On Target
October 28, 2005
Vincy Heat must turn up the flame

Twenty- six years ago, this country made a sporting statement by placing second in the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) final in Suriname. In the process, SVG defeated the likes of Martinique, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname, losing only to Haiti.

Two years later, this feat was repeated in Puerto Rico, with SVG having to settle for the runner up spot to Trinidad and Tobago.{{more}}

The statement made in 1979 coincided with the attainment of this country’s political independence from Britain.

Then, SVG was seen as an emerging football nation. But have we capitalized on the foundation set by Sylvester “Scobie” Taylor, Zupang and Babs Jones, Duggie Cambridge among others, and built on by the likes of Guy Lowe and Raultie, Pete and Luxie Morris, Morie and Sheen Millington, Marcus Young, Dorian Phillips of the dream team of 1979?

A close look at this country’s development curve shows moderate growth since 1979.

Reaching the group stages of the World Cup qualifiers on four successive occasions, the Shell Cup finals thrice, appearance in the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 1995, and other sub regional titles are what we have to show on the field of play.

Additionally, about a dozen of our players have been able to secure professional contracts overseas, however with limited continuity.

Rodney “Chang” Jack, Ezra Hendrickson, Wesley “Butu” Charles, Wesley “Brisco” John and Kendall “Ken” Velox are the ones who have done so with some level of consistency.

Twenty-six years later there are more opportunities for contracts for our footballers, but they are hampered by the world ranking of SVG, as European clubs give preference to countries within the first 75; SVG languishes at 135 or thereabout.

Football is no longer seen as a sport, but as big business, where human resources can be export and foreign exchange.

Our progression on and off the field has not been commensurate with the 26 years that have passed.

One will vividly remember SVG drawing 3-3 with Jamaica in Kingston in 1992. Since then there have been four other encounters. Jamaica has been triumphant in all.

The Jamaicans have enjoyed a World Cup Final appearance in 1998. In 1979, and 1981 we were up there with the traditional power bruisers of the Caribbean, sadly they have surpassed us.

Today, Trinidad and Tobago is on the verge of attaining a final berth in Germany next year.

This may be a bitter pill for our footballers to swallow if Trinidad and Tobago qualifies.

The “Vincy Heat” let the Trinidadians off the hook last year.

While Vincentians are rallying behind our southern neighbours, it may be Caribbean unity, tinged with a dose of dissent, knowing that place should have been ours.

But we are the architects of our demise, as we failed to plan for such an occurrence. We must get it right and get it right soon, otherwise we will forever be the whipping boys when we reach the group stage.

The SVGFF basked in Vincy Heat’s performance last year, which included two wins at the group stage. Vincentians had the greatest moment in our entire sporting history losing 0 -1 to continental gurus Mexico, October 10, 2004.

The Federation has set 2010 as the next focal print, when it hopes to make a definitive statement.

Undoubtedly the 2004 Vincy Heat outfit is the best team assembled since the famed 1979 squad.

It is my candid view that 2014 should be our target year for World Cup qualifications.

The current mosaic approach towards development must first become a thing of the past.

A comprehensive youth programme aimed at the U – 16 level, with a parallel development and experience thrust in the U – 23’s should serve us in good stead for 2014.

This development must be systematic and decisive with targets and time frame set.

The present secondary schools competitions at both the under 16 and Under 20 warrant an urgent SOS (Save Our Soccer), as technical and tactical approaches of the players are woefully inadequate making a mockery of the sport which we have dubbed “the game of the people”.

Where does the blame lie for the youngsters’ pathetic performance?

There is no co-ordination between the Ministry of Sports and the SVGFF, as the age group of U- 16 competition of the Ministry is not en sync with that to be used as SVG prepares for World Cup U – 17 qualifiers next August in Trinidad and Tobago.

Is it that some person or persons is/are trying to get his/her pound of flesh?

Many football administrators have often mouthed that they will not do anything progressive to make current president of the SVGFF St. Claire Leacock look good.

This type of diatribe holds no place in the nation’s development. Conversely, the executive of the SVGFF must get its act together. Its tardy approach to several pertinent football issues, thus devaluing its authority as custodian of football, is a case in point.

An all hands on deck stance is needed; after all we have shown that we have the resistance and intestinal fortitude to overcome the odds.

October 10, 2004 was proof of what we can achieve once we believe in our abilities.