Letter to the Sports EditorEnding the foreign vs local player debate in Guyana Football Fraternity

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Letter to the Sports EditorEnding the foreign vs local player debate in Guyana Football Fraternity


 

Dear Editor,
One of the most widely used idioms in life is (not verbatim) – doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, is a symptom of insanity.
Using that statement as a guide in a football context – the question I pose to the Guyana football fraternity is: Why after every major Golden Jaguars and Lady Jaguars teams success in the last decade, is there an issue with many locally about more “local players” not being involved in the teams?
Are people not realizing that questioning what is a highly successful modern football trend of building international football teams is bordering on insanity now?
As the former Golden Jaguars press officer during the 2014 World Cup qualifiers who has worked throughout CONCACAF in similar roles in Trinidad with W Connection FC and the Canada National team, I humbly believe I’m making this statement from some level of authority and also concern that many in the Guyana football fraternity is missing the bigger picture. Thus I write this with a hope of changing the narrative.
I am one the few people who was present at Providence 2011 when the men defeated Trinidad, Couva 2015 when the ladies toppled Jamaica and Lenora last month during the Belize win. Amazing moments live that unfortunately in aftermath become tainted by the foreign based vs local Player discussion.
The Football side:
Guyana secured Gold Cup qualification, in a tournament where Jamaica has been to consecutive finals in 2015 and 2017.
These Jamaica sides were filled with English born players of Jamaican heritage most famously 2015/16, premier League winning captain from Leicester City, Wes Morgan.
Notably the Guyana team built by the British-Jamaica coach Michael Johnson with the usual great recruitment help from Faizal Khan follows the Reggae Boyz successful blueprint.
Around world football many teams are hunting their diaspora for talent. Outside of Jamaica we have seen CFU nation’s French Guiana, Curacao, Suriname make strong attempt to build teams similarly.
During my time working with W Connection, we travelled to Suriname in 2014 to play a unofficial friendly vs a Suriname team full of Dutch players. They were making a notable attempt to petition their government to create a dual citizenship rule to allow many black players of Surinamese heritage who historically become legendary for Holland, to be able to play for Suriname. It eventually failed for bureaucratic reasons – but that’s how far Guyana’s neighbors were willing to go.
In Canada during the 2017 Gold Cup I was part of team as the Canadian Fast tracked the citizenship of Ghana immigrant Alphonso Davies to play for Canada. Two years later he is now playing for Bayern Munich.
The only countries in world football who would objectively never look outside for football expertise because of their unique history with the sport are Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Italy – to some degree Spain.
Cricket has a rich history in Guyana since West Indies played its first international game in 1928 and has local cricket expertise in abundance.
Inversely Guyana football has a non-existent history since the nation first international in 1905 doesn’t have massive football local expertise.
The last decade or so in Guyana’s football existence has been its most successful & it’s coincided with overseas expertise being involved.
Whether it was the Lady Jaguars first Gold Cup appearance to the Men’s upcoming tournament debut, or the presence of Jamaal Shabbaz, aforementioned Faizal Khan, Richard Groden & coach Johnson.
Even criticism of Elite League is knee jerk. Currently Trinidad football association has their bank accounts seized by the courts and hasn’t been able to start the TT pro League for 2019 – leaving local striker Sheldon Holder inactive and forcing goalkeeper Akel Clarke to play in Suriname.
The Human side:
Building on the point above, a factor not considered here is the state of life as black/coloured people in North America and Europe.
Without getting too political it is clear that there is a rise in the United States & England societies especially in anti immigrant rhetoric and discrimination to coloured & black citizens.
This has crept into the sporting arena alarmingly where in European football with the level of racist abuse black football players are receiving.
Over in America everyone is well aware of the NFL black players protest and NBA black players being abused by some fans.
Government rules and misguided people in those countries are telling and sending signals overtly and covertly to these players and people that are making them question if they are wanted in modern America & England.
So how can it be fair to players who come to represent their heritage country as a form of escape from that toxicity and have Guyanese people – call them “foreign” and question how Guyanese they are?
How do locals think players feel who in some cases have professional clubs who question their logic to play for unknown football country like Guyana? It need to stop they are 100 % Guyanese.
This Gold Cup qualification and consistent foreign player recruitment thus need to be fully embraced and seen as the potential starting block to build for the future, so that one day senior teams can be almost 100% Guyana born with targeted help from players in the diaspora.
Colin Benjamin.



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