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A THORNY ISSUE: Can Falopa deliver?


ANDI THORNHILL

A THORNY ISSUE: Can Falopa deliver?

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MARCOS FALOPA has been dealt a good hand by the Barbados Football Association (BFA).

Comparatively speaking, his deck of cards is far better than what his predecessors had to play with.

For starters, he has taken up the role of technical director/interim coach when it appears that the association is in a much better financial position than for much of its existence.

I am making this assumption as it relates to the preparation of the men’s senior national team because of the number of warm up games they’ve had. In the past it would’ve been considered a rare privilege to even get a single friendly international in preparation for a major tournament.

In the most recent past, former coach Colin “Potato” Forde had to get teams ready for World Cup and Caribbean qualifiers without a single match against foreign opponents to help get his team in shape and to see where they needed to improve on the days of reckoning.

He failed in his mission like so many before him and, to his credit, he resigned from the post when Barbados didn’t make it to the finals of last year’s Caribbean Football Union’s Cup in Jamaica.

All of the above puts Falopa’s work in perspective and the expectations of a country longing for success similar to what coach Horace “Tobacco” Beckles achieved with the national side as they aimed for a place in the final of the 2002 World Cup.

They didn’t reach the final but managed to get to the semi-finals of the CONCACAF zone rubbing shoulders with the big boys in this hemisphere. Mind you, all of this was achieved, especially in the initial stages, without most of the resources Falopa now has at his disposal.

Given what the Brazilian has to work with, I am among those who will regard his work as a failure if we don’t get past the preliminary rounds of the current campaign.

I am not lowering the benchmark because it would indicate a bias and a concession towards Falopa and we didn’t spare the previous technical directors and coaches who had less to work with. marcosfalopa101714

Now I’m all for revolution and maybe the sacrifices of those back in the day are beginning to pay dividends for someone else. The sower isn’t always the immediate reaper of seeds sown but coming generations can be the beneficiaries. It is just the way life evolves and none of us can do anything about it.

Therefore, nobody should begrudge Falopa of the nest he has found nor throw stones at his glasshouse, but at the same time there are certain standards he must meet.

The Brazilian culture of preparing teams for the highest level of competition has to be totally different from ours so he must first adjust to the way we do business around here.

For instance, when all of their professionals are available it will be quite natural to stop everything and have camps for up to three to four weeks. That will hardly happen here because most of our players have regular day jobs and will have to put their daily bread and butter as a priority. In fact, some local sportsmen have lost their jobs when their only sin was representing the country.

In some instances diplomacy has saved the day when associations have asked and encouraged employers to give national representatives time off to practise with their respective national teams. That’s the reality of amateur sports.

Stopping the premiership for a prolonged period isn’t going to happen here. A week is perhaps the longest period we can afford to break because at the end of the day most of the teams share grounds with cricket to practice and when cricket starts it is going to be even more difficult to get time to train.

It’s the reality in a country where cricket is king. A similar thing might happen in Brazil where football is king.

So, these elements must be factored in by Falopa as he organises the national football programme. Others before him had to do the same thing.

On the technical and practical side, it is clear that we have to step up our organization on the field, finding cohesion from defence to offence. The St Kitts-Nevis game proved that we have issues in defence and midfield in particular which we need to sort out before we clash with Aruba in the next round.

I believe we have the personnel to set things right in defence even if we want a natural left-footer at left back, but I think there’s a need for a return of Jeffrey Williams to command things in midfield. He will bring work rate and creativity to the engine room of the game. I am sure that someone like Hadan Holligan can make that job his own in time, but right now I believe we need someone with greater experience to fill that glaring void.

I also think that by now we should have a settled squad. We should have an idea of the make-up of our best team heading into the clash with Aruba. We don’t need to see any more players.

While it is true that we are in a rebuilding phase having fallen short in the last CFU competition, and that we have done reasonably well under the tutelage of Falopa, there are growing expectations among a seemingly impatient football family who aren’t too concerned with some of the constraints the Brazilian said is hampering some of his preparations.

As far as they are concerned, Falopa has been given much, so much is expected of him.

And that’s what he has to work with.

• Andi Thornhill is an experienced, award-winning sports journalist.

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