By Rawle Toney
St Vincent and the Grenadines goalkeeper Winslow McDowall says that his mission in Guyana is not only to remain match-ready for their World Cup Qualifier with the USA in November, but also to help Slingerz FC win the Stag Elite League.
The 28-year-old McDowall and his ‘Vincy Heat’ teammates; defenders Jolanshoy McDowall and Keith James, were signed by the Vergenoegen-based club in an effort to cash-in on the ‘lucrative’ first of a kind league.
In their first game of the league, Slingerz FC played to a scoreless draw against rivals Alpha United on ‘opening night’, with McDowall showing why owner Javed Ali sought his services, by pulling off several crucial saves. His talent was recognised by the massive crowd at the Leonora facility.
But how funny it is for a Guyanese club that has the bulk of the country’s national players, to invite players from the country that is responsible for the Golden Jaguars’ exit from the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers!
Guyana drew 2-2 with St Vincent at the Arnos Vale Stadium and also played a 4-4 draw at Providence but the result at home was not in favour of the ‘GT’ men, thanks to FIFA’s ‘away-goal’ rule.
“It was strange at first, but the guys welcomed us in and made it clear that our focus is to win the league and leave whatever happened in the World Cup Qualifier right on the pitch,” McDowall told reporters at the post-match interview.
The Guyana Football Federation (GFF), however, has since cried foul over what they feel was a breach of the World Cup Qualifiers rules on player’s eligibility by the St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) Football Federation, over the use of an allegedly ineligible Garvin James.
Having been denied by both FIFA’s disciplinary and appeals committees, the GFF took the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) and is awaiting a decision.
But to McDowall all the off-field drama between the SVG Football Federation, GFF and FIFA, means nothing to him and his Slingerz FC teammates, since he stated: “We have to move on and I’m glad the guys are a professional bunch. The management of the team, the owner; everyone is positive about this league and hungry to win the league.”
“I came here (to Guyana) because I had a good offer (from Slingerz) and I liked what I saw when we came for the world cup qualifiers. The team is very professional and I’m actually surprised at the level here; much higher than I anticipated,” said McDowall.
Asked to point out the difference between playing in Guyana and St Vincent, the ‘Vincy Heat’ number one goalkeeper added, “Playing in Guyana is a bit more professional. Over there (in St Vincent) it’s kind of lackadaisical; the guys don’t train as much because most of the times the guys come from work and then train; players not being paid to do what they love and stuff, but here with this club (Slingerz) it’s the opposite.”
St Vincent, after breezing past Aruba, advanced to the semi-final round of the CONCACAF zone World Cup Qualifiers, where they are now placed in Group C alongside the USA, Trinidad and Tobago and Guatemala.
The USA will play host to St Vincent on November 13, when the two sides will clash at the Busch Stadium in St Louis, Missouri and according to McDowall, playing in the Stag Elite League will help tremendously to prepare for the huge task ahead.
He explained that “back home (in St Vincent), the league hasn’t started as yet so this league will give me a chance to get some games in and it will be better off for me. For sure I’m going to encourage other players in St Vincent to come to Guyana and play because so far, since we’ve been here, everyone has been good to us so far and the league promises to be very competitive.”
Speaking on his new club’s start in their hunt for glory in the Stag Elite League, the Slingerz goalkeeper said his club “didn’t get the start we wanted, which was a win but at least we got a point and we’ll be looking to improve in the next game. We have a few players that are missing so by our next game, we’ll be stronger.
“For me, winning this league means a lot since I’m coming here to play from St Vincent. I work hard at what I do and it’s all about winning. I have a winning mentality so I intend to ensure that the guys work hard as well to win this league,” McDowall said.