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‘Lady Jags’ begin Olympic Qualifier preparation

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‘Lady Jags’ Head Coach Mark Rodrigues paying close attention during the team’s three day camp in Toronto Canada

Under the guidance of Technical Director Claude Bolton and Head Coach Mark Rodrigues, Toronto, Canada played host to Guyana Football Federation’s (GFF) initial preparations for the upcoming Women’s Olympic Qualifiers.

Guyana is drawn in Group Four in the Caribbean Zone of the 2015 Women’s Olympic Qualifiers, which will be hosted in St Kitts and Nevis from August 21-25, playing against the hosts and Cuba.

Having seen success against both countries in 2010, Guyana will now look to replicate their performance on August 21 when they face St Kitts and Cuba on August 25.

Group One will be hosted by Puerto Rico and fields Aruba, Puerto Rico, Haiti and Grenada. Group Two features St Lucia, Antigua & Barbuda, the Cayman Islands and Trinidad & Tobago, to be staged in Trinidad & Tobago.

The Group Three games will be played in Suriname and the teams in this group are Dominica Republic, Dominica and Jamaica.

While the tournament has an age limit of Under-23 for men born on or after January 1, 1993, there is no age ceiling for the Women’s Qualifiers.

Three teams will advance from the female category into the CONCACAF Women’s Summer Olympic Tournament for 2016.

According to Rodrigues “this is a short-term plan…TD Bolton has made quite clear that we must be innovative, calculating, and fiscally responsible as we venture into a competition that many are thinking we cannot possibly be ready for.”

The GFF’s Next Generation Project highlights that one of the facets of football that must be a priority in the development plan is Women’s Football and as such the Federation has all ready held two Women’s awareness sessions and participated in the CONCACAF Women’s Football Day with a 3-on-3 Tournament.

There are also plans for a Women’s Football Conference that will be the prelude to a Women’s Development League to kick off later in 2015.

Rodrigues was quick to point out that as happened in the past, “this squad, in this competition, can be the impetus for all young women in Guyana to get out and realize the dream of playing football and playing for Guyana.  That is what we want to be the legacy of this squad’s participation in this competition.”

The camp culminated with a competitive 1-1 result versus undefeated Ontario Leaue 1 side Durham FC, which the Lady Jags took away with a penalty shootout victory.

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Lady Jags in action against Ontario League 1 side Durham FC

Coach Rodrigues said, “I was pleasantly surprised; although, fitness levels are nowhere close to where they will need to be, collectively we were a far better squad than I was expecting at this early stage.  It was very promising and encouraging to give simple guidelines and responsibilities and have a majority of players adapt and execute.”

The Head Coach was also excited to inform that four of the highest calibre players available for selection will be joining the selection process in Guyana during the camp planned for mid-July where players will be taken through the rigours of a full camp that is hoping to include an international friendly.

Bolton highlighted that the Women’s budget would not be exhausted on this Team for this competition, as those limited funds have been committed to the facilitation of the projects in the Next Generation Project, including the commencement of the aforementioned Women’s Development League.

The GFF has made the decision to hold two assessment events, prior to the mid-July Selection Camp, to get a further overview of local female players.

However, this will best allow for the GFF to gauge the level of players that will be moving into the planned Development League.

In 2010, Guyana participated in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which was held in Cancun Mexico (October 28 – November 8).

The ‘Lady Jags’ had qualified after beating Cuba in a home (0–1) and away (3–1) playoff to become the first Guyanese team to feature at the Gold Cup; the pinnacle of CONCACAF football.

At the tournament in Mexico, Guyana grouped with the home side, Trinidad and Tobago, which at the time was coached by Jamaal Shabazz, and Canada.

The Guyanese unit failed to pick up a win at the competition, losing 7–2 against Mexico, 8–0 to Canada and 4–1 to Trinidad and Tobago but in the end, they turned out to be the darlings of the tournament. Most of the players from the 2010 team were standout players in the USA and Canada collegiate system.

 

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