The Caribbean possesses a wealth of natural football talent but sustained programmes to nurture and harness it will determine whether the players attain the highest levels of their ability.
This striking observation was made yesterday by Ged McNamee, Sunderland’s Academy of Light manager yesterday at a media conference at Digicel’s Head Office, Maraval Road in Port-of-Spain.
Saying football was not rocket science, McNamee stressed the importance to allowing the young footballers the opportunity to develop their craft in a simple manner. Accompanying McNamee to Trinidad and Tobago is Sunderland Academy Head Coach Carlton Fairweather.
Present too at the head table were Niall Dorian, Digicel Trinidad’s Chief Executive Officer; Dexter Skeene, CEO of the TT Pro League; and Wayne Riley, chairman of the Local Organising Committee for the FIFA Women’s Under-17 World Cup to be staged here.
McNamee said he got an opportunity to make a quick evaluation of local footballers in action and was impressed with what he saw during the first half of the Digicel Pro Bowl Final between Joe Public and Caledonia at the Marvin Lee Stadium, Macoya on Friday night.
He also got a useful insight on the challenges faced by local coaches during a “Coach-to-Coach” session yesterday morning when the three-day Digicel/Sunderland AFC Football Clinic kicked off.
McNamee said special emphasis at the clinic will be placed on the technical aspects of a player’s development which empowers them to adapt and keep pace with the modern game.
McNamee said at Sunderland, the youngsters enter the academy as early as eight years old where they are taught the basics of the game and groomed into allround footballers capable of taking their place in the top levels of the game.
McNamee acknowledged that great players are born with their unique gifts and singled out England striker Wayne Rooney of Manchester United and Argentinian FIFA “World Player of the Year” Lionel Messi of Barcelona as “exceptional” but pointed that they also needed to constantly develop their game and sharpen their skills.
McNamee also highlighted the mental aspect of the young player’s development pointing out that everyone is human and prone to mistakes saying they must not be frightened of failure nor be intimidated by their coaches.
Digicel CEO Dorian in his opening address expressed his delight at the visit of the two Sunderland coaches to share their knowledge and expertise with junior coaches and players representing the ten clubs in the TT Pro League.
He urged the coaches participating in the programme to grasp the opportunity to learn from the visitors and make their contribution in placing Trinidad and Tobago on the world football map.
Riley, who represented TT Football Federation Special Advisor Jack Warner who was unable to attend the function yesterday, expressed his gratitude to Digicel for their continued support for the training and development of the young footballers.
He said the Digicel Kick-Start Clinics, presided over by former Liverpool and England star John Barnes earlier this year, greatly contributed to the unearthing of several young players throughout the Caribbean.
He was also appreciative of Digicel’s involvement in sending the young Caribbean stars for a short stint at the Sunderland Academy of Light for advanced training which he said benefitted them immensely.
Riley said Digicel envisioned the youngsters’ development in incremental steps but it has in fact enabled a quantum leap to global excellence bringing tactical and technical expertise to the players.
He said the Digicel/Sunderland Football Clinic enters a new, exciting phase as it specifically targets coaches and propels along the standardisation of coaching techniques locally.
TT Pro League CEO Skeene in his presentation noted that the future of football lies at the feet of the youth footballers and called on them to adapt to the continuing evolution of the game.
He also urged the coaches to be constantly improving and seize the opportunity to learn and pass on the new ideas to the decision-makers in their clubs.
Skeene said the Pro League places great emphasis on youth development as evidenced by their programmes focussing on the Under-17s. He also announced that the TT Pro League will soon embark on a series of lectures and seminars to benefit the personal development of the footballers.
Skeene also lamented the fact that coaches do not get the mileage they deserve and their importance in producing top class players has not been fully recognised.
He said Digicel’s involvement in the development programmes “is a not an expenditure but an investment, a duty, a responsibility and an obligation.”