Technical Director of the national football team, Jamaal Shabazz said yesterday he wished he had the power of Jesus, to turn the misfortune of the ‘Golden Jaguars’ into fortune.
“If I had the power to turn water into wine, I would have loved to turn chances of goals into goals for Guyana,” Shabazz said in light of the many opportunities the team squandered in the final round of the recently-concluded Digicel Caribbean Cup tournament.
Shabazz expressed his feelings this way when the Guyana Football Federation (GFF) held a press conference yesterday at the association’s headquarters, although it was not staged as a post- mortem of the ‘Golden Jaguars’performance.
The hard working technical director, to whom much of Guyana’s success in football over the last year is attributed, obviously felt the unexpected demise of the leading team in the Caribbean Cup when he explained his reaction to Guyana’s 0-0 draw against Cuba.
“I did not cry when my mother died, my uncles and aunts were upset with me, but when Guyana drew against Cuba I cried because I thought if it is one team that is deserving of a chance to play in the Gold Cup it would have been Guyana,” he said.
Guyana’s nil all draw to Cuba meant that Cuba qualified for the final four in the tournament on a better goal difference than Guyana. The ‘Golden Jaguars’ had suffered a 2-0 loss to St. Vincent in their first match in the group.
But they won their second match against Guadeloupe 4-3, putting them in a must-win situation when they faced the region’s number one ranked Cuba in their final match of the group.
The top two teams in the group, Guadeloupe and Cuba, qualified for the final four of the competition along with eventual winners, Haiti and host Trinidad and Tobago. The four teams will play in the Gold Cup tournament in the United States.
“I thought that it (playing in the Gold Cup) was an excellent opportunity for Guyana to show those people that Guyana is more than a country with immigration problems,” Shabazz added.
All is not lost
Despite the untimely exit of the team from the tournament, all is not lost as many opportunities for both players and coaches were opened during the final round of the tournament in Trinidad.
President of the GFF, Colin Klass stated at the press briefing yesterday that currently there is communication between the association and agents in Europe for players from Guyana.
“They are communicating with the GFF from agents that requested diskettes with players. I know for sure that the information is currently roaming London,” Klass said, adding that about seven Guyanese players are under the international microscope.
Shabazz confirmed that agents in the twin-island republic were watching players from the ‘Golden Jaguars’. He said that clubs and agents have approached players and the coaching staff for several tapes.
“Agents in Scotland have approached us for tapes of Nigel Codrington, agents from Ireland have asked us about Howard Lowe, Trinidad’s Joe Public is interested in Gregory Richardson and they are many more openings for players,” Shabazz said.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles Galaxy – the team that signed England’s David Beckham on a US$250M five-year deal a few weeks ago has apparently expressed an interest in Miami-based defender, John Rodrigues.
Shabazz said that an agent also approached Shawn Beveney. He indicated that Guyana would be in a better competitive position if those players were given contracts in Europe and in top clubs right here in the region.
“All these things will help us as we prepare for the Olympics and World Cup qualifiers,” Shabazz hinted, while stating that local football coach Wayne ‘Wiggy’ Dover could become a fulltime professional coach with a Trinidadian team.
According to Klass, the ‘Golden Jaguars’ will try to play some of the teams that have already qualified for the Gold Cup. El Salvador and Canada were two of the teams named by the GFF boss as likely contenders against the ‘Jaguars’ in the near future.
Shabazz and the GFF
A slight cloud had come over an otherwise sunny relationship between the GFF and Shabazz in light of payments for the technical director.
Klass put that cloud away in a whirlwind yesterday when he stated that the GFF would retain Shabazz. Klass said that Shabazz is GFF’s responsibility and everything revolves around him in terms of the ‘Jaguars’.
“Somehow we have been blessed with the presence of Shabazz and as it stands now everything revolves around him,” Klass said, adding that his discretion with disclosing the amount that Shabaazz will be paid is deliberate.
“It will be our responsibility to ensure that we pick him (Shabazz) up and move forward,” Klass said. The GFF chief executive indicated that the decision to have Shabazz continue with the team was made along with Austin ‘Jack’ Warner of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association.
“We spoke with Warner, who decided to continue to allow Shabaaz to work with the team – it started out as a voluntary work but that will have to change,” Klass told the media at the press conference.
Funding for football
The issues of sponsorship, corporate support and government’s contributions continue to undermine the performance of the national football team. Klass is of the opinion that funding is necessary if local football is to move forward.
He said that the GFF has huge plans at every level of the sport locally but those could fall short if there is no “financial outpouring from corporate Guyana.”
“As we speak right now I am not aware of any support from government. I don’t know if it’s in the pipelines but I don’t know,” Klass said. He singled out the support the team received from three Trinidad-based individuals.
According to Klass, one of the individuals (a bone specialist) was offered up to US$3,000 to work with another team but he refused the offer to work for free in a voluntary capacity with the Guyana team.
“How is it that people who are in no way associated with us can make such contributions and your own cannot,” Klass asked while stating that the Guyana dressing room in Trinidad was prepared to World Cup standard owing to volunteers.
The GFF president said that the association has laid the cards for the development of football in Guyana but it seems as though no one is taking up the slack. This remains a sore point, according to Klass.
“We have laid the cards on the table as to the way forward but it seems as though no one wants to read them. I hope the success of our national team will bring an end to this current state of football in Guyana,” he said.
Looking back at the Digicel tournament, Klass said that in the absence of a local sports policy, players are not released from their jobs with full pay. He contended that this hampers players at all levels locally.
“We contacted many people to allow our best players to participate but were unable to convince them to release some of them with full pay,” he said, adding that there is need for a sports policy with penalties.
Klass charged the government to ensure that such policies are in place so that Guyana could continue to benefit from the service of their best players. He said that employers must understand this national duty.
The GFF boss expressed congratulations to the ‘Golden Jaguars’, stating that the technical staff worked hard to ensure that the team did well. He said that the ‘Jaguars’ will continue to pursue the path of success.