As has been happening for the past few years several of this nation’s youths have been beneficiaries of football coaching clinics organised by a number of well-meaning individuals and groups.
The Sam Carrington and that of the Morris brothers stand out amongst the football leaders who make their way back to the land of their birth to assist in the development of the sport to which they committed so much.
One can only hope that the athletes who have been exposed to the different training sessions will utilise the knowledge and skills imparted to their benefit and to the overall benefit of the sport in this land of ours.
The training sessions this year have however taken on more significance as St Vincent and the Grenadines makes headway in the preliminaries of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Vincy Heat’s Progress
FIFA has cleared St Vincent and the Grenadines in the case brought before it by Guyana following our defeat of the South American country in the World Cup preliminaries earlier this year.
We now move on to the next round and it does appear that we have the opportunity to show that we can return to the days of footballing g lorry to which we had grown accustomed when we became full-fledged members of FIFA and started our World Cup adventure.
1994 World Cup
Our first World Cup undertaking was in the 1990s when Basil ‘Bung’ Cato was the president of the organisation and we participated in the preliminaries for the World Cup of 1994 scheduled for the USA.
Participation in the World Cup preliminaries at the time was a tremendous experience. The team saw the return of some former stars of the game here and under the aggressive leadership of Ellliot ‘Mori’ Millington, the team showed the character of former years.
It was most interesting that as SVG got past the first round of the CONCACAF preliminaries, Millington informed the local governing body of the sport that he needed help to take the team forward. He recommended Everard ‘Gally’ Cummings of Trinidad and Tobago. Cummings was the man responsible for taking Trinidad and Tobago to the edge of the World Cup finals in 1989 when they succumbed to the USA in very strange circumstances at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain, Trinidad.
Cummings had agreed to take on the role of head coach for SVG through the remaining stages, but apparently on condition that his contract with this country’s federation had no linkage whatsoever with Austin ‘Jack’ Warner.
When SVG was about to agree the terms and conditions with Cummings it was apparently announced in Trinidad and Tobago that he was being favoured for the job and that Warner was somehow instrumental. Cummings immediately withdrew.
Warner then facilitated an agreement with the local body to have Jorge Ramos assigned to SVG, paid for of course by the local body.
Once the local body realised the cost of moving on in the World Cup preliminaries to the second round that meant playing at home and abroad against Costa Rica, Honduras and Mexico, the information as made public and eventually, a World Cup Support Committee was established that saw a coming together of the public and private sector in the country to realise much needed funding.
SVG paid a heavy price of its inexperience in the World Cup foray. The most humiliating experience was the 11-0 loss to Mexico in that country on 6 December 1992 and with one of the dailies carrying huge pictures of each goal on its first 11 pages the day following the encounter.
It seemed that the scheduling of the game in the high altitude of Mexico City in the middle of the day left our players gasping for breath with players seeking Oxygen on several occasions during the 90-minute encounter.
World Cup 1998
The 1994 World Cup experience behind them the Vincentian players began to focus on doing better in the preliminaries for the World Cup of 1998.
In 1995 the Vincentian team shocked the region by placing second to Jamaica in the Caribbean Nations Cup when the hosting of the semi finals and finals were shared between the Cayman Islands and Jamaica. This achievement gave the country its first and only qualifying berth at the prestigious CONCACAF Gold Cup in 1996.
The Vincentian team again reached the second round of the preliminaries of the World C up and showed significant improvement in their preparation. In the two matches played against Mexico they lost 0 – 3 and 1 – 5 respectively.
Lenny Taylor of Jamaica led the World Cup preparations in the first instance followed by Trinidad and Tobago’s Bertille St Clair.
Once more the team benefitted from a World Cup Support Committee.
1996 and after
In 1996, following the completion of St Clair’s contract the local federation turned to Vincentian, Samuel Carrington who benefitted from a four-year contract. Since then the country has had an array of coaches who have met with limited success.
The structure of the federation has undergone change largely effected by FIFA. Today we have Keith Ollivierre as the federation’s technical director and a team of coaches working with the different teams that have been developed to meet the FIFA requirements and participate in the respective competitions.
Women football is not yet fully established in comparison to the men but it has started and likely to expand significantly.
Although funding is still a problem for the federation given the numerous engagements annually, the grants from FIFA go a long way in facilitating the development of the sport.
Football is the only local federation that benefits enough from its international governing body, FIFA, to pay its executive members monthly.
In 2004 St Vincent and the Grenadines attained its lowest FIFA ranking, 170th. Three years later, 2007, the country rose to 73rd, the highest to date.
Shandal Samuel is still the nation’s highest goal scorer with 29 international goals to his credit.
Now we are into the World Cup again and the performances of the team seems to be on the improve.
Admittedly there appears to be problems with the final 15 minutes of any game in which the team is involved. The team plays 75 minutes of very good football and has a tendency to lose it all in the final quarter. This has been a consistent problem plaguing Vincy Heat since 1992.
Having gotten past Guyana the team is now well placed going into the next round of the preliminaries.
The Vincentian sport-loving public has not yet grown as familiar with the current team players as was the case in the past but with continued promotion this could change in short order.
As yet there has not been a public appeal for a support committee and the costs have not been brought in any detail to the nation.
For sure the next round of the World Cup preliminaries would be costly and the federation would do well to put its budget together to facilitate raising the requisite funds to make a successful attempt at going farther in the World Cup than any previous team from this country.
The Vincentian economy is not in good shape but our people love sport enough to pledge some measure of support for the nation’s football team.
The successes of national representative teams thus far in 2015 have been good enough though not by any means great and should serve as an important incentive to the football fraternity to rise to the occasion and take this country’s sporting reputation to another level.
The football camps held thus far during the school vacation is an important undertaking and the organisers and leaders must be commended.
It has always been stated with much conviction that St Vincent and the Grenadines has an abundance of sporting talent. The nurturing of this talent in football is particularly important if we are to impress the global football fraternity.
We must encourage the football fraternity to stay steadfast and support the initiatives aimed at imparting knowledge and skills relative to the sport.
We can and will continue to improve our game.