With the commencement of the new football season in Barbados just a couple of days away, the BFA have already made big plans for this year and beyond…
The small island of Barbados isn’t exactly a central hub for football, nor is it renowned for being particularly successful in the sport. However, the Barbados Football Association (BFA) is working hard to ensure the game is improving on the island. A press conference was held by the BFA a fortnight ago which explained in detail the various programmes and events that are coming up in this calendar year, concerning the nationals (both men and women), domestic action and grassroots…
Start of new domestic campaign this Sunday, reintroduction of ‘Reserve Leagues’
Action from the domestic leagues (Digicel Premier League, Coca Cola Division One and Division Two) in Barbados resumes this Sunday. It will be marked by a customary parade of all the BFA’s registered teams at the National Stadium. But the format of domestic competition has been modified with the reintroduction of the ‘Reserve Leagues’. What does this mean? It means “all clubs from across the three leagues with more than one team entered will now play in their respective reserve leagues”, according to the BFA President Randy Harris. Harris continued: “This has become necessary to avoid loopholes that some of our senior teams use to manipulate the seeded players system in order to get an unfair advantage on their opponent. It seems a sensible decision and the most plausible thing to do to prevent unfair play from some senior sides.
Clubs utilizing longer transfer market to effect
Furthermore, clubs have been taking advantage of the extended deadline in the transfer market (February 21) and there has been a considerable amount of movers.Below is a round-up of some of the top-flight teams’ transfer business:
Last year’s Premier League runners-up, Brittons Hill, have sold forwards Arantes Lawrence and Reviere Williams while Rommel Bynoe, a key figure in the side last year, has penned a deal with neighbours Dayrells Road. In terms of acquisitions, highly rated attacker Mustafa Haqq is the pick of the bunch. Dayrells Road, who only just staved off relegation last season, have also been busy in the market, waving goodbye to Tristan “Fishy” Parris and midfielder Brian Bynoe. The return of local lad Chavez Lloyd could help ease the pain. Eric Alleyne is back in charge of Weymouth Wales and they’ll be hoping for a solid season with Alleyne at the helm, bringing in ex-national youth players Anderson Grannum and Shane Clarke. Notre Dame did little business for much of the window but acted swiftly on deadline day by signing three young, raw prospects Antonio Corbin, Mark Bushell and Rajohn Hawkesworth. Finally, Gall Hill have brought in national forward Diquan Adamson from the Dames to accompany youth team striking partner Jabarry “Papi” Chandler and the improving Shaquille “Zuka” Boyce.
All these transfers promise to benefit the Premier League for the coming season. One team to keep an eye on, especially, is Gall Hill as they’ve made some astute purchases and will be looking to build on their mid-table finish last campaign.
Enhancing grassroots football
According to Harris: “In conjunction with the NSC, the BDF Sports Programme and a number of volunteer coaches has already instituted the grassroots programme for children aged 6-12, male and female. This activity will serve to educate them on the basics, keep tabs on their academic performances and to generally expose our young footballers to structure and discipline while introducing FIFA’s and CONCACAF’s programmes such as ‘Protect The Goal’, which deals with basic hygiene, proper nutrition and aids awareness.”
Schemes like this can often go unnoticed but they are fantastic initiatives setup to benefit young people. Children will flourish under this sort of guidance and educating them not only on football but other critical aspects of life – such as hygiene, nutrition, structure – is essential for their development. And no doubt, this will have an important impact on Barbadian football as youngsters look to apply their knowledge from grassroots programmes in local or even national practices.
Coaches selected to train ‘elite’ teams
Specified coaches have been added to the Under-13, Under-15, Under-17 and Under-20 age categories to further improve the young squads development. Talented individuals in these categories will be taught more complex drills, given more feedback and worked harder by coaches specifically picked out by the BFA. For example, Kenville Layne is the Head Coach of the Men’s U20s, with Manager Dave Small by his side. This another step taken by the BFA to develop the younger footballing landscape in Barbados.
Friendly arranged with Jamaica, will be big test
This Sunday, Barbados will lock horns with Jamaica in an international friendly at the National Stadium. This match will be useful for Caribbean Cup (the draw for which has yet to be made by the CFU) preparation as both teams are expected to participate in that tournament. Remarkably, Barbados’ last competitive fixture was in 2012; a 1-0 win against Dominica. Sunday’s game will be the first the national team has played in nearly two years so a little ring-rustiness is inevitable. It will be a significant test for manager Colin Forde’s men as Jamaica have some big names in their roster and already have their targets fixed on the 2018 World Cup.
Forde was asked on his group of players in the press conference and he had this to say: “It’s a young squad mostly made up of Premier League players, players from the BDF programme and one or two players from the lower divisions. The team has been training quite well so I’m happy with the turnout at this time.”
Wigan Athletic defender and national side skipper Emmerson Boyce isn’t in the squad and thus will not feature because of his busy schedule in England. This is a blow as his experience and defensive capabilities will be missed, however, his absence is likely to pave the way for youngsters Ramar Miller (aged 20), Akeene Browne (21) and Zico Phillips (19) to get a run-out. There are 13 other players in the 22-man squad under the aged 25 or under. So when Forde speaks of a ‘young squad’, he really does mean a young squad. But with young players comes an air of unpredictability, enchantment and exuberance. If Barbados can start brightly – working the flanks, pressing Jamaica high up the pitch – and give the home crowd something to shout about then they stand a legitimate chance of at least a draw.
Forde, a member of the national squad throughout the 1980s, has also touched on the striking situation within the side, telling Nation News: “Goalscoring at the Barbados level . . . has always been a problem – let’s not fool ourselves. I find that when the players turn out in the league, they play with a bit more freedom and seem more relaxed, and that is what I want transferred to the international set-up.”
Barbados have selected four strikers for the Jamaica match: Jabarry Chandler, Armando Lashley, Mario Harte and Chai Lloyd, all of whom are aged 25 or under. The youngest of the lot is Chandler, who has been impressing Forte in training sessions: “He has looked pretty sharp at practice and has shown what he can do. It has given me food for thought and [he] stands a good chance of playing against Jamaica.”
22-year-old Paradise forward, Lashley – who has top scored at his club for the last three consecutive seasons -, will also fancy his chances of starting and he very kindly spoke to The Home of Caribbean Football via Twitter. Asked on how excited he is to start playing again after such a hiatus from the national football programme, Lashley replied “Well words can’t explain how happy I am to represent my country once more” before commenting on Sunday’s showdown “We know it’s a tough task playing Jamaica but we’ll give of our best; a draw would be good but a win would be incredible”.
And of course, you can find out the upshot of Barbados v Jamaica on our Twitter account @caribbeanftbl.
Senior women looking forward to Caribbean Cup, World Cup qualifying
Under the stewardship of Eric Alleyne – a brittle, rigorous coach – the Barbadian senior women will this year attempt to qualify for their first ever World Cup. The top three finishers in the Caribbean Cup competition (the finals are in July) qualify for the women’s version of the World Cup next year in Canada. Qualifying for the inaugural Women’s Caribbean Cup occurs in May, although we are still waiting on the official draw for groups.
Coach Sasha Sutherland, working in tandem with Alleyne and Alleyne’s sideman Edward Smith, talked about how the girls are coping with their preparations: “We are in a strong position within the CFU rankings. We consider our chances favorable. The girls are actually in training – we train three times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays. And that is supported by blackboard sessions on Fridays.” So as you can see, the approach is thorough and professional. The coaching staff recently delivered (in January) a rallying speech to motivate the players for the months to come. It is very interesting to observe.
Whatever happens, we wish the Barbadian women all the best in their Caribbean Cup and potentially World Cup qualifying exploits.
By Nathan Carr