It is unlikely that local competitive football will be played in 2022 but in the meantime, work is taking place off the field to commercialize and develop the sport in Barbados through FIFA Forward, says President of the Barbados Football Association (BFA), Randy Harris.
Joined by Kenny Jean- Marie, FIFA’s Chief Member Association Officer for the region this evening at the BFA’s AstroTurf in Wildey, Harris said FIFA has selected Barbados for a number of programs that are critical to the development of the game here and one of them is the talent development scheme.
This particular talent development scheme was developed by former French footballer and manager Arsène Wenger who also managed English Premier League side Arsenal. According to Harris, Barbados will be used as a pilot for this five-year development project funded by FIFA Forward.
“We are really happy to be part of it and we think it would make a really big difference for our vision on the field of play. FIFA is also helping us the BFA with commercializing football and to help us with our administration in terms of ensuring that our strategic plan is carried out and that we can achieve what we were set out to do in our vision going forward,” the BFA president said.
As it relates to the top priority for the new development scheme, Jean-Marie shared that it was capacity building which was important in terms of how Barbados moved forward.
“Capacity building is the first key point. In a member association like Barbados when you see that we have a technical centre, we have a stadium, we have a headquarters – fine. What is the next step? Because not every country is able to have those three major steps but once you have this, what is next? The next is how Randy is able to have around him relevant people with the right skills. Will they be club presidents or administrators of the federation?
“So, this is what I mean when I mentioned capacity building because if we want to develop, it will not be only with infrastructure, you need to have the people to develop football and this activity is based on a huge number of volunteers. Without the volunteers, we would not develop football. But on the other hand when you have such a facility you need to have some professional to manage it. So, this capacity building initiative that we discussed this afternoon and that we will need to implement more in the future is key,” Jean-Marie explained.
As it relates to housekeeping matters in the BFA, Harris confirmed that his board has had some discussions on employing a new technical director and that announcement will be made next month. He explained the reality was that without a technical director in place the talent development scheme cannot commence.
Harris also made it clear that national head coach Russell Latapy is not going to be sacked despite the performances and dismal score lines displayed by Barbados of late. He also made it abundantly clear that the development of the players rests solely with the local clubs.
“The BFA cannot look at the results of the game as it stands, our team has not played football for two years. It means that there is no competition with the players who we are familiar with, there is nobody playing football that we could say they improved, they want looking at. We did not play our usual professional auxiliaries and of course the Defence Force programme is no more and the spine, the backbone of the Barbados national team for the last 35 years has been the Barbados Defence Force members.
“It is not an even playing field and we have to look at it for what it is. We are going forward in a new Concacaf Nations League and we would look at the results, we will look at everything including the attitudes of everybody. And just let me make this statement, the development of the players rest with the clubs. If we have senior national players that cannot understand the game for one reason or the other, that is not a reflection of the national association. That is why we are working on development going forward,” he said.
The BFA President also used Canada’s football as an example where he noted that the average player on the team is 24 years old and that it took 12 years for them to build their program. Therefore, he urged the clubs to recognize that football is not a quick fix and until there are trained coaches at certain levels, things will remain the same.
“Look at our players locally, be real. Look at what is going on and people want to point their finger at the BFA? Come on,” Harris added.
He also revealed that the BFA only received permission to play football last week and with a number of factors to consider including the laying of a new artificial turf which is expected to arrive tomorrow at the AstroTurf and some ongoing work still to be completed, there isn’t a remote possibility of premier league football returning until next year.
However, Harris hinted that a tournament around the island may be in the pipelines and more information would be given in due course.