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Former Technical Director (TD) of the Guyana Football Federation (GFF), Trinidadian Jamaal Shabazz is on a brief visit to Guyana to be part of the festivities for the opening of the 21st Kashif & Shanghai Football Tournament today.

Shabazz, who is a very close friend and brother of the Kashif & Shanghai Organisation took time out to chat with members of the media on a range of issues relating to Guyana’s football and his future in the Technical arena of the sport.

Currently he is contracted by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) as the head of female department.

Shabazz commented on being back in Guyana after more than two years following his resignation as TD at the end of Guyana’s sojourn in the 2008 Digicel Caribbean Cup when Guyana failed to go past the second round which was hosted in Trinidad and Tobago.

“I did tell myself that I would have never come back to Guyana but you know people change their minds, situations change and I am happy to be back and see so many familiar faces, a lot of people who I made friends with, a lot of people I rubbed the wrong way in terms of controversy but all in all it’s a nice feeling to be in a country that was my home for three years; a country that I hold very dear to my heart.”

Quizzed on if he has any plans to return as a Coach in Guyana, Shabazz had this to say: “I don’t see that being possible right now, to work as a coach in Guyana but my heart will always be dear to the Guyana people and the Guyanese team. As you know I see myself as Guyanese and in any way that I’ll be able to help I will help.”

Shabazz stated that he is of the view that Guyana has many capable coaches in the likes of Wayne Dover and the emerging Collie Hercules.

“Also, in terms of technical development you have Lyndon France. The football is in solid hands; the challenge for Guyana is getting it all together. I thing in Caribbean society we grow up seeing batman solve the problem, superman solve the problem, Spiderman solve the problem. In Caribbean society we have not grown up seeing a collective approach to solving the problem so we have the K&S group and people in the other side of the football fraternity will fight that. And then we have the GFF and Odinga doing his thing so it’s just the need for people to see the role that football plays in the life of Guyanese and Caribbean people.”

The former GFF TD suggested that the K&S tournament excites the nation and it’s a remarkable achievement.

“How could people be divided in a situation where it’s an opportunity for people to come together? When you at the start of the tournament the stadium is full, when you look at the end of the tournament the stadium is full so a tournament like this that could excite the people to come together, people divided over that? It’s crazy.”

The versatile Shabazz pointed out that he owes a great debt to the K&S organisation since they were the ones who actually brought him to Guyana pointing out that ever since they met many, many years ago, they’ve lived like brothers.

“I am closer to K&S than even my own family in Trinidad and Tobago. The relationship that we share is very sincere and very deep. When you look at how the tournament has evolved over the last 21 years, it is very remarkable because right now as I speak there are people in T&T preparing to come to spend New Year’s Day here because of this tournament. It has become not only a great event in Guyana but a great event in the Caribbean. It has solidified and cemented a place in the Caribbean sporting and social calendar and I think that deserves tremendous accolades and respect.”

Shabazz recalled that last year when the K&S Organisation brought King Pele for the opening, it made Caribbean and International news noting that it was discussed on the blocks in the Twin Island Republic.

“I think if you can get that kind of recognition in the outer Caribbean, I think the least the people can do in your own country is say, yea, the brothers are doing something positive and join with that.”

As Muslims, Shabazz noted that God has told them to join what is good and to forbid what is wrong, pointing out that if somebody is doing something good you are obligated to helping them rather than fighting them down.

“This concept should ensure that the different arms of football and sport in Guyana come together with the K&S and make the tournament a continued success.”

Experience in Guyana
Shabazz stated that the experience he gathered while working in Guyana enhanced his ability to deal with people noting that he met a little bit of all kinds of people.

“I met genuine brothers like K&S, Frank Parris, Wayne Dover, Kavin Pearce, some brothers who are closer to me today than mu own family, than my own brother and I say this in all sincerity. In the Caribbean we have lost a lot of sincerity on the streets and this is causing all the violence.

But I also met a lot of people who you know could make life very difficult and make a lot of problems and one of the challenges that I found in Guyana was trying to work with the different stakeholders in football and keeping a relationship with all of them although they were very divided.

Trying to stay focused on carrying the national team forward, so I think I learned a lot in that regard. Also being able to do a lot with very little, the GFF does not have a huge amount of resources but we were able during that three year to rise, to get respect in Caribbean football again and it was a good experience for me. It made me better equipped to deal with the challenges that I’ve had to deal with in my life after.

When I came to Guyana there was a lot of political problems, a lot of violence; observing it and being part of the whole landscape was really a great experience for me.”

Appreciation game for Charles Pollard and Collie Hercules
Shabazz took the opportunity to share his views on the initiative of the K&S Organisation to honour these two players for their commitment to Guyana’s football pointing out that these little gestures go a long way.

He stated that one of the reasons that made him felt like never coming back to Guyana was the fact that persons do not appreciate efforts to bring Guyanese together.

“Forget football, football is just the instrument, we have to live with each other and we come to the stadium for the opening and closing of the tournament and then we leave and have problems but during the game the people are together all in one place and this is the power of football.”

Recognising Pollard and Hercules he said is a wonderful thing. “These two players have not only contributed to Guyana football, they’ve contributed to Trinidad and Tobago and Caribbean football. They are two huge, huge players.

I think they have accomplished something in T&T football. Charles Pollard has captained every team he has played for in T&T and of the ten professional teams he has played for eight. He’s captained some big club’s; Joe Public, W Connection, Caledonia AIA, San Juan Jabloteh, North East Stars among others. When they came to T&T little was known of them so they have accomplished something and to see that K&S sees it fit to honour them is great and this would go a long way for the future generation of players to know that at least somebody can recognise your efforts.”

He noted that playing for the National team of Guyana takes a lot of sacrifice and he would like to see this kind of recognition continues in the future and includes officials also.

“Not only the K&S must show appreciation, the GFF, the Government of Guyana which must see the opportunity for integration.  This is a situation to show the integration because you see it at K&S, Kashif is one race and Shanghai is next race, what a symbol for Guyana and for the future.”