By Kimberley Cummins
The Barbados Under-14 footballers are upbeat about their prospects at the Caribbean Football Union’s (CFU) Boys’ U-14 Challenge Series in the Dominican Republic.
A Barbados TODAY team caught up with the youngsters, flanked by family, supporters and administrators, before their departure from the Grantley Adams International Airport on Thursday night.
Twenty-five of the 31 CFU member associations will take part in the tournament that will be held from August 13- 21. This is Barbados’ debut at the tournament. Thrilled at the experience, 12-year-old Jacob Gollop said he was honoured to represent the national side at the championships.
“I’m hoping that we do well. I believe in the team and the coaching staff that we can do very well in this tournament,” the young man said.
Chris McFarlane, father of player Jonathan McFarlane, who is one of the travelling parents, did not try to conceal his pride as he made known his plans to cheer the boys on as loud as he can.
“We are going to be making a whole lot of noise in the background, Barbados flags everywhere, we are going to bring the level of energy that is required but more so we want to make sure that the boys know they have support on the sidelines so that they can perform to their best. What has happened over the last four, five weeks, the level of professionalism that the Barbados Football Association has been putting into this, if you saw it, I don’t think there is a Barbadian, or a parent or anybody, who won’t be proud as to the direction the BFA is heading. If this is the start of the future, I think the future is very bright for Barbados,” McFarlane added.
Head coach Renaldo Gilkes discussed the road to the Dominican Republic and revealed that initially, about 100 boys tried out to make the team before it was ultimately scaled down to the travelling 20 players who he believed to be the best of the best. This is why he was quietly confident about their possibilities, once they pass any initial nerves.
In terms of preparation, Gilkes said they were able to tackle all of the pillars of the game. Primarily educating the players, and introducing them to concepts of the game that they would have missed in that two-year Covid-19 break.
“We’re really looking forward to the experience. It’s going to be an experience of information and one of education. We are very excited to be part of this venture, the boys are actually very excited and keen. They are a very brave group of boys. They are the first group of players that I know have made the leap from grassroots football straight into international football so I’m really looking forward to seeing how they perform,” he said.
Assistant coach Luke St. John added: “We’ve gone through the paces throughout these past weeks. It’s been very fulfilling to see the boys grow step by step. Even the ones who may not have made the final cut, we’ve seen so many developments through these times and we are really looking forward to what the boys are going to do once we get to the Dominican Republic.”