On Target
April 1, 2021
Understanding sports and accepting realities

There was much debate that boiled over into accusations and even ridicule, when St Vincent and the Grenadines senior men’s football team, Vincy Heat, suffered the 5-0 defeat, last Thursday at the Hato Ergillo Stadium against host Curacao.
One could understand some of the frustrations as St Vincent and the Grenadines in the first half looked perplexed, disorganized, unable to string at least four passes together, and to make matters worse, was giving up goals almost at will.

There was some semblance of organisation in the second half, which resulted in a marginal improvement in the Vincentians’ play.

Unfortunately, though, many who hurled disparaging remarks at the players’ display on the field, ridiculed the head coach and fired darts at the executive of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation are simply misinformed or ignorant of football in the Caribbean.

Vincentians were still living in the immediate past, when in 2019, the team had a good run in the Windward Islands Football Association’s tournament and rode its luck well in the CONCACAF National League. The latter produced results, which left St Vincent and the Grenadines with a shot of making the prestigious CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Therefore, when last Thursday, our Vincy Heat came up against Curacao, many were thinking that it was the team which we rolled over ten years ago.

They were not aware that since then Curacao won the Caribbean title, advanced to the CONCACAF Gold Cup; is one of the top ranked teams in the Caribbean; their team is replete with full professional players, a renown head coach, Guus Hiddink, and most importantly, have the financial resources to prepare their team.

On the contrary, our players (save and except a few), are amateurs, hence, football is merely a recreational outlet. Neither do we have the social and economic construct to advance the sport at a pace to be competitive with those which have pedigree.

This is not to say that our footballers must not strive to be better, but reality should be factored in that part-time players cannot compete against those who have it as a vocation.

It must also underscore that St Vincent and the Grenadines rarely get a positive result versus teams that are higher on the FIFA rankings.

So, Vincentians huffed and puffed at the drubbing at the hands of Curacao, but were smiling on Tuesday, when the team came out 3-0 winners versus the British Virgin Islands. Let it be known that Curacao are ranked 77th on FIFA’s list; St Vincent and the Grenadines are 168th and the British Virgin Islands, 208th. It is noteworthy that there are 210 countries on FIFA’s Rankings list.

Hopefully, our expectations are not raised as Vincy Heat in June will play Guatemala (130), and Cuba, while positioned at 180, only lost to Curacao 1-2, last Sunday.

Similarly, it has to be pointed out and locked in the psyche of the uninformed, that granted the format of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, St Vincent and the Grenadines have a slim chance of advancing from Group C. As such, Vincy Heat have to come up big against Guatemala and Cuba, and wish for the upset results in the other fixtures.

As it stands and was before last Thursday, St Vincent and the Grenadines entered the qualifiers as fourth of five teams in the group, and this can actually play out.

We, as a nation, should wake up and be realistic that the St Vincent and the Grenadines team is fighting above its weight class whenever it comes to the World Cup cycles’ sojourn.

It will be the wisest route for us to just contend with winning the small battles when it comes to football competitions, such as the Caribbean Cup and making it to the Gold Cup, as we will not qualify for the World Cup finals anytime soon.

As stated previously in this column, at this stage of our football, our objectives should be to get more players out on professional contracts, have more on US college scholarships and critically, have a comprehensive Youth Programme. With these is place, we can then harbour the thought of thinking bigger.