A former professional footballer visiting Barbados who was reprimanded and discharged for leaving her hotel while under quarantine is seeking to turn her bad experience into a good relationship with the island.
And the development has prompted the Minister for Sport to reveal plans for a ‘high school of sport’ to develop professional coaches and players.
She declared Tuesday her desire to guide and help sporting authorities implement a framework to produce successful footballers who are ready for the World Cup and could be recruited by international teams.
Eniola Aluko, who met with Minister of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment Dwight Sutherland, said she was pleased to engage in talks with him on starting a relationship that can potentially lead to her recruiting young Barbadian females to play for famed professional Aston Villa in the British Midland city of Birmingham, where she he is the club’s sporting director.
Aluko said: “And obviously moving forward, to hear that there is an aspiration to have Barbados represented in the 2027 Football World Cup is amazing.
“I played in three World Cups myself as a player and it’s always the pinnacle of my career to have played and represented my country.
“So to hear that there is a huge plan for young Bajan girls and boys to aspire to be representing their country at the World Cup, I am definitely happy to be a part of that, and to try and flip what has been a difficult two days into a very powerful power partnership and relationship.”
She added: “I am keen to recruit from all over the world. It is my job to recruit the best talents, but it is not just about the talents, it is about who the talent is.
“So in Birmingham, because we have a big Bajan representation, it makes sense to potentially come back, particularly the nearer we get to the World Cup and the more Barbados continues to play games, to come back and see how the infrastructure has been developing.”
Aluko, 33, sparked outrage in some quarters when she breached her COVID-19 protocol by riding on a ZR, an action which was caught on social media by a poster who complained and revealed her destination. She was staying at Little Arches Hotel in Enterprise, Christ Church.
She initially pleaded not guilty to the charge of refusing to carry out the protocol order. But, she tearfully changed her plea before Magistrate Douglas Frederick in the District “A” Magistrates’ Court where she apologized for her actions.
During the press conference, Aluko said Barbados must build academies and provide the infrastructure to harness the talents of sportsmen and women from an early age. She said it is also important for a pathway to be built for young Barbadians to be able to travel overseas to further enhance their talents.
She said that this is her second visit to Barbados, an island she has fallen in love with. She said she came to Barbados on a two-week vacation and is now pleased that despite finding herself on the wrong side of the law, she will be leaving the island on a positive note having made new friends and working relationships to change the future of sports locally and abroad.
Aluko told reporters: “It has been an eventful trip. But this allows me to think forward and develop a relationship and partnership that can move forward.
“If there is untapped talent that doesn’t have the opportunity to play then I think it is about creating the environment for them to play; investing in more facilities and investing in more coaching.
“One of the things that I took from playing in America is their private club system where players pay x amount of money a year and you are a part of a club system that runs like a professional team. I don’t know if that is something that is feasible here, but you have to create the environment for that to blossom “
Sutherland said in order for Barbados to become world class in all areas, it must associate with best practices internationally. He said working with Aluko is an opportunity to develop world class sports women on the field and track and also in the area of administration.
The minister then revealed that Government is looking to develop a secondary school as a sporting centre with strong emphasis on developing world class coaches and sports professionals.
Sutherland declared: “We have to zoom in on academies, create a sports facility and infrastructure, a sports school where we train our coaches and professionals to develop these young people from a very early age. You go to school and you study sports. Of course we will blend the sports with academia.
“We are in the process of preparing a Cabinet paper, jointly between the Minister of Education and myself, to go to Cabinet with a recommendation. We have an idea of where we want to have the facility, but I don’t want to say exactly this will be the facility because we are now in discussions. We are looking at two options and this will go to Cabinet this year.”