French football great Michel Platini found out today what most Barbadians already know.
The National Stadium is not exactly the best place to develop footballing skills.
Platini, who is president of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), president of the Barbados Football Association Randy Harris, and other officials, toured the Stadium as well as the Wildey Astroturf, St Michael, where he got a first-hand look at some of the physical infrastructure available to the island’s footballers.
“I have seen better fields but it is not the worst. I am amazed that the field here is also part of a cycling track and I have never seen that before,” the legendary midfield general told Barbados TODAY.
Platini stressed that his visit to the region was to look at the state of football and not to make comments about the game.
“I have come to take a look at the state of the game here not to make comments about it,” Platini said when asked for further comment on the quality of playing facilities.
He added: “There is a vast contrast between how football is played in CONCACAF countries and Europe. The purpose of my visit here is to discuss what role UEFA can play in assisting the game,” he explained.
Harris told Barbados TODAY that the main reason he invited Platini to the island was for him to get a personal view of the state of local football which would allow him to judge the level of assistance required to develop the game in Barbados.
“I invited Michel to visit Barbados while we were attending a FIFA congress in Panama and he accepted my invitation. We need help to develop local football and UEFA is one of the associations that can help us,” Harris said.
Harris disclosed that he is hoping that FIFA would help the government to develop a proper football field at the National Stadium.
“The National Stadium is the only venue where international football is played. If we can get FIFA to help them lay a proper field there it would play an enormous part in helping the development of our football,” Harris said.
Platini said that generally football had developed at a rapid rate in the years since his retirement from the game.
The former French captain said he was impressed with the skills of several of the current players. He stressed that women’s football was dear to him and expressed his joy at the manner in which the women’s game had developed in the past decade.
Platini said he was looking forward to the World Cup in a few months time in Brazil and expressed the wish that all of the stadia there would be finished on time.
The 58-year old disclosed that he fell in love with Barbados when he first visited the island in 1985.
“Twenty-nine years later, I am very happy to be back to hold talks about the state of football here,” Platini said.
The UEFA president arrived in the island last evening on a private jet. During his one-day visit he met with Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and Minister of Sports Stephen Lashley.
President of CONCACAF, Jeffrey Webb was also slated to visit Barbados along with Platini but he had to postpone his trip at the last minute.
During his playing days Platini was a member of the French team at the 1978, 1982 and 1986 World Cups, reaching the semi-finals of the latter two. Along with Alain Giresse, Jean Tigana and Luis Fernandez, he was part of the famous French mid-field formation that was dubbed the magic square in the 1980s. He scored 41 international goals in 72 matches between 1976 and 1987. He also won the Ballon d’Or in 1983, 1984 and 1985.
Platini attended a luncheon today hosted by the BFA president and subsequently left the island for Antigua this afternoon.