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Building blocks to football success

Renaldo Gilkes

Building blocks to football success

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What next? That is the question many football connoisseurs and followers will be asking after the inaugural Soccerex Americas Forum was held just over a week ago at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Conference Centre.

Barbados was host to some of the most influential players in the global football arena; players, administrators, business leaders, doctors, legal advisors; who ever had a part to play in shaping the game were present and fuelling the minds of all present with their experience and expertise.

Local football has long been considered the neglected, child of sports but at last month’s forum all parents, guardians and caretakers were in attendance to express their interest, curiosity and knowledge among names such as president of CONCACAF, Jeffrey Webb, Caribbean Football Union (CFU) president Gordon Derrick, chief executive officer of Soccerex Tony Martin, chairman of English Championship club Bournemouth, Jeff Mostyn.

The conference also featured David Dein, former vice-chairman of Arsenal and the English Football Association, Trinidad and Tobago pro-club W-Connection chairman David John-Williams, Nick Sakiewicz, founder and chief executive officer of Major League Soccer (MLS) unit Philadelphia Union and a number of other high-profile delegates.

The aforementioned cast, among others, discussed their experiences, challenges, successes and general overview in their individual spectra of football during the two-day event. At each session there was something to walk away with that would aid the state of Barbados’ football.

However, there were three consistent factors which I consistently heard from the trial dates the weekend before the forum, which were held at the University of the West Indies’ Paradise Park, until the very last day – coaching education, youth development and homogeneity.

These are the pillars which Caribbean football and more relevantly Barbados football must build upon if there shall be any success or recognition by our global superiors.

Professional club representatives who made their way to Barbados for the Soccerex event, Dermott Drummy of Chelsea, Trevor James of Chicago Fire and Arsenal’s Danny Karbassiyoon during their evaluation of our young talent at the tryouts spoke collectively and passionately about the need for coaches’ education and the importance of a good youth football structure.

Drummy specifically mentioned that the quality of a country’s state of football is highly dependent on the football intelligence and expertise of the coaches.

This makes perfect sense, for a coach is a teacher simply in a football setting and therefore without knowledge, the teacher cannot teach and more significantly, he must not only have the knowledge to teach but the ability to do so.

The Barbados Football Association (BFA) has started to go in this direction of late, with the hiring of technical director Marcos Falopa, whose primary objective is to educate our coaches.

Further, the BFA has been able to facilitate an upcoming CONCACAF D Licence coaching course for 30 of our local coaches, scheduled for mid-November and those successful participants will then have the opportunity to do the follow-up C and pre-B licence.

For too long we have accepted the guy from the neighbourhood, who was a stand-out player in the local leagues, to coach our players, particularly the youth.

This obvious lack of coaching education and intelligence is usually brought to vision when we go up against superior opposition and manage to snatch defeat from the claws of victory.

Continuity, vulnerability, stability were just some of the words used when some of the delegates discussed the importance of efficient and consistent youth development structures in any country.

To be frank, our structure needs revisiting, considering there has been very few changes made to it in the last decade or more.

We have yet to qualify for a major global youth tournament or senior one for that matter.

A number of senior clubs, particularly the big name ones have no feeding system, i.e. youth attachment.

Not enough players have been able to make the transition from the national junior setup to the senior squad with a number of gifted youth players falling off the mark in the process.

Coach James of MLS’ Chicago Fire has expressed the league’s interest in the Caribbean and seeing it as a potential recruitment ground for youth in particular, however not limited to such.

But if our structures here are organised in a professional setting what is to stop clubs in the MLS from setting up academies in our little rock of promise and giving our players the opportunities which they deserve.

During his discussion, CFU president Derrick spoke on the possible Caribbean Football League which will be the region’s second shot at professional football. Originally mentioned to potentially start in 2015, Derrick said that is unlikely because they want it done right so that longevity can be achieved and not just a league of entertainment or hit and miss.

The logistics are currently being looked over by a CFU appointed task force.

However, Derrick believes one true component must be present if the league is to become a success and really benefit the entire English, Spanish, Dutch and French speaking Caribbean.

That component is unity.

We must combine all of our resources so that we can all benefit and be taken seriously by the outside world, as a league and individual nations in FIFA competition.

So to answer. What next?

Let’s address these three components and to all who were present do not go back to your corners and selfishly hold what you gained to your bosoms but share amongst each other so that football will be the true winner and we can all have a real soccerex-perience.