The Guyana Hockey Board (GHB) has selected an 18-man squad to participate at the upcoming Pan American Junior Championships in Toronto, Canada from May 20th-28th.
The team is at full strength after senior national players Hilton Chester, Daniel Hooper and Kareem McKenzie were allowed to be members of the squad.
Through an arrangement facilitated by the Ministry of Education Exams Division with the University of Toronto’s Athletics Department, the three players will be allowed to write their Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) and Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) examinations that take place during the tournament in Toronto, a release from the GHB stated.
Additionally, outstanding striker Aroydy Branford has been allowed to join the squad.
Branford was doing a stint at Bishops Storford, England and his selection will add “the cutting edge to a team full of talent,” stated the release.
Most of the team will leave on Monday but the three players presently writing their CXC and CAPE examinations will join the team on Thursday.
The core of the team has been together since August of 2014, competing in local tournaments as well as two warmup tours of Trinidad and Tobago.
The team has had a thorough pre-tournament preparation winning three of four matches on their first developmental tour in December 2014.
On their second tour in August last year, they won seven of nine matches and were runners-up in the Player Tournament.
Eight players were also part of the senior national team which drew 2-2 with Olympic qualifiers Brazil on their way to a semifinal berth at the Pan American Challenge in Peru last year.
“This has been my longest preparation period with any team, just about two years. The boys are extremely fit thanks to the work of fitness trainer Barrington Browne and they need to be, to execute our team concept of out working every team we come up against. We can’t control our deficiencies due to the lack of an artificial turf which all our opponents in Toronto have access to train and play on daily, but what we can control is our effort when we get on that field,” said national coach Robert Fernandes.
Experienced midfielder Mark Sargeant has been named skipper of the team which includes defensive stalwart Andrew Stewart and senior national goalkeeper Medroy Scotland.
The three newcomers in the team are all multitalented athletes in 14-year-old goalkeeper Michael Hing who holds a black belt and has represented Guyana in karate and Jael Gaskin and Nyron Joseph who are squash players, with the latter a multiple national and junior Caribbean champion.
The team will play its opening game against the tournament’s third ranked team, Chile next Friday before taking on Mexico the following day, then wrapping up their group play on May 23rd against number two seed Canada.
“It will be quite a challenge coming up against the Pan American Region’s best teams but one thing Guyana can be sure of is that we will give everything we have every time we put on our national colours during the week of our 50th independence celebrations. I would like to personally thank the Guyana Olympic Association for their support,” said Philip Fernandes, president of the GHB in a press release.
“Without the Olympic Solidarity Team Preparation Grant we would have never been able to prepare so well for this tournament and it is obvious that our investment in these players has developed the talent that will form the nucleus of our senior national team for at least the next 15 years,” he added.