Vincentian football must rise

The recent performance of Vincy Heat in the Caribbean Cup round of matches in Trinidad and Tobago has given Vincentian lovers of the game of football much to shout about and an indication that more must be done to help this nation regain top billing in the region.
Vincy Heat’s draw with Trinidad and Tobago may have come as a surprise to many but the history of games between the two countries would reveal that we have always posed a challenge to the Trinis and in many instances have drawn first blood on the field of play.
Perhaps more of a surprise was the team’s performance against Cuba, one of the favoured teams in the competition. To score first and then have Cuba equalize but not do any better with both teams missing scoring opportunities must have given the team’s coaching and management great joy. Of course it would have been better to come away with victory but it is significant that we were able in the dying stages of the game to show some spunk unlike previous occasions when we gave it all up at that point.
While some may well believe that they have little reason to give support to Vincentian football the fact is that now is as good a time as any to rally around the football team and encourage the Football Federation to work all the more diligently towards building the sport for the future.
Grassroots Football
Like so many other sports football has found it necessary to pay increasing attention o the children. Across the world grassroots football development programmes have been put in place as a means of attracting children to the sport with the intention of introducing them to the fundamentals. The expectation is that since children learn very fast an early introduction in an atmosphere of fun would certainly go a long way towards getting them to like the sport and stay with it going forward.
For football the challenge is that several other sports have also developed grassroots programmes with precisely the same intention. The reason is simple. No sport wishes to see itself relegated in the global ranking.
The quadrennial Football World Cup is second only to the Summer Olympic Games in the ranking of the popularity and financial success of international sport competitions. It stands alone in terms of international sport federations in this regard.
With every sport getting involved with the children appealing for their interest football has had to step up its grassroots programme.
In St Vincent and the Grenadines we have Kiddie Cricket and Kids in Athletics competing with football for the attention of the nation’s children. It should not be long before other sports add themselves to this approach to ensure continuity and sustainability.
Grassroots football allows the Federation to engage in the early identification of talent so that the next generation of national football stars can be deliberately and systematically taken through the rites of passage to the world of professional football.
St Vincent and the Grenadines has numerous playing fields and the sport can and should be played on all of them regardless of shape and size. This offers the Federation an important opportunity to establish a comprehensive development programme aimed at getting more people playing the sport. The more playing the sport the more likely that outstanding talent will emerge.
St Vincent and the Grenadines benefitted from a coaching programme from FIFA during the period 7 – 11 May 2012. This coaching programme was under the FIFA Win in CONCACAF project. The conductor was Kenton Rodrigo of Costa Rica.
All this week, 19 – 23 November 2012, the Federation has again benefitted from a coaching development course facilitated by the St Vincent and the Grenadines National Olympic Committee through Olympic Solidarity (the development arm of the International Olympic Committee – IOC) in collaboration with FIFA. The course conductor was Anton Corneal of Trinidad and Tobago.
Anton is the son of former national player and coach, Alvin Corneal, who conducted an Olympic Solidarity-sponsored course for coaches here in 2008.
The success of the Federation’s grassroots and other technical developmental programmes depends heavily on qualified and adequately trained coaches who are willing to give of their time. Planning is an essential component of the coaching development programme.
The National Olympic Committee has consistently trained hundreds of coaches since accessing full membership of the International Olympic Committee in early 1987. However every national association that has benefitted from these coaches development courses has complained that less that 10% of the coaches trained show the commitment required to help lift the sport on a consistent basis.
Many speak of the growing tendency that sees coaches making demands for compensation for coaching. It is no longer like the old days when people readily gave of their time and expertise. One can only hope that with the demand for compensation comes true professionalism.
Football, like so many of the sports practised here, could well do with Vincentians distinguishing themselves to the level of true professionalism.
There remains mush discussion around the country and amongst critics of the game that the country needs good coaching if we are to climb the ladder of success beyond the OECS sub region. We have to be contenders at the CONCACAF level.
With two coaches development courses in 2012 alone the Federation must ensure that the new coaches are readily brought to work with those who have been trained before and facilitate the establishment of a cadre of committed coaches in a Coaches Commission or Association of some sort that works with and for the benefit of the sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Like the vast majority of FIFA members the St Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation is a beneficiary of that organisation’s Financial Assistance Programme (FAP). The FIFA declares:
The Financial Assistance Programme is designed to motivate and empower the associations and confederations to organise development programmes that meet their needs and strengthen football and its administration in the long term. FIFA offers financial assistance and technical advice specifically with this purpose in mind. The FAP is intended to encourage the investment of funds in long-term development initiatives and to advocate the principles of accountability and good governance in financial matters.

FIFA is aware of the importance of facilitating the development of its members and also of the immense financial burden placed on them by the numerous competitions in which the international parent body commits them on an annual basis. It is against this backdrop that FIFA identifies the goals of the FAP:
• Promoting the game of football together with its fundamental principles and social, educational and cultural values around the world

• Reducing discrepancies in playing standards and infrastructure throughout the game of football 

• Establishing modern, efficient, functional and transparent football administration

• Strengthening the administrative and technical capacities of FIFA members and confederations

• Promoting the sustainable development of FIFA member associations, and solidarity between them

• Enabling associations to comply with FIFA’s membership and competition criteria
FIFA holds the view that with the financial assistance it provides members can at least have some measure of security in respect of engaging themselves in proper planning for development.
The FAP is to strengthen all aspects of the game in any of FIFA member countries.
It should be noted that FIFA is the first international sports federation to allow its executive members to remunerate themselves. Here again it has to do with professionalising all aspects of the operations of the member federations.
The annual funds received by the respective FIFA members are however inadequate when it comes to the commitments to participate in competitions at the sub regional, regional and international levels.
FIFA also imposes penalties on members for failing to participate in its competitions.
Building on the past
The St Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation has a rich legacy. Unfortunately over the years this legacy has remained in the heads of those who witnessed the years of growth and development.
The time has come for the Federation to put things on paper. There must be books produced on the rich legacy of football in St Vincent and the Grenadines. This is important for future generations.
Additionally, those who have contributed to the sport’s development through the decades must be duly recognised and appropriately honoured.
There must be ways of ensuring that the Federation works on ensuring that the rebuilding process evident in the team’s recent performance in Trinidad and Tobago, is used as a platform for significant progress going forward.
There must be a healing process such that all who have the capacity to aid in the genuine development of football in St Vincent and the Grenadines are given the opportunity to do so. The country needs this approach. We can only benefit from involving all with the capacity, competence, passion and commitment.
Together we must rise!