Back off… Back away
On Target
June 11, 2021
Back off… Back away

Surely, the tongues and fingers are busy, as to where should we go from here with St Vincent and the Grenadines’ football, following the recent display of our senior national men’s football team Vincy Heat in Group C of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers.

As it turned, this country ended their campaign with one win and three losses.

Vincy Heat were beaten 5-0 by Curacao, 10-0 by Guatemala and 1-0 by Cuba. A solitary 3-0 win over the British Virgin Islands was the only triumph the team had to show.

As expected, the head coach, Kendale Mercury, will be and has been the bull’s eye for all the verbal target practice of criticism, as pundits and others try to dissect the team’s performance over the four matches.

For persons who follow this column would acknowledge that it has always been expressed that St Vincent and the Grenadines were up against it, when it came to getting past Curacao, Guatemala and Cuba.

However, World Cup qualifiers are what they are, and everyone expects positive results in favour of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The conservative and realistic critics though, would reason and be satisfied with some good performances; evidence of improvements and be able to at least compete at that wider confederation level.

The latter would also accept and settle for the small victories, such as reduced score-lines, individuals upping their performances, while the team grows collectively.

But in all of the darts being fired, especially after last Friday’s 10-0 drubbing, the players who were selected to don the uniforms of St Vincent and the Grenadines in the matches, gave of their best.

These players, in the main, performed to their optimum. They simply do not know better, and their technical, mental and tactical deficiencies at that level, were exposed for all to view. Hence, they must not be made into pawns and ridiculed.

As was revealed, the players last Friday were outwitted by the Guatemalans, who, in comparison of others in the past, are not exceptional. That tells half of the story and the gauge of where our football is positioned.

Whilst moaning of the team’s display in the sojourn, this is not the worst we have done. We must be reminded that in 1992, when faced the likes of Mexico, Honduras and Costa Rica, St Vincent and the Grenadines conceded 29 goals, while not scoring. Among the heavy losses, was an 11-0 defeat by Mexico.

So, until we concede that our football is not where it ought to be, we would forever have to endure the national pain of being humiliated by countries which have taken the sports seriously; have the resources, the political will and place football as an avenue for development.

As plans are hatched to change our status, are we willing to bite the bullet and make the necessary changes to the structure of our football, here in St Vincent and the Grenadines? Are we willing to reduce the number of playing units and stop sacrificing quality for quantity?

Will those who hold the purse strings of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation begin to invest heavily in a proper youth development programme and place the best personnel where the expertise is maximized?

When one makes a thorough examination of our football, one can conclude that in some way we have indeed regressed.

Three decades ago, St Vincent and the Grenadines would have been assured three points from the likes of St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada, but not again.

Even more recently, our flagship team beat both Nicaragua and Suriname and earned draws against the two outfits in the Nations League. Since these nations have progressed by leaps and bounds, while we have back-pedalled.

And, it is not the fault of the players, as the policy-makers failed to do the correct analyses and put the structures in place, which would germinate success.

When one examines the other territories in the region, they extend their genealogical tentacles to gather the best talent available where ever they can be sourced when the World Cup qualifying cycle comes around.

Seemingly, we believe that we have the talent pool here that can do the job. Or are they afraid to do the bull work or are afraid to expend on these players?

This has been the modus operandi of successive football administrators, who have only sought to carry out FIFA mandates, rather than develop the sport.

Of note and instructive, St Vincent and the Grenadines’ showing on the football field, and in all sporting disciplines for that matter, is simple a microcosm of the manner in which we do things locally.

Unfortunately, the way we operate, many of the cultural practices and the decisions we make in our daily operations affect the manner in which sports is managed and executed.

In all the sayings, conjectures, recommendations and the likes, unless there are some cultural changes, we will only participate at the higher levels, rather than compete.