A round up of some of the latest big transfers made in the Caribbean, with Guyana being particularly active in the market. Santokie Nagulendran writes…
The FIFA transfer window has become an event synonymous with big money transfers worth millions and millions of pounds across Europe, and in more recent times, China. In the Caribbean, where populations are a lot smaller and a substantial amount of clubs are not professional, the window is less notorious. However, the January transfer window this year did see a remarkable amount of transfers in Guyana, with 82 players making the move due to the precarious climate engulfing the game there.
Guyana’s Elite League is the premier level of football in the country, yet this season has seen some turmoil in the build-up, with four clubs – Alpha United, Slingerz FC, Pele FC and Georgetown Football Club – pulling out of competition due to what they saw as breaches in the constitution made by the Guyana Football Federation, such as the addition of two new clubs to the league. Last season’s champions Slingerz and runners-up Alpha United were consequently removed from the 2017 CFU Club Championship by CONCACAF for “not being in good standing with their federation” and this created a problem. The majority of Guyana’s locally-based national team players featured for those two clubs – so with no football on the horizon with their respective clubs, what would they do?
The answer is seek moves elsewhere with many using the window to return to their hometown clubs. Elite League side Fruta Conquerors, who recently hired Guyanese-born former Canadian international Alex Bunbury as their club president, were active in the window making substantial additions to their roster in a quest to win the league title this season. Fruta brought in veteran striker Anthony ‘Awo’ Abrams from Alpha United, as well as securing moves for the talented young duo Pernell Schultz and Kareem Knights on loan deals from Trinbagonian side Morvant Caledonia United. All of these players had previously played for the club so it was familiar territory for them. Speaking to the media, Abrams outlined his motivation to join Fruta: “President of the club Alex Bunbury approached me and told me the long-term plan of the club is to build for the future. The club has a lot of young players, and my ambition in joining the club is to guide them using my experience.”
Abrams, who has played in the CFU Club Championship before, also explained how he kept fit despite not playing any competitive football for months: “For years I have always dedicated myself to football: I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I go for runs in the park every day, in that way I have kept my fitness at a high level. So when I am suddenly called upon, as I was for the Golden Jaguars last year, I am always ready to perform.”
Last season’s MVP for Slingerz and national team winger Trayon Bobb secured a move back to his hometown club Utivulgt Utd while fellow national player Colin Nelson joined Georgetown team Western Tigers. These are teams which do not play in the Elite League, outlining the fact that some players just wanted to get back to playing competitive football regardless of the level.
Vurlon Mills, a popular player in Guyana, made a move to 2016 T&T Pro League runners-up San Juan Jabolteh, returning to a league he has played in before. He told the Guyana Times: “I am signing to represent not only myself, but all the Guyanese players who have worked so hard to qualify, but now lost their opportunity of playing in the CFU Club Championship and beyond.” Indeed, with the current impasse, the people who have ultimately lost out are the players.
It will be interesting to see what happens to players who decided to stay at clubs who are currently inactive. Dominica’s Julian Wade did not get a transfer from Slingerz ahead of this year’s Windward Islands Championship. Guyana’s talented midfielder Daniel Wilson remains at Alpha while mercurial striker Gregory ‘Jackie Chan’ Richardson, the first local Guyanese player to feature in MLS, did not secure a move away from Pele FC.
Elsewhere in the Caribbean, the Jamaican Red Stripe Premier League recorded thirteen transfers. Most prominent was 26-year-old former Reggae Boyz international Claudious Blackburn moving from current bottom side Boys Town to Maverly Hughenden. 31-year-old Luton Shelton, who had a brief spell in England for Sheffield United in 2007 and has a remarkable 35 goals for Jamaica – making him the island’s all-time leader scorer – also secured a free transfer back to the club he started at, Harbour View.
In Trinidad & Tobago, it was a quiet window although some transfers were made. Central FC boosted their squad ahead of the CFU Club Championship by signing 32-year-old defender Julius James, who has had a lengthy career playing in the USA, and has now returned to the country of his birth from the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. San Juan Jabloteh, despite signing Mills, have lost a significant player in striker Wills Plaza, with the Soca Warriors international joining East Bengal in India. Finally, W Connection centre-forward Shackiel Henry moved to Vietnamese club Song Lam Nghe An FC.
So a month of arrivals and departures has seen many clubs make personnel changes in a bid to remain competitive for the rest of the domestic season. Now the business has been done, let the Caribbean football commence.
By Santokie Nagulendran