By Franklin Wilson
With the promise to do their bit to ensure Guyana qualifies for the FIFA World Cup,
Russia 2018, the English Premier League duo of Matthew Briggs and Neil Danns were yesterday officially introduced to Guyana at the Guyana Football Federation (GFF) Headquarters.
Briggs, a 6’ 2″ defender who still holds the record of being the youngest player (16 years 65 days) in the Premier League on May 13th, 2007 when he was at Fulham is currently contracted at Milwall and is on loan at Colchester United.
He thanked all involved for affording him the opportunity to play for Guyana stating that he always had the desire to play for the country of his roots having grown up around his Guyanese relatives in England.
“It’s just a great opportunity for me to play international football at senior level which I am thankful for. I want to pass my experience down to the local players here. I think it’s going to be a great experience to play at top level against big countries like Mexico, Columbia and I want to help this country to get other players to join as well and we can progress into the world cup finals, hopefully.”
Danns, a 32-year-old midfielder who currently plays at Bolton Wanderers said he is honored
and delighted to be in Guyana.
“I am really looking forward to getting involved with football and hopefully bring something to the team on and off the field. It’s an opportunity I am looking to grasp with both hands not just in a football sense but also in helping out in the growth of football in Guyana.
As I can see there is a lot of potential and obviously the facilities may not yet be up to the standard of those in European football but I am sure once that sort of stuff is looked upon there will be a great opportunity in the future for players and the kids of Guyana to obviously go out there and gain more experience themselves once given that opportunity.”
Golden Jaguars Captain Christopher Nurse described the day as special for Guyanese football noting that the two players are superstars worldwide.
“To achieve what they have been able to in their individual careers so far and to be able to bring that to the Guyana national programme is good for the team, players and Guyana’s football going forward.”
Nurse noted that for the Guyanese players to be able to be around the humble duo and to converse with them is a big motivator and great experience.
“For them to come from the stadium they come from to Guyana, a country that doesn’t have a sound football facility right now shows their humility as players and how much they love the game. They want to give back and get in touch with their roots, so it’s not just about their footballing ability; you have to look at their personality as well.”
Also sharing the head table at yesterday’s press conference was Banks DIH Banks Manager Brian Choo Hen who encouraged all to come out and support the Golden Jaguars in their quest to take Guyana’s football to the highest pinnacle.
“Banks beer will be making it more affordable; when you buy six banks beer you will win a ticket free to general admission, this makes it much easier for fans to come and support the Golden Jaguars. I’m confident that the Golden Jaguars will be victorious this time around again with the help of God almighty.”
Choo Hen thanked the GFF Normalisation Committee for giving them the opportunity to be on board and they are looking forward to a continued relationship as they support the development of football in Guyana.
Head Coach Jamaal Shabazz in remarks said he was happy to welcome Briggs and Danns on board after tracking them down for some time now. Shabazz also noted that their acquisition makes it interesting for Guyana and Caribbean football.
“For these guys to do what Christopher Nurse and Carl and Leon Cort have done is saying something very profound. That they are very, very conscious not just of football but of the need to connect with their roots, and it is that connection we see football, and the young people of the Caribbean being able to benefit.”
Shabazz complimented the GFF and his staff for being very ambitious. “Ambition is what drives us to seek new frontiers. When you look back at our last time here we played Columbia, Coats Rica and Mexico. Where have these three teams reached in the grand world cup? All these teams were top teams and top performers in the last world cup and we were on the field with them.”
Shabazz was emphatic in stating that they want to now go beyond just participating with the big teams.
“The time has come now for us to start to compete and battle with them and in so doing it is necessary to have players of the caliber of Matthew and Neil to be able to bring what they can to the table as Nurse and company have done.”
Shabazz said that he has now officially banned the terms, foreign and local. “It is only Guyanese and this is the Guyana national team. Together we will live this dream.”
Danns and Briggs arrived in Guyana on Sunday night last and have said the other players have welcome them with open arms and are fun to be around noting they have settled in well.
Danns, who commenced his playing career at the FA’s School of Excellence and signed as a trainee for Blackburn Rovers at age 16 intimated that they will not only bring on field experience to the programme but off the field as well.
“There are standards that are met in England in terms of how you live, diet , how you train and I think with our experience we can bring over for some of the local lads who might not have had the opportunity to work with some sort of specialists like we work with in England. We can pass on our knowledge, there are so many little bits that make up to make you a good football player and hopefully we can pass on some our knowledge and they can take it on board and it can help them in a positive way and help them further their football careers.”
The duo also promised to reach out to other professional players with a view of selling Guyana to them and to encourage them to join the programme.