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A THORNY ISSUE – Marshall merits full support

Andi Thornhill

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I KEEP saying that Dexter Marshall’s exclusion from the Barbados Football Association’s (BFA) coaching set-up is one of the biggest ironies in local football.Many years ago this dedicated young man raised funds to enroll in the Brazilian Soccer Academy, was successful and graduated, yet his expertise has never been used to further the development of football in his own country.I say it is all ironic because Bajans, like the rest of the world, are fanatical about Brazilian football. The tale is told in full when World Cup action comes around.Supporters buy every Brazilian jersey on sale, some even raise their flags, and don’t talk about when Brazil win, it’s like a Crop-Over party. And when they lose it’s like losing a close relative, even a mother or father.Still, nobody in authority at the BFA has seen it fit to inculcate some of what Marshall learned in the most revered football country in the world into their development programme.I think it is a shame.    Is it because that he didn’t receive his training in England or Hungary that he has been overlooked?         I know the Euro-centric, colonial mentality is still entrenched in our midst and this could be one of the barriers standing in the way of Marshall.Despite the lack of recognition at the official level, he and his associates have persevered through the Dexter Marshall Brazilian Soccer Academy to help train some of our youth in the tenets of the Brazilian style of play.              In fact, it is true to say that his friends at the local Brazilian embassy have shown more interest in his ideas and plans, especially in respect of improving the lot of young footballers using the rudiments of the Brazilian style as a guide.  I know there have been several attempts in partnership with the embassy to send players to Brazil for training but nothing has materialised because corporate backing has not been forthcoming.And I am talking about times when the state of the economy would have allowed for such support, so basically I think it has been a lack of will and belief in what Marshall is trying to achieve.He is quiet and modest going about his goals but this shouldn’t be interpreted that he is not serious in his undertakings.In fact, he has to be, else he would have lost heart by now and thrown in the towel. That he continues to persevere is a crowning tribute to his character. The time has come for his ideals to get the support they deserve.Only last week, the media reported that a group of five players he has arranged to send to Brazil in a week’s time still needed financial assistance to get there. Now is more appropriate than ever for that help to be given.Forget personality and focus on the big picture. We have no way of knowing where this opportunity can lead, but it is best to be forthcoming from the start and not wait until it turns into gold and then want to jump on the bandwagon of glory, as we often do, pretending that we were part of the foundation.   I also hope that we will make use of the new found travel links with Brazil to get some teams coming to entertain. The first Brazilian team to visit was Nautico back in 1978 when Tennyson “Gus” Sandiford scored arguably the best individual goal ever seen at the National Stadium. It was in the vein of Diego Maradonna’s effort eight years later in the 1986 World Cup when he picked up the ball from 40 yards out and flattened the English defence.It could be an initiative of the BFA or private promoters. This is an opportune time.         And, oh, don’t forget Dexter Marshall, who must be regarded as a pioneer in trying to forge positive developmental links between Barbados and Brazil in football.• Andi Thornhill is sports editor at the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation.

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