stage fright, but with more tournaments being held they can overcome this hurdle. More coaching needs to be done here, so if coaches can visit these areas it will be a plus for us.”
Rodrigues also plays volleyball and cricket and currently trains at home with her sister.
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