The performance of the national Under-20 football in the recently concluded Concacaf competition hosted in St Vincent and the Grenadines speaks volumes about the continued existence of an abundance of talented youths in this country and of the importance of nurturing that talent for the ultimate benefit of the nation.
Much has been made recently of the politically perceived growth of the Nine Mornings activities held here while little credit has been given to the hosting of the latest regional sports contest in this country. The playing field is anything but level.
The current situation in national football continues to be a major challenge. There are heavy demands placed on the local Federation by the international governing body, FIFA, to participate in all of its major competitions and a heavy penalty awaits the organisation should it default on these obligations.
Grenada has had to pay the penalty for failing to participate in one of the regional competitions even though it made the claim that funds were low and that this was the most critical factor. That did not prevent the governing body at the local level to be penalised. The bosses were not impressed.
St Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation, regardless of the Executive, remains under pressure to fulfil what FIFA has established as its annual competition failing which a heavy price must be paid. This means therefore that the governing body at the local level must engage in deliberate long term planning if it is to be a sustainable organisation in the eyes of FIFA.
Ever since St Vincent and the Grenadines became members of FIFA the costs incurred on an annual basis have risen consistently. Membership has its privileges, of course, especially the annual grant of $250,000 USD. While this may seem like a huge amount of money one need only examine the cost of participation in the annual slew of activities that the FIFA, its continental arm, Concacaf and the CFU put in place and the result is a deficit. This is because the expenses are very high. The cost of intra-regional travel has been prohibitive, to say nothing of going outside the Caribbean. The local football fraternity has suffered from being unable to engage the national senior team in friendly encounters often. This has meant a decline in its position on the FIFA rankings.
While many are prone to criticise the local coaches it is a well-established fact that international coaches do not come cheap. The annual grant from FIFA would readily disappear on the international coach. This is the reason that in the case of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, the two regional teams to have made it to the FIFA World Cup thus far, their respective governments have been the ones to meet the expenses of the international coach.
Several executives of the SVGFF have come and gone struggling along the way to meet the demands placed on them by the annual football calendar.
Sponsorship has not been easy to access by the SVGFF. The local business community, inundated as it is annually by all of the sporting organisations operating in the State, has been unable to provide the kind of sponsorship to the SVGFF that it requires if it is to place itself on a sustainable development path.
St Vincent and the Grenadines football has always been fortunate enough to showcase many talented youths. Despite the very limited resources available to them and the fierce competition to find fields and other resources for training, weak local competitions and poor sponsorship, some very good footballers have emerged.
Anyone with an understanding of sport would readily observe the abundance of talented people in this country yet not enough effort is being placed on the systematic development of the talent.
Dating as far back and some would wish to recall Vincentians have always been seen as rather adept at sport, especially football.
The national senior team did so very well in the World Cup preparations several years ago when they twice scored first against a Trinidad and Tobago team that eventually qualified for the Finals of the impressive tournament.
The national Under-20 team did relatively well in the recent competition played before huge crowds at the Victoria Park. But this is not good enough.
We have had outstanding youth and senior teams before and we have failed to go on to bigger and better things.
Much of the success of any sport depends on the number, availability and quality of the coaches involved in the preparation and supervision of the players. Football is no different in this regard.
Over the years we have had complaints of one sort or another about the coaches of our football teams. In many respects the complaints were valid even though the Federation did not always agree.
FIFA and the National Olympic Committee have facilitated the training and certification of numerous coaches for football in St Vincent and the Grenadines. It is an unfortunate reality that many of those trained and certified have done precious little besides using the certificates to decorate their walls and the qualification to embellish their curriculum vitae. Too few have returned to work in the field.
Several attempts at forging a coaches association within the football fraternity have fallen apart largely because of pettiness. It seems that coaches in St Vincent and the Grenadines football have not come to an appreciation of the significant benefits to be derived from working together to hone the skills of the nation’s many talented players.
Unfortunately, therefore, our coaches do not engage themselves in enough reading about the developments taking place in the delivery of skills to players. We do not hear of ongoing coaches’ education in the sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Too many coaches see their initial certification as adequate and engage in no further reading. Instead they relegate themselves to speaking about the sport.
At the club level not enough attention is paid to the deliberate development of the skills of the players. The coaches do not seem to have a strategic plan for the development of the players under their charge. The players often come together to sweat rather than hone skills and learn more about the game. There is no genuine, systematic physical preparation by any team for the football season. This is the most horrific and debilitating weakness of Vincentian football.