As the presidential campaign heats up for the Guyana Football Federation (GFF) elections on Friday, three of the four presidential candidates: Christopher Matthias, Ivan Persaud and Alfred King travelled to Linden for a final meeting with the General Council of the Upper Demerara Football Association (UDFA).

The UDFA, according to its president Sharma Solomon, was giving the candidates a last chance before they arrive at a decision as to who the association will be supporting come Friday when a new body will be elected to manage the affairs of football in Guyana.

Christopher Matthias
Christopher Matthias

The meeting was held last Wednesday in the Boardroom of the Regional Democratic Council, Region 10 and chaired by Solomon. The fourth presidential candidate Aubrey ‘Shanghai’ Major was not present at the meeting as he was reportedly out of the jurisdiction according to Solomon.

The candidates did not deviate from their earlier statements in the press took the opportunity to respond to several burning questions from the  UDFA General Council.

Persaud, who was the first candidate to address the council, maintained his three stage,  short, medium and long term development plan.

Asked how he was going to garner support should he be elected to lead the federation, Persaud said the GFF was not the only stakeholder in football.

“Obviously when we approach these other stakeholders in football and I am sure one of first questions we will have to understand is that the GFF is not the only stakeholder in the development in football. Let’s speak on the government now. They have to understand that they are a part of the development in sports and in this case football. We are going to have the GFF present plans to everyone that we are going to. I will try to motivate a committee but with strong people and try to sell our plans to them. And I am sure that the plans we have because it’s based on a three stage and not for today and finish tomorrow, but it will be a long term plan where we will deal with all of the juniors and we are going to sell everything that we have.”

Addressing the question as to whether he is prepared to work with anyone or if he has a selected set of persons he wishes to work with, Persaud said he is confident that the right team will be selected.

“Anyone who has been voted into that position because of the consensus and democratic process which we are going through I am sure it’s going to be the correct person, because it’s up to you guys, it’s up to you to put that person we are going to function the best in that areas. So I am prepared to work with anybody who is voted into that position because of the respect I have for this democratic process.

I am sure that the person who is coming there is going to be the person to work with. And I challenge you to please elect the correct person for the administrative part, the correct person for the finance part, the correct person for the developmental part in Guyana so that it’s going to be easier to work with them because that is their main stream of working.”

The second speaker, General Secretary of the Georgetown Football Association (GFA), Christopher Matthias chose to walk a different path. Armed with several newspaper clipping from years gone by Matthias used his 15 minutes of talk time to clear up an issue of financial irregularity in connection with the Georgetown Football League (GFL) which seemed to have dogged him through his career in football administration. He also used to time to respond to several letter writers in the media who in an attempt to not let the past remain the past, constantly write of the issue while talking of the achievements during this tenure as president and General Secretary of the GFA.

Matthias in his speech said among his achievements were securing appearance fee for clubs competing in the Kashif and Shanghai tournament along with ensuring that clubs that participated in the GFA/Banks Beer end year tournament were rewarded for their participation in the tournament.

Alfred King
Alfred King

Questioned on why he did not see the need to accept some responsibility for the missing funds, Matthias in his response said, “this young lady won the confidence of the entire General Council,  18 clubs in Georgetown and she sat there. Now what could I have done to prevent her, the trusted treasurer, from running away with gate receipts collected at the gates.”

Matthias, who  made a statement that it did not matter to him if he did not win the presidency, said his position had not changed when questioned on the matter.

“No, it hasn’t changed, but if there is no one who is willing and able to make that developmental change then I will be happy to serve and that’s the essence to serve in any position.”

Asked how he will transfer the successes of the GFA to the GFF, Matthias said it was simple, the decisions for which the executive must act on, should come from the General Council of the federation and no other way.

“So for football development in this country as to what happens in Linden, Lethem or Essequibo we ought to have that collective understanding in the 24 person delegates who will be there should say this is how we want football to go, this is how we want FIFA money to be spent.

The General Council he said is responsible for making policies while it is the executives who are the servants. They have to carry out the mandate of the General Council.

The final speaker was Alfred King, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Culture Youth and Sport and President of the Guyana Referee Council (GRC).

King faced the brunt of the questions was asked how could the football fraternity secure sponsorship from government when other sporting disciplines are ailing for lack of support.

He  was also asked given his passion for the sport, what he did to assist in its development.

“While there is a sports commission, the Ministry has some responsibility to ensure that the plans that are put in place over time. And when we look around what was lacking to gauge that structured approach was a plan. The first thing I influence is getting a sports policy which is already in print to be circulated to guide associations.”

He went on to speak of a $30 million which was budgeted for the purchase sport gear in 2011, of which $12 million went into the purchasing and distribution of football gear across the country.

At this point the room erupted into laughter as the clubs said they did not benefit from any such distribution.

He said too that once football items are brought into the country, he would sign requesting the duty free status.

Ivan Persaud
Ivan Persaud

“And that happens regularly including all these referee kit and so forth and other promotional things for football. So in that regard, once I am there, I will always look out for football. But looking out for football and advocating for football is dependent on the needs and a structured arrangement.”

He was also asked what measures would be put in place to keep persons close to the government from intruding in football as they did in cricket.

“I operate on a position of principle and if all of you can recall there was something called street football, Steve Ninvalle used to run it, Steve was in the government and I was in the government as CEO for the President’s Youth Choice Award Programme.

My referees were to be involved and I was called three or four times and attended a meeting too to explain why the referees could not be part of that arrangement and I explained that once I am around and president of the Referee’s Council this is how they will be. It has to be sanctioned by the GFF so it’s official and that is how the referees will be a part of it because the referees and the Referees Council are answerable to the GFF.”

The candidates are scheduled to either as a collective or individually meet with associations for final meetings before Friday’s elections.