The Golden Jaguars will depart the country today for two international friendly matches against French territory teams Martinique and Guadeloupe tomorrow and Thursday in the respective countries. The fixtures are the final installment of the “two-tier” system created by national coach Jamaal Shabazz which commenced in February where matches were played in Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, St. Vincent and French Guiana.
In the system the fringe foreign-based and local players who are not participating in club football in Guyana, compared to the established foreign-based players in England, Trinidad and North America are getting an opportunity to press claims to break into the final 23-man ahead of opening 2014 World Cup qualifier on June 8 against CONCACAF powerhouse Mexico – at the world famous Estadio Azteca – the venue of the 1970 and 1986 World Cup finals.The national team concluded its one-week camp from April 24 – 30 where they were put through the paces under the guidance of the national coaching staff.
At a press conference yesterday at the Guyana Football Federation (GFF) headquarters, acting GFF president Franklin Wilson, Shabazz and GFF Director of Marketing, Faizal Khan, updated the media on the upcoming tour and other matters related to the national team.
Wilson opened remarks by thanking the various sponsors who have so far supported the Golden Jaguars ahead of the historical qualifiers such a Roti Hut, Ansa Mcal, Sponsports who brought Guatemala to Guyana, DDL, the Government of Guyana, New GPC and GT&T. He concluded by highlighting that with the Mexico game fast approaching, the GFF was continuing with its ambitious strategy to play multiple friendly international games every month ahead of the June 8 fixture.
Coach Shabbaz, while reiterating much of Wilson’s comments, stressed the importance of these two games, with regards to the national team’s future.
“We leave tomorrow (today) for two important matches against two fairly formidable opponents. Guadeloupe has qualified for the last two CONCACAF Gold Cup tournaments out of the Caribbean zone which pretty much proves their strength. The only reason why Guadeloupe and Martinique don’t play and qualify for the second round World Cup qualifiers where Guyana is at the moment is because they are colonies of France and are not allowed to participate as a separate entity,” explained Shabazz.He added: “The team we are taking is not the first team – but instead its players who are challenging for a place in the first team ahead of qualifiers, with foreign players being unavailable due to club commitments. Some people may question why we are not taking our best team to these games. My simple response is we are trying to “secure the future of Guyana football,” because when Digicel Caribbean Cup for example comes around later in the year, the foreign players will not be available – so these matches give a chance for local players who play with teams such as Alpha and Pele to get exposure at a higher level.”Costa Rica Scouting Trip Shabazz also spoke of his scouting trip courtesy of the GFF and sponsors sponsports, that he made to Costa Rica, to watch a friendly game they played against Honduras that finished 1-1 on April 11.
According to Shabazz, the most important thing he learnt from that trip had nothing to do with the on-field play of the Costa Rican’s – but rather how the people got behind their team.
“I want to also update the nation on my scouting trip to Costa Rica during the Easter weekend. It was an enlightening experience to see the Costa Rica team first hand. They were not all full strength as they had about 75% perfect of regular players in that game according to info I gathered about the team before hand,” recounted Shabazz.
“The most striking finding for me of the trip had nothing to do with the football on the field. What I learnt most, especially in second half was the importance of 12th man and how the people in Costa Rica support their national team,” stated Shabazz.
“I say this because first half Honduras dominated the Costa Rica team, but the stand was not yet filled and the locals told me since it was a weekday game fans usually take time to come from work. In the second half when the place was filled, I saw a transformed Costa Rica team that literally ran Honduras off the park.“The way they connected with people and how people got behind the team in the second half until like 15 minutes after the game was frightening and remarkable to say the least,” the national coach noted in glowing terms in his deep Trinidad accent.
He concluded by reiterating the call he has consistently made since he returned as national coach six months ago – that the country must unite behind the national football team.“Essentially those games educated me of the importance of Guyana not approaching these games as just not a national team, but as a country – because it’s a country that will come out of these games. A country made of PPP, APNU, AFC supporters, Indians, Africans, Portuguese, Chinese, plenty Brazilians now as well.
It is a moment in history for Guyana that we can bring the country together as a 12th Jaguar, just as they did on November 11th last year when the people played their key part in making Providence a fortress to defeat Trinidad and Tobago.”
Guyana 20-man squad for Martinique and Guadeloupe:
Richard Reynolds, Colin Edwards, Julien Edwards, Kester Jacobs, Ryan Crandon, Travis Grant, Daniel Wilson, Anthony Benfield, Sheldon Holder, Pernell Schultz, Konata Mannings, Anthony Abrams, Quincy Madramootoo, Kris Comacho, Colin Nelson, Trayon Bobb, Eon Alleyne, Devor Dennis, Brion Baker and Dwight Peters.
Coach: Jamaal Shabazz, Assistant Coach: Wayne Dover, Ivan Persaud, Trainer: Ivan Persaud, General Manager: Rawle Adams, Goal-keeper Coach: Andrew Hazel, Equipment Manager: Trevor Burnett, Physio: Donna Marie Wickham