The Caribbean is not only producing footballers of the highest standard but coaching education through the facilitation of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) and FIFA has benefited regional players, says national coach Renaldo “PeeWee” Gilkes.
Responding to comments made by the former technical director of the Grenada Football Association, Marcus McIntosh, who believes that regional football is not where it should be as it relates to talent and coaching education, Gilkes disagreed with McIntosh’s assessment of the beautiful game in the region, especially Barbados.
Gilkes, a CONCACAF coach instructor who also holds a CONCACAF B licence, a National Diploma and an Advanced National Diploma from the National Soccer Coaches of America, said he has seen the benefits of the coaching education program in the region, particularly Barbados.
“I still believe we are producing players of a high standard and the reason we may not see that is because it is very difficult to get into the top English and Spanish leagues,” Gilkes told Barbados TODAY.
While McIntosh mentioned Jamaica and Trinidad as the forerunners when it came to talent in the Caribbean, Gilkes pointed to the fact that the likes of St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and especially St. Vincent also had players in the Major Leagues and the Central American Leagues.
A former national captain, Gilkes explained that while local players do get opportunities to play in those leagues, he acknowledged that sometimes it can be challenging.
“When he mentioned top players, he only mentioned Jamaica and Trinidad. However, throughout the region I could speak for St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and especially St. Vincent. They have a lot of players in the MLS (Major League Soccer) and the Central American Leagues.
“The bigger leagues, England, France, Spain, Germany, they have some very strict and stringent restrictions. Your country has to be within the top 70 or 75 in the world. You would have had to play two-thirds of your country’s last matches.
“And let’s be honest, it is only within the last two or three years maybe even four where CONCACAF introduced the Nations League that we are now able to have the number of matches equally across the region,” Gilkes said.
He added: “Like for example, you got someone like Norman Forde who only got 75 caps but played for Barbados a number of years. If you had Norman Forde playing within this era, Norman would probably have close to a hundred caps because we are playing way more matches.”
Using Jamaica as an example, Gilkes explained that coaching education has also done well for Jamaica who opted to let home drums beat first by having CONCACAF certified coach Theodore Whitmore as manager of the Reggae Boyz.
A CONCACAF Grassroots Coordinator for the Next Play program, Gilkes mentioned that
since there have been CONCACAF licences in coaching, Barbados also has had incremental growth because of the coaching education.
“Our Under-17 and 20 boys are ranked within the top 16 of CONCACAF and that is because they have had the opportunity to work with graduates of the CONCACAF coaching education programs like myself and Marlon Harte.
“The boys graduated to division one and then Marlon’s group went into division one and they competed well. They drew with Trinidad, they competed against Portugal. So, they are able to compete with teams that they would have never competed against before.
“That is because they are now being properly prepared as graduates and recipients of the coaching education that Mr. McIntosh believes is absent. If that is the case, we would not receive those accomplishments we have,” Gilkes explained.
While Gilkes did not disagree with McIntosh that regional coaches need exposure, he suggested that they were needed in the region to coach Caribbean players.
“If the better coaches leave and get that external experience, not that I disagree with him because I think that having a stint abroad for a little bit to learn variety and strategy in coaching education is fine. But when we send our best coaches abroad, who is going to deal with our local players? Who is going to develop those players to be quality international players and follow the pathway of being seen by college coaches or even professional coaches? So, that is what I am saying, the coaching education aspect, I don’t believe is a fair statement,” Gilkes said.
“He mentioned that the United States, Mexico and Canada are the powerhouses within our region. And that is fine. But from my own experience being a mentee of the CONCACAF leadership program, the CONCACAF coaching education has developed so much to the point that they are now partnering with other confederations. They are not limiting their experiences or exposure to within the region.
“You have other federations from other confederations coming to CONCACAF for information and vice-versa. So, it is a two-way street. So, that is why I don’t believe it is fair to speak about coaching education,” Gilkes stressed.