HAMILTON, Bermuda, CMC – Guyana’s head coach Jamaal Shabazz says flight cancellations and administrative problems have put his table-topping team on the back foot ahead of their CONCACAF World Cup Group B match against Bermuda at the National Sports Centre last night.
The majority of the Guyana team touched down in the island on Monday via New York after just a handful of players arrived on schedule on Sunday night.
Shabazz, a Trinidadian, says the odds are against Guyana keeping their unbeaten record in Group B. Guyana beat Bermuda 2-1 in last month’s home leg.
“We’ve had tremendous flight problems,” he told the Royal Gazette. “Flights got cancelled and the team have not arrived although everybody should arrive later today (Monday).
“It has definitely given us some concerns because we know Bermuda are going to be a formidable opponent and we were fortunate in the first game against them.”
When the Guyana squad flew home at the weekend after beating Barbados 2-0 in Bridgetown, it emerged all of their equipment and most of the players’ luggage had gone missing.
This led team management to make alternative arrangements to ensure they would be fully equipped before heading to Bermuda.
Shabazz told the Gazette the kinds of travel difficulties that have hindered his side’s pre-match build-up are not exclusive to Guyana but more indicative of the lack of efficiency in Caribbean football in general. “We would have liked for things to have gone better and to have had a training session (in the morning).” said Shabazz, whose team did train on Monday afternoon at the National Sports Centre.
“But even with these side issues with the flights and stuff, the players are still pretty focused and excited to get on with the business of playing Bermuda.
“These are some of the things that happen when you are trying to move to the next level.
“We have to strive for more efficiency in the administrative office and these are lessons not just for Guyana but all of the Caribbean nations. We need to do a lot better in terms of putting things in place for our national teams,” he said.
Guyana are in the driving seat to claim the all-important top spot in the group having taken nine points from their opening three games.
But Shabazz believes his side will have their work cut out against Bermuda, whose upset 2-1 win over his native Trinidad has thrown the group’s qualification race wide open.
“I’m Trinidadian, I know everything about the Trinidad team and I was surprised by Bermuda’s win,” admitted Shabazz.
“I knew it would be a close game but I didn’t expect a defeat for Trinidad – it’s certainly thrown the cat among the pigeons. It’s been a dream start for us, winning our first three games and at least we’re still in with a chance of qualifying.
“But we know it’s going to be an uphill struggle against Bermuda whose coach (Devarr Boyles) I know from doing courses together with CONCACAF. He’s a very bright chap with a good personality and I look forward to renewing our rivalry on the pitch.”