A THORNY ISSUE: World Cup goals
CONCACAF president Austin Jack Warner believes Barbados can one day play in the World Cup and I agree with him.
The question is: how do we accomplish it?
Based on our current programme, I am sure we will not do so in the next one to be held in Brazil on 2014 or not even in 2018.
This is not doom and gloom rhetoric or an indictment of the ability of our players to get the job done, but the stark reality is that we don’t have the structure to achieve World Cup status so quickly.
Let’s examine the situation objectively.
To begin with, the BFA doesn’t even have its own training facility despite the promise to begin work on the land in Wildey. It is nearing a decade that we benefited from the FIFA Goal Project, but not a stone has been turned as yet.
We have heard numerous reasons for the keep back, but I think it is largely the lack of will to proceed. The point remains that any national team serious about competing at the highest level must be able to have a facility where it can train anytime.
It is also critical to have a team that will be active or be prepared to be active all year round or at best be in a position to play on FIFA’s international match days – if not all, some.
Prior to our recent friendlies against Dominica, Barbados last played an international match on February 2009. Enough said, but surely the negative results we got are what we can expect if we continue along this path.
I know someone will say it requires money to realise this particular dream and it is a no-brainer. Trouble is, how are we going to get the money?
I know much is made by the BFA’s critics about the annual US$250 000 it receives from the parent body, but honestly speaking this is far from enough to push the national team to a competitive standard given that part of that sum has to subsidise other teams and other projects.
If that full subsidy was going to the men’s senior team it would make a difference, allowing for things like travel and stipends for players.
The challenge in this regard is for the BFA to rethink its marketing strategy. I am sure that those on its maketing sub-committee have regular jobs and cannot dedicate the time necessary to undertake such a massive undertaking as fund-raising.
Therefore in going forward the association needs to hire an established public relations and marketing firm to raise funds on its behalf, agreeing to terms that would be of mutual benefit.
This is what it will take if we are truly serious about fanning World Cup ambitions. There are matters that require full attention and not a piecemeal effort.
It will also be quite naive to think we can make the next level unless we have some professional players in our ranks.
When Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago qualified for the World Cups they had a good balance between full-time professionals and the best domestic talent.
We currently struggle to have the pros with us even when we identify who they are. Some are unavailable and others, born overseas with Bajan parentage, find a hurdle overcoming citizenship status. In this age, no team with complete amateur status can even contemplate getting through the preliminaries far less reaching the World Cup final.
Another fundamental path we must take in going to the summit is to overhaul and revamp our youth development programme.
I don’t believe there is anything wrong in reinventing the model brought here by Englishman Graham Adams in the mid-to late 1960s.
It is not by chance that Barbados’ football prospered in the 1970s as a result of what Adams started and sustained by German Bernd Fischer.
They were able to mesh outstanding emerging talents like Jerry Goddard, Anthony Prescott, Peter Alkins, Ricardo Goddard and Edward Smith to mention a few, with the established stars like the late midfield maestro Victor “Gas” Clarke, Keith Griffith, Dennis Leacock, Malcolm White and Denis Harewood.
We need a vibrant youth league that will be well organised to bring that talent to the fore on a sustained basis.
I do acknowledge that football, like all other sports, faces challenges outside of the sport and beyond their control but that is the exact reason for the need to have the kind of product that would want to keep them interested in their sport.
This generation is much more scrupulous about personal benefits and while we talk about doing things out of passion for the sport and nobly love of country, we still have to face life’s realities.
I am not sure that we have enough trained personnel to function effectively in coaching, technical and administrative capacities so the association must continue its admirable efforts to bring people of interest up to scratch.
Nobody has a monopoly on ideas so I have only given a few of mine in support of Warner’s charge for us to dream of playing in the World Cup, but I know that they are others who can also contribute because it is only being a part of Team Barbados that we can achieve our goals.
On another note, I want to congratulate the association on its 100th anniversary and especially to those who received special awards at their banquet at the Crane Beach Hotel.
In relation to my own accolade, I am very grateful that I was and am still in a position to make a contribution to a sport with such mass support. They are others such as Aldon Browne, Sam Wilkinson, Chris Gollop and Ezra Stuart who would have been just as worthy for such recognition.
We are, in my opinion, faithful servants of the beautiful game. With continued objective support we can help the BFA reach its many goals.
• Andi Thornhill is sports editor at the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation and can be reached at [email protected]