Sports

Saint Lucia National Senior Men’s Football Coach Jamaal Shabazz Resigns

TRINIDADIAN born Jamaal Shabazz is no longer head coach of the Saint Lucia men’s national football team.

Former Saint Lucia men’s senior football team head coach, Jamaal Shabazz. (Photo: Anthony De Beauville)
Former Saint Lucia men’s senior football team head coach, Jamaal Shabazz. (Photo: Anthony De Beauville)

The 106-word letter read in part: “I wish to inform you that from August 25th, 2021. I will no longer hold the position of Head Coach of the Saint Lucia Football Association (SLFA) Inc.”

According to 57-year-old Shabazz in his letter, “After discussions with my family and the President of the SLFA Lyndon Cooper, I have decided to move on to another professional pathway.”

Shabazz wrote, “Having already informed the SLFA, I wish to thank all the players, staff, fans and Saint Lucians I have connected with for the opportunity and experience in working together.”

“I leave with only friends and no enemies and wish the SLFA, the Saint Lucia people and programme all the best in the future.” added Shabazz, ending with “May God bless you all.”

Shabazz has coached the Guyana men’s team as well as served as an interim Trinidad and Tobago coach. He was appointed head coach of the Saint Lucia men’s team in 2019 and was expected to lead that country through the first round of the 2022 Concacaf World Cup qualifiers against Haiti, Nicaragua, Belize and Turks and Caicos.

However, on the eve of their opening match in the round-robin Group C series in March, Saint Lucia withdrew.

FIFA did not announce a reason for the withdrawal, saying in a statement that “further details will follow in due course.”

Saint Lucia, is ranked 175th, was the first of 211 nations to withdraw from qualifying, which has been reconfigured due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Host Qatar is guaranteed a berth, and the other nations are competing for 31 slots in the tournament, to be played from November 21st to December 2022.

FIFA’s disciplinary committee may impose sanctions for a withdrawal, but sanctions usually are contemplated in the event of a boycott.

In March the decision to withdraw from the qualifiers by the SLFA did not sit well with the players and the Saint Lucia Government.

The SLFA decision not to participate in the qualifiers shocked players of the national football team, who protested outside the association’s headquarters in La Clery, demanding answers from the executive headed by Lyndon Cooper.

The Allen Chastanet lead government responded to the news, expressing disappointment.

According to a statement from the Office of the Prime Minister, the SLFA took the decision without first consulting with the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports.

The SLFA is an independent organisation that governs football within Saint Lucia.

“The Government of Saint Lucia through its Sports Infrastructure Programme made it a priority to upgrade the Soufriere Mini Stadium to host World Cup qualifiers and the Government of Saint Lucia is clear and unambiguous in its commitment to upgrade facilities for this particular objective,” said the statement.

The statement added: “The Government of Saint Lucia is further concerned about reports that the ‘authorities’ turned down requests for special training permissions for a national football team.

“The government can confirm that we have no record of a request being made by the SLFA to have a team train for World Cup Qualifiers.”

According to the government, neither the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports nor the Office of the Chief Medical Officer received such a request.

Shabazz had signed two-year contract back in 2019 to replace Francis “Panko” Mc Donald who managed the Saint Lucian team, during the Windward Islands Senior Football Tournament.

Mc Donald is the current Technical Director for the Gros Islet Football League.

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