J'can Edwards says CNL win a fillip to TCI football on a whole

BY SEAN A WILLIAMS
Deputy Sport Editor

Friday, November 01, 2019

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Football in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) appears to have turned the proverbial corner.

With their dramatic 5-2 victory over Sint Maarten last month in Group D action of League C of the Concacaf Nations League (CNL) has come a real sense of hope and possibilities.

Technical director of TCI football, the Jamaican Andrew Edwards, says the team's first win “is a very important fillip to generate confidence and to increase belief in the work that is being done”.

“There is no doubt that Head Coach Omar (Edwards) and the rest of the staff have done tremendous work with the team to have enabled them that level of success in that game,” Edwards told the Jamaica Observer recently.

The TCI are currently second in the three-team group on three points from two matches, behind leaders Guatemala who are on nine from three matches. The TCI lost their opening match 0-3 to Guatemala.

Sint Maarten, meantime, sit at the bottom without a point.

Edwards, a former Jamaica men's Under-17 coach, says while he and his team of Jamaican coaches have been shaking things up in the TCI, the positives being experienced recently is a manifestation of efforts that started way back.

“When we took a deeper look at technical football we are cognisant of the fact that the current team is a product of the work that has been done over the past 10 years, and it's important that we are able to harness and nurture that talent so we can get good results.

“It [the recent win] will give confidence to the work that we are preparing for the next six to 10 years down the road where we expect to be a more potent and competent footballing nation within the region. For all intent and purposes, winning that game is a big boost to that process and we hope that it will inspire other players to stay with the programme and to get others to come out,” said Edwards.

He noted that success of the senior men's team is crucial and a telling yardstick of the state of the overall programme.

“The senior men's programme is the flagship of any football association and the success of that programme will have significant ripple effects right throughout, so I always want to ensure that the senior men's programme is doing well.

“However, a single game is simply an occurrence or event within the long-term development programme, and so while that event [winning first match] is significant, it is not the be-all of the long-term vision and programme,” the TCI technical head said.

Edwards, a Portland native, shared that the vision for football in the relative virginal TCI landscape is one that is long-term.

“What we are trying to do is build a proper football culture and to develop teams that can compete on even keel with most of the nations within the region.

“We would have had some success at the youth level, first with the Under-15 boys at the Concacaf tournament in August where for the first time in the country's history they won a game at a regional tournament, and not too long after that, the girls followed suit, and both teams finished third in their groups,” Edwards noted.

He said he is particularly proud of the “rapid growth” of the women's programme.

“We have seen a huge influx of girls coming out for training, and only recently, we launched our national women's indoor competition and there is a lot of buzz and excitement around that.

“We are very excited at what the future will bring and the girls will be going to Concacaf in August of next year for the Under-15 competition and we are putting together a solid preparation programme for that and hopefully we will go there and distinguish ourselves,” said the respected Jamaica youth coach.

He said there is also groundbreaking work happening at the schoolboy level in the British territory.

“The national boys programme right now is not that active and that is due to the fact that we just launched the first-ever schoolboy football competition in the country and we have six schools competing and this already is generating a whole lot of excitement within the schools, the communities and the past student bodies.

“So a lot of things are happening and we are looking to build a sustainable programme that will bear fruit for the foreseeable future,” Edwards reasoned.

The Jamaican paused to recognise the impact of the CNL and how it is changing football, especially across the Caribbean.

“The Nations League is a big thing and it is the first time in the history of the TCI that we are having these numbers of international games in the period in which we have had them, so without a doubt it is causing the development of the football to be accelerated as against what used to transpire where the national team was assembled a couple of weeks, or even days, before international games.

“What we are finding now is that the technical staff will have to be planning the programme every single day by identifying players, developing talent, and now the players themselves recognise the importance of these competitions that open doors for them in different ways, in terms of scholarships and professional opportunities, and even just the opportunity to travel and see the rest of the world,” Edwards said from his home in the TCI.

The CNL, he admits, has given football in the tiny Caribbean territory a new lease on life.

“Once this Nations League is maintained then it will inspire the next generation. Luckily for us, we have a couple of Under-15 boys in our senior national team now, so they will have the benefit of being there from the start, and hopefully becoming stellar performers for us in the years to come,” he said.

Edwards says he and his Jamaican technical team of Omar, Aaron Lawrence and Shavar Thomas have been getting the full backing of the Sonia Fulford-led football association, the TCI Government and encouraging support from private sector interests.“There has been a tremendous show of support from the association and the president for the projects that we have been putting forward to develop the technical side of the game.

“The football is an inclusive package, so when you move one item there is a spiralling effect on other aspects of the programme, so as we seek to increase the number of competitions, the number of players involved, international games, etcetera, then it requires greater investment and input from the corporate community and Government, and so far we have been having the good fortune of the Government stepping forward with the school football programme and the discussions continue there.

“The corporate community has been pretty good, but there is room for improvement, but based on the indications they have been doing well so far, so we do intend to continue to build these relationships, so that in years to come the TCI can be competitive so that the young men and women of the TCI can have real hope and aspirations as it relates to football,” he expressed.

More importantly, Edwards notes that the community at large is beginning to buy into the invigorated efforts to take the game to the next level.

“The community on a whole has been very embracing and very supportive, and that is not to suggest that there are not challenges, but in a general context I am quite satisfied in the direction we are going and I am hopeful for the future as well,” he ended.


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