Vincy Heat’s major challenges

soccer1Vincentian lovers of sport showed their loyalty to Vincy Heat, the nation’s senior national football team, when they trekked to the Arnos Vale Sports Complex to help the team defeat Aruba.
While Aruba is not usually considered one of the better football teams in the CONCACAF area Vincy Heat could take no chances and so the victory over the rivals was most welcome, especially in terms of boosting the morale of the team and giving the sport’s leadership a sense of achievement thus far.
The victory over Aruba would also serve as a morale boost for St Vincent and the Grenadines, country woefully in need of healing in all sorts of ways. The sense of achievement in winning the encounter with Aruba may well have given many of us reason to feel that there is still hope that together we can do so much more as a people, in our own collective best interest.
One is still not sure that we have enough of an understanding of the impact that sport can have on national well being. We are still too much at the stage of seeing sport as something for a select few who have nothing better to do with their lives.
St Vincent and the Grenadines has had a colourful sporting legacy and an even more chequered football legacy.
The absence of a definitive sporting culture means that sporting legacies are not sufficiently appreciated and this often includes national sports associations themselves, to say nothing of successive political regimes.
We have witnessed across the entire Caribbean the rise of football to become the most popular sport both in terms of participants and followers and yet we have not appreciated it enough to lend the kind of support required to help its development.
The colonial affinity to cricket has left the sporting scenario in St Vincent and the Grenadines and many of our Caribbean islands with a distinctive bias in terms of the creation of sports facilities. Here, once a playing field has been identified for construction, regardless of the popularity of football, the first thing done is the creation of a cricket wicket in the middle. This is the kind of mindlessness that has characterised the approach of the National Sports Council (NSC) in this country since its establishment and the reason it has so often been dubbed a national cricket council instead.
It is inconceivable that with the transformation of people’s sporting preferences over the past several decades the NSC has shown itself almost incapable of removing the prejudicial blinkers that leave successive boards committed to cricket more than any other sport in the country.
It is the reason that some 45 years after the construction of the Arnos Vale Playing Field no one employed as a groundsman has been trained to prepare the facility for a football game.
The outcome of the several battles for turf between the local cricket and football fraternities over the years turned on the influence of the leadership of the respective sports viz-a-viz the politicians of the day who were themselves caught up in the legacy of colonialism.
The performances of our footballers have, over the years, delighted crowds and energised the nation on several occasions but there has not been a sense of sustainability, the same blight that impacts the different sporting disciplines practised in this country. This reality has to do with the fact that the outstanding athletes have emerged largely from independent talent and effort rather than from a sustainable development strategy for the long term. Add to this the malady of the selfishness of coaches and one readily understands the difficulty of getting beyond the odd athlete attainment of success rather than a steady flow.
There is no cohesive national sport policy and no forum to facilitate the creation of one. What currently exists as a national sport policy document is of little value since its fundamental aspects are worth little more than the paper on which it is written. Policy makers display little or no real interest in the nation’s sporting legacy and so the football legacy is largely ignored. There is also no sense of the football fraternity itself taking the lead in investigating the sport’s legacy and creating the requisite documentation that would serve successive generations of Vincentian children in good stead relative to their own involvement in creatively and aggressively carving out the future of football in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Where are the pictures of our football heroes?
Where can our children find the history of the sport in this country?
Where can they find the stories of those whose creative genius adorned our football fields?
The progress made by Vincy Heat in the World Cup 2018 Preliminaries comes at a very high cost. We have been this road before so one would imagine that we are much better prepared than hitherto. Is that really the case?
Do we know what the actual cost of participation in the second phase of the World Cup Preliminaries?
How would we realise the expenses we have to make to see our team through the next phase?
We are not just speaking of travel expenses. The players need to be prepared.
How many training camps will we have, where and at what cost?
Will we seek additional coaching help, from whom and at what cost?
Will we seek the services of a sport psychologist and any other professional personnel?
How many friendlies will we engage the team over the next several months as part of our preparation and at what cost?
What are the potential sources of funding available to the local federation if we are to guarantee the team optimal preparation for the next phase of the World Cup Preliminaries?
Obviously there are many questions to answer as far as funding of Vincy Heat is concerned. The federation must decide how best it will address the concerns evident in the foregoing questions.
We know that in the past the federation received tremendous support from the business community. This happened in the Preliminaries for the 1994 and 1998 World Cups. However, it is also true to say that things changed considerably after that and there has been at best sporadic support from the government and the private sector in our World Cup campaigns.
What are we doing this time around?
Will we see the emergence of a World Cup Support Committee of the type created in the aforementioned cases?
Will we witness a canvassing of public support by way of sales of Vincy Heat merchandising and a highlighting of the players to give them national recognition?
With the Vincentian economy in a state and the National Lotteries Authority (NLA) seemingly indebted to the National Insurance Services how much money can the football federation expect by way of financial support from the government of the day?
How much of its annual FIFA funding can the federation place at the service of Vincy Heat?
Without the allocation of requisite financial resources the Vincy Heat’s World Cup campaign will falter significantly.
For the team to have a relatively good chance of being relegated to mere participants rather than meaningful challengers writing its name in the annals of global football and sporting history there has to be appropriate resources found and allocated to its preparation. The question is, will this happen?
Should Vincy Heat succeed in the next round of Preliminaries all Vincentians will feel justifiably proud. It will be an historic achievement.
The impact of continued progress towards the World Cup for a country like ours is immeasurable.
The few footballers who have thus far gone on to professional careers should readily have translated into today’s youngsters seeing them as pioneers who opened up vast opportunities for them and successive generations of Vincentian youth. Unfortunately that has not happened. What can be done to change this?
Can the current members of Vincy Heat engender sufficient interest and enthusiasm to make the lasting impact we are addressing here?
Sport today remains one of the fastest growing industries. The price tags on good players keep rising despite global economic challenges. Are our players sufficiently ambitious to work diligently towards grasping with both hands the vast career opportunities now available at the global level?
Can our federation and players as well as the technical officials attendant to Vincy Heat seize the moment and facilitate the ushering in of a new sport development pathway for successive generations of Vincentians.
In the current dispensation Vincy Heat has the opportunity to rise to the occasion. The big question is, will Vincy Heat do so?