The late Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant, renowned American College Football coach of the University of Alabama, once uttered, “It’s not the will to win that matters. Everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.”
This famous quote exemplifies the ‘clichéd’ but correct philosophy that associates success, not only in sports but life, with hard-work, often a synonym in most regards for preparation.
Ask Colin Powell, the 65th United States of America, Secretary of State, of his thoughts on the subject matter. He once declared, “There are no secrets to success. It is a result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.”
The historic accomplishment of the Guyana U15 national team at the recently concluded Soualiga tournament in St. Martin, is evidence to the aforementioned.
The Guyanese prevailed 1-0 over the host nation in the final to enter uncharted territory, becoming the first team to win a Caribbean Football Union (CFU) sanctioned youth tournament in our nation’s long history of self-inflicted underachievement.
Their dominance throughout the event was evident, four wins and two scoreless draws (Guadeloupe and Barbados) in six matches. Eight goals were scored but more importantly, none were conceded, a performance that mimics an Italian approach despite our South American roots.
The other victims of the Guyana’s new found dominance were Barbados, Martinique and the British Virgin Islands, with the latter suffering a 5-0 loss.
Where previous national teams, both in age (group) and gender, have failed miserably in their assignments for the proverbial ‘gold’, the U15 unit has written its name in the annals of local football folklore, owing in large part to the preparation and structure implemented by the Wayne Forde Guyana Football Federation (GFF) administration.
This hallmark would not be possible without careful planning and preparation, two adjectives often lost and/or forgotten in the tumultuous world of Guyanese sport, especially the beautiful game.
The catalyst for this possible change in approach following an eternity of ‘window dressing’, is the federation’s flagship youth developmental concept, the Scotiabank Academy Training Centres (ATC).
Although the programme, which is geared for all youth levels, has its detractors for the manner it has been instituted, one cannot argue the results since its implementation this year.
The initiative, which is active in the nine ‘traditional football associations’, has provided a platform for player development and talent assessment for the ‘national grid’, despite the scratched record often played titled the ‘lack of infrastructure’.
Albeit in its embryonic stages, it has aided in the growth and the transition of quality players from each youth level of the national setup.
Case in point is Buxton United’s Troni Semple, a product of the system, who is now a fixture of the U15 and U17 national teams.
While the importance of the ‘education’ provided to the players by their respective clubs must not be understated, the ATC has provided the ideal pathway between the entities, club and eventually country.
For this, the GFF must be lauded for having the foresight to create a vehicle whose emphasis is on youth evolution and national team transition.
Clearly this has been the ‘modus operandi’ of the Forde administration and judging by policies, initiatives and now results, it is expected to continue in this mold for the duration of his tenure.
Forde during an exclusive interview said, “I couldn’t be any more proud of our youngsters, it was an all-round, positive performance based on the feedback from the technical staff. The discipline in the camp was exceptional, the youngsters understanding and commitment to the goal which was to win the tournament was many years beyond their time. This is not a victory for the GFF, this is a victory for Guyana.”
According to the bullish Forde, “It is the first time Guyana has won a Regional U15 tournament in such an impressive fashion and I wanna ask the entire nation in extending a warm congratulations to the players and the entire technical staff for the work they have been doing at the Scotiabank Academy Training Centres (ATC) which laid the building blocks and implemented the programmes to produce this result.”
Questioned what were the major factors responsible for the team success, Forde declared, “The main reason for their success was the ATC. These youngsters have been training for many hours, working on a consistent developmental programme. Every player from every region has been training on the same thing for each position. This is an example of how the system is working.”
He added, “We had only four days of encampment because the youngsters are being trained on the nation’s’ philosophy at the ATC’S. They already have positional and tactical awareness and all the work has already been done at the ATC, it’s different from the past.”
Asked what does this championship mean for Guyana’s football future? Forde affirmed, “It simply means that we are now seeing evidence of the implementation of the ATC programme. Of course the programme is an evolving programme and will improve but the fact is that we have been able to draw players from almost every association. Finally we have national teams that represents a wider cross section from our member associations. In the team alone, we have four players from the hinterland communities which is a first at the U15 level.”
He added, “This is evidence that the systems works and in the coming weeks, we will be reaching out to the government and corporate entities to come on board and support the nationwide Academy Training Centres because it is going to produce players for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.”
According to Forde, “The strategic plan we shared at the Congress, the theme of the plan is ‘’Finding Our Focus’ and the plan is structured for 2026 and we already have the youth players in our sights to make history for Guyana. This is my commitment to the nation. 1. Guyana will be the strongest nation in CFU in three years, 2. Guyana will be the number one country in CONCACAF in eight years and 3. Guyana will qualify for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. In order to do this, the GFF needs everyone to get behind the programme such as the Government, Corporate Entities, Players, Media and the Parents. Not only to support the plan but to fuel it.”
Although bullish in his comments, the GFF president speaks from a position of hope following the team’s success.
The expectation for future endeavors will certainly be high due to the exploits of the junior team, and thus, the ATC program will have to continue its mandate and evolve to ensure further successes are achieved.
Given the focus of the administration, further accomplishments at the international youthful level aided by the now indispensable ATC programme, is likely a possibility.