WITH just two days to go a call has gone out to the Saint Lucian public to come out in record numbers to support the Team Saint Lucia senior men’s football team when they take on the Dominican Republic on Saturday 16th November and Montserrat on Tuesday 19th November 2019 at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground from 6.00 p.m. and 7.00 p.m. respectively.
Addressing the gathering during a press conference held at its headquarters in La Clery on Wednesday morning, SLFA President Lyndon Cooper said, “Those are the last two games in the championship for Saint Lucia; it is something we need to do our utmost as a country to give the team the necessary support on the field. I want to encourage all Saint Lucians to come to the games so we could stand a significant chance to remain in Group B/ Division 2 of the Nations League”.
Meanwhile, there are two new faces in the squad; Lamar Johnson the experienced and current goalkeeper of the Canvey Island Football Club based in Essex, and 23-year-old central midfielder Kerian Dion Monlouis who currently plays for Dulwich Hamlet FC in South London.
The final squad is expected to be named tomorrow (Friday 15th) following the team’s final training session at the DSCG.
Cooper went on to explain how the SLFA went about recruiting the two players. He said, “We have a head coach who understands what the plan and target is. We have reached out to two of our embassies to assist us in identifying these players. I must take this opportunity to express the SLFA’s sincere thanks to the Saint Lucia High Commissioner in London Guy Mayers, who was instrumental in facilitating us in terms of meeting all the players who have an interest in playing for Saint Lucia.”
According to Cooper, “The intention is for Saint Lucia to get to the next World Cup – the format of Caribbean football presently does not give us that opportunity with amateur players.”
He went on to explain the rationale going forward. “In the past we used to have four slots by CONCACAF, at present we have half a slot, so it’s much more difficult than in the past all because of the format. At present all countries are looking for all their professional players on their card and we will never be the exception to that pattern,” he noted.
Additionally, “We have battled trying to keep players in the programme for over six months. The year 2019 is the end of having to suggest to any individual where is their preferred choice, whether you want to show your loyalty to your club, district or country. We have made the selection for the entire world. You will no longer hear that the SLFA wants to force players to play in any structured format, the choice is theirs; they step up or they will not be part of the equation. You must not forget every single coach including the current head coach, Jamaal Shabazz, is an employee of the SLFA, not policy makers, not executive members.”
In terms of the CONCACAF Nations League, Cooper said as of June of 2019, the format had been reexamined as it related to the assembly of national teams and the national selection policy.
“There is a myth that the selection of national teams appears to be exclusive for or from domestic competitions,” he said. “I want to make it abundantly clear that as of January 1st 2020, the methods and requirements or the pool of selection for any national team at the SLFA comes from the entire world.”
He continued, “The world is no longer waiting for us to compete. The reality is, every single country is putting their best player on the field and every single country that has succeeded has put professional players on the field and we are still expecting to compete with amateur players and coaches whose desires are squarely committed to their respective clubs/ districts”.
In conclusion, Cooper noted, “As we speak, we have spent just below EC$1 million dollars for the CONCACAF Nations League on the senior national team. We have not included airfares for bringing back players or airfares for flying in professional players; once we begin to see that level of investment it means as a country and an association we must move with haste in a direction to justify the cost of participation. There is no country in the world that spends $1 million dollars on any senior team as amateur players, why should we do it as the SLFA?”