April was a significant month for the Caribbean game with male, female and youth football coming under the spotlight. Here’s a look back at what happened…
Windward Islands inaugural women’s tournament (7-11 April)
Held in St Vincent & the Grenadines, the Windward Islands inaugural women’s tournament (WIWT) pitted the four Windward Islands nations – SVG, Dominica, Grenada and St Lucia – against each other spanning across four days. This is something that the WIFA had been planning for a while and it was great to see Caribbean women’s football being given the exposure it deserves. Two victories and one draw was sufficient for SVG to win the title as they built from the back, securing two clean sheets in three outings. Arima Kandice Franklyn scored with seven minutes left on the clock in her team’s opener against Dominica, a 2-2 draw with St Lucia followed, before SVG replicated their opening scoreline versus Grenada in the final fixture. Annesta Richards picked up the ‘Most Outstanding Goalkeeper’ award while her teammate Akiria Samuel won ‘Most Outstanding Defender’. Dominica earned a second place finish with a record of one defeat, one draw and one win. That win was a resounding one over St Lucia on the final day as the Sisserou Girls scored an impressive five goals, star forward Alijah Titre getting in on the act to notch her second of the tournament. She topped the final goal-scoring charts alongside St Lucian skipper Ellaisa Marquis.
Grenada and St Lucia, meanwhile, both ended up on two points having failed to win one of their three matches. The former went through a significant amount of training leading up to the tournament so will be disappointed not to have made more of an impact, while St Lucia relied heavily on the ability of the aforementioned Marquis, a 24-year-old midfielder with experience playing for MNU Women in the United States. A blot on the WIWT’s copybook was the fact that the organisers didn’t make it FIFA recognised, meaning the tournament didn’t appear on the world governing body’s website and none of the islands will receive points to climb up the rankings. Why nobody reached out to FIFA and said something is odd, but hopefully lessons are learned for next year’s edition, which will be held in Dominica.
CONCACAF inaugural 7 v 7 tournament (10-12 April)
As part of the confederation’s plans to develop and promote women’s football within the region, CONCACAF have created a Girls Grassroots tournament, the very first of which took place in Antigua & Barbuda. Coaching courses were conduced on the 9th and 10th before the action kicked off over the weekend. Almost 300 people got involved as play was split into two age groups: U-13 (110 total players from 10 teams) and Open Age (107 total players from nine teams). Green Bay Primary School reigned victorious in the U-13 category while the brilliantly named Big Up Yourself took first place in the Open Age. The coaching staff present were working on behalf of the Antigua FA (ABFA) and CONCACAF Instructor Heather Dyche thanked them for their support. The five main objectives of the 7 v 7 tournament are as follows:
- Empowering young girls through football
- Strategies for coaching girls and women
- Small-sided games
- Pre-match, in-match, and post-match coaching strategies and training session planning
- How to organize a grassroots tournament
President of the ABFA, Everton Gonsalves, spoke positively on widening opportunities for females in Antigua: “As you know, our mandate is all about the development of football in general but female football holds a special place in our hearts and we want to ensure that Antigua is keeping pace with the rest of our colleagues throughout the region and internationally in terms of female football development.” The grassroots initiative will be moving to different islands as the months develop but with the similar aims to encourage and educate staying the same.
CFU Club Championship First Round (15-19 April)
You can read my thoughts on this here via The False Nine.
AMF Futsal Men’s World Cup (17-25 April)
Futsal often seems to go under the radar, but its showpiece event took place in late April: the AMF Men’s World Cup. Games took place in six venues across five cities – Brest, Minsk, Pinsk, Maladzyechna and Barysaw – as 16 countries travelled to Belarus to compete for the trophy. One of those countries was debutants Curacao, the sole Caribbean representative at the World Cup, after they achieved qualification back in October 2014. The Dutch overseas territory was drawn into Group C alongside Czech Republic, Venezuela and eventual champions Colombia, who successfully defended their title from 2013. Indeed, they got off to a promising start by drawing to their European opponents; Dannick Koeiman replying for Curacao after conceding in the early exchanges. However, the ensuing two matches saw them leak a total of 18 goals and any faint hopes of reaching the knockout stages were dashed. Some consolation is that they were able to net twice against a very strong Colombian side, with Stallone Isenia and Jean Paulleta grabbing the goals. This was the first time a Caribbean team had featured in the tournament in 12 years with the Netherland Antilles (abolished in 2010 and now known as Curacao) playing in 2003. That generation whopped Italy 10-4 but lost to Spain and Russia. Ultimately, Curacao were placed in a very tough group and weren’t expected to go very far. Sampling this kind of experience will only help the growth of Futsal in Curacao, though, as the players pass on tips to the up-and-coming youngsters.
Pan American Games Official Football Draw (24 April)
The official football draw for the Pan American Games, taking place in Toronto, Canada this July, happened on Friday night. It determined the groups, fixtures and dates for both male and female competitions, with Trinidad & Tobago (T&T) the Caribbean participants in both categories. For the men, T&T have been drawn into Group B alongside reigning champions Mexico, Paraguay and Uruguay. They qualified for the Pan American Games thanks to their first place finish in CONCACAF U-20 Championship qualifying (Caribbean zone) as they beat Haiti 3-0 in the final. The competition is open to players born on or after 1 January 1993, the same cut-off date for the Rio 2016 men’s football tournament. T&T will be led by Serbian Zoran Vranes and he has already created a preliminary list of 39 players who are in training. Vranes guided the U-20s to the 2009 World Cup at that youth level. There’s lots of talent available to him but the team’s downfall at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship was a lack of preparation, which they seem to be tackling at the moment. The top two from both groups (A and B) advance to the knockout stages. Will T&T do it? They’re more than capable.
As for the women, the competition is open to all age ranges, same procedure as Rio 2016. The Soca Princesses made it to the Pan American Games because they won the 2014 Women’s Caribbean Cup, played in August last year. They’ll contest Argentina, Mexico and Colombia in Group A. This is one of the best T&T female teams in quite a while – they were on the verge of making history and qualifying for the Women’s World Cup at the back-end of 2014, only to lose to Ecuador due to a last minute goal. American Randy Waldrum is the head coach and knows what he’s doing. It will be a fantastic experience for these ladies whatever the outcome.
By Nathan Carr