Come Sunday at Kensington Oval a new-look Barbados team will start their quest to get past the preliminary rounds of the Caribbean Football Union’s Cup.
At a media briefing today at the Barbados Football Association’s Welches, St. Michael headquarters, BFA president Ronald Jones said the Dominican Republic, Aruba, Dominica and Barbados would be doing battle between Sunday and next week Thursday as they seek to advance to a possible berth in the prestigious Gold Cup.
Jones indicated that unlike previous years the tournament was not sponsored but was being staged under the aegis of the CFU and Barbados had committed to staging this leg of the competition. He noted that it would cost the BFA about $275, 000 to host this stage of the tournament, and indicated the costs would include venue charges, transportation, accommodating players and officials, among others.
The top football administrator said he knew there would be concerns about Barbados’ readiness for such an important tournament since the national team had not been doing particularly well over the past two years. But he noted Barbados’ football was in a transformative stage where many of the senior players had retired and a number of young footballers were being exposed as part of the rebuilding process. He said the association was looking to build toward the major world competitions of 2018 in Russia and 2022 in Qatar.
Jones urged Barbadians to come out for the competition and give their support to the young footballers.
Addressing Barbados’ lowly FIFA ranking of 175th, Jones said losses to teams such as Guyana which were ranked lower than Barbados and which the local team had traditionally beaten, as well as infrequent internationals, contributed to the island’s slip. He explained that there was a need for Barbados to play higher ranked teams like Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago on a more regular basis, while the players themselves continued to improve on their skills.
Team manager Fabian Wharton said he was pleased with the level of fitness of the team and that the players had been in preparation since the end of the local knockout competition in July. He also noted that most of the players had been kept fit through their participation in the ongoing LIME Pelican Football Challenge.
Wharton told the media that team management had been very focused on discipline and attitude and that this had been made clear to the players. He noted that about 34 players had originally been invited to training and this number was now about 27. He explained that some players had dropped out “for one reason or another”. He said it was important that players understood that playing football for one’s country was not about getting a stipend but about the honour of donning the Barbados uniform and being an ambassador for the island.
Wharton added that a final complement of 20 players would be chosen and announced by weekend. He indicated that by the time the Barbados team took to the field they would have all been subject to drug tests. Barbados will be captained by Jeffrey Williams, he added.
On Tuesday evening Barbados TODAY visited Kensington Oval to see the players in training and also spoke to Wharton then. He noted that there were slight concerns as it related to the Lime Pelican Football Challenge and national players picking up injury while participating in that lucrative competition. But he added it was not a major issue.
“We have enough cover in the squad and we are exploring our options as it relates to those things, but the guys are having a good time and they seem to be enjoying themselves and definitely come Sunday we will be ready,” the manager said.
Wharton explained that though it was a new-look Barbados team, there were still some experienced players. He said there were players in the squad who would have been youngsters during the previous World Cup campaign but the experience of going through that campaign would have been part of the process of their current development.
Wharton stated he believed Barbados’ chances were very good and he expected the local lads to get the better of Aruba on Sunday. He said he also anticipated a good performance against both Dominica and the Dominican Republic.
Queried as to whether the national team had what it took to win CFU Cup, Wharton said the first thing Barbados wanted to do was to qualify and get out of the first round.
“We are not looking too far ahead of ourselves, one step at a time and our number one priority right now is to qualify, reassess where we are and then move from there,” he said, adding there was a psychological component to the training to which the national team would have been exposed.
Barbados take on Aruba at 8 p.m., while that game will be preceded by a 6 p.m. encounter between Dominica and the Dominican Republic. (WG/ML)