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Helping hand for football

Ezra Stuart

Helping hand for football

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Saddened by Barbados’ plunge to a lowly 175th place in FIFA’s global rankings, Canadian-based former national player Jeff Hackett is on a mission to produce professional footballers and resuscitate the country’s ailing fortunes.
Through his Toronto-based Global Satellite Soccer Academy, founded in 2003, Hackett, a highly qualified football coach, wants to help in the advancement of young Barbadian footballers to the professional environment in Britain.
Hackett, who played professionally in Portugal in 1989 and 1990, said he held talks with former secretary of the Barbados Football Association (BFA), Randy Harris, when he returned home in June for a family bereavement and was informed of the abundance of talented footballers here.  
“This has remained a personal focus for me as an ex-international player for my country, who is saddened by the current state of our football,” Hackett told SUNSPORT in a recent interview.
“I have already spoken to the pro coaches in England and I am ready to organize, initially, a one-week session which will be focused primarily on player development but, most importantly, will attempt to identify any talent that is worthy of further evaluation and possible recruitment by an English professional club.
“So once we’ve set it up, they are willing to come down and take a look at the kids down here. We usually operate between the ages of nine and 17. Harris has assured me that there are enough talented youths to make this a worthwhile venture and one which can only serve to enhance Bajan football. This will be the start of permanent approach to enhancing player value, through superior training and providing great opportunities for the local talented youth.”
After moving up the FIFA rankings to 98 in 2006, Barbados slumped to its worst ever position of 178 in June following a winless World Cup qualifying campaign, and Hackett, a scholarship awardee at State University of New York in 1981, said this wasn’t good enough.   
“Our recent football history is a path strewn with failure and mediocrity. How can we be a part of the progress currently associated with our Caribbean neighbours Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and even Antigua, or even surpass them in our endeavour to really compete at the international level?” Hackett asked.
“One of the most obvious principles of future success is to have our players performing in the professional ranks,” contended Hackett, a defensive midfielder with Beverley Hills and Blackspurs in the early 1980s.
“This is a door that I am very capable of opening with my contacts and relationships with academy coaches and managers at such clubs as Wigan Athletic, Blackburn Rovers, Everton, Newcastle and Tranmere Rovers among others.
“We are still lagging behind most of the islands in the West Indies in terms of getting our talent out there on the big stage and I think, having a camp in Barbados to scout young players, would be a tremendous opportunity to do just that,” added Hackett, who is currently technical director and head coach of the Wexford Soccer Club in Toronto.