20th February, 2017; Georgetown: When the Guyana Football Federation Inc. (GFF) Technical Director Ian Greenwood accepted the role in 2016, there was one initiative which he earmarked as a key priority upon landing. “The development of the player pathway and nationwide Academy Training Centres was the first priority in the overhaul of football development in the country. It is obvious that we have raw talent but there was no clear structure,” says Greenwood when reflecting on his first observations of football in Guyana.
That ambition would be fulfilled relatively quickly when the GFF made a landmark announcement early February – a long-term plan for the development of football in Guyana – that there would be thirteen GFF-Scotiabank National Academy Training Centres (ATC) being launched across the country, including in remote and previously neglected areas such as Rupununi, with full-time development officers being hired to guide the footballing youth of the country. “Over the years, Guyana have produced some very good home-grown players such as Walter Moore, Vurlon Mills, Charles Pollard, Collie Hercules, Gregory Richardson and Kayode McKinnon but it is critical that we produce players on a much more consistent basis, as currently in the younger age groups we don’t have that same quality” is the assessment Greenwood makes of the current state of quality within the youth systems in Guyana.
The Academies have already begun holding training sessions: each academy will host weekly sessions for boys and girls aged 9-17 years old, and the ultimate objective is that they form the core of National Youth teams from Under-13 level onwards, and then eventually form the base of the National Senior team. “In the senior men’s team, we have been able to have quality players brought in from overseas such as Leon and Carl Cort, Neil Danns, Sam Cox, Emery Welshman and Chris Nurse but as a national federation we must produce home-grown players as we are aware that the quality from overseas may not always be there,” Greenwood re-iterates.
Indeed, one of the biggest obstacles to the launch of the Academies has been finding qualified coaches: “Identifying and recruiting qualified coaches to fill the positions was a major issue. Currently nationwide, due to the lack of exposure and opportunities for coaches to attain licenses we have nowhere near enough qualified coaches, even coaches who had taken the UEFA B License course years ago, found that their award was no longer valid due to a failure to renew it through continued professional development”. In this regard, Greenwood makes a plea for more to become involved with the coaching aspect of the game: “we still need former National Players to become actively involved in the system and work towards their coaching qualifications.”
Another obstacle was the vast size of Guyana and the distance between communities: “The geography of the country throws out its own logistical issues in terms of the vast distances and sparsely populated areas such as the Rupununi in which we have opened four Academy Training Centres to combat this. An area like Bartica offers a unique challenge with transportation but we must develop football in these areas to ensure we have the very best players in our national teams,” Greenwood says, with a genuine passion and desire to see Guyanese football reach its full potential.
One country which Guyana can look at as an inspiration is Germany, which in the year 2000, after a period of continual International failures, launched a radical overhaul of youth development initiatives which saw national academies being setup across the country and a philosophy being embedded: mainly a quick, pressing game that focused on technical ability. Players were identified who could play with this philosophy in mind and after years, the German National team became a roaring success again, winning the 2014 World Cup with a core group of players who had played together from youth to senior level.
Whilst it would be very optimistic to expect Guyana to match such feats, the principal is the same, that is, develop players to fit into a playing style and get them playing together from a young age, so they are experienced as a team by the time they enter the senior set-up. Speaking on the development of a philosophy for Guyana, Greenwood says: “Players and teams will be developed to play quick, intelligent, penetrating and creative football built on a rock solid defensive foundation. Players will be encouraged to make clever movements off the ball, to think ahead and be positive in attacking areas. Teams will be coached to press opponents to regain possession quickly.”
When asked what results he wants to see in five years’ time, Greenwood has high expectations: “We want to see the implementation and understanding of the GFF National Coaching and Playing Philosophy across all the age groups, which we will be able to see our brand of football being played at all levels with our Junior to Senior national teams. We would see increased productivity of local-based players in the senior national teams, but more importantly players produced with much greater tactical understanding.”
He also believes that this structured development will see the Golden Jaguars at all levels improve performances on the international stage, “our junior national teams would be expected to be consistently competing in the final stages of CONCACAF tournaments.”
Whilst male football tends to dominate the headlines, the training academies are also equally focused on developing the future female players of the country, “The Lady Jag’s have been very successful, but have been predominantly overseas based, so we must develop local-based female players who are capable of stepping into that squad,” Greenwood says.
The programme builds on the GFF’s development strategy to nurture young talent more effectively, build national partnerships for development, and improve the prospects of young players.
“The GFF is committed to developing and investing in youth football in every region of the country. It is crucial that we support and work with each of our Member Associations in this coordinated way to deliver better results for everyone in football,” said GFF President Wayne Forde.
The launch of the academies was a landmark announcement for not only football in Guyana, but also the Caribbean region, with such a wide launch of national academies being unheard of in the region. Whilst it is not an initiative that will produce immediate success for football in Guyana, long-term it should have a monumental effect on the way players are developed throughout the country and provide a structure that has been lacking in Guyana for too long. The future looks bright.
For more information, please contact:
Debra Francis (Ms.)
Communications and Public Relations Officer
Tel: 592 227 8758 ext. 105 (o)