The management of the Saint Lucia Football Association (SLFA) plans to take an in-depth review of the National Under-20 Boys team performance in the recently concluded CONCACAF Men’s Under 20 (CMU20) qualifiers, all in an effort to better assess the team missing out on qualifying for the 2022 Concacaf Men’s Under 20 Championship.
Saint Lucia fared favourably to finish undefeated in the tournament, but with a tally of two wins and two draws from four matches; the Dominican Republic with three wins and one draw under its belt piqued its way to qualify for next year’s championships.
What next for the progress of this current crop of players is of major concern to the SLFA.
According to SLFA president Lyndon Cooper, the squad was seen as Saint Lucia’s ‘Dream Team’ and there were high expectations for them, moving forward.
The reality for the organization is that this would appear to be one of our strongest teams in the last six or seven years. And what we recognize is that the team did not meet the organization’s overall objective, which is to qualify for a next World Cup,” stated Cooper.
“We did a lot of planning and put resources into it and once the team doesn’t meet the overall objective there is definitely going to be an overall review of what is to come next,” he said.
“The reality for us is that it’s a very disappointing performance, since we did not win the group and we did not advance to the second round.
He referred to the remarkable unbeaten run that this team had achieved over the years, with the nucleus of the squad consisting of players from the Under 14 to Under 18 age range.
Cooper feels the team is now positioned, now at the ‘crosswords’ and a definite and decisive evaluation will have to be made as to how the organization manages and moves forward with the players.
While the SLFA may be dismayed with this latest setback, Cooper said the ultimate pursuit is for all national teams to be involved in pursuit of Saint Lucia’s representation at a World Cup, “as the plan is to get to the next World Cup, and if we push you , we expect you to do what it takes to get there. But it did not happen and this is something that we have to take a second look at.”
This U20 Men’s team had been thoroughly groomed under the astute stewardship of former (now deceased) national youth coach, Casim “Vasso” Louis. The team was looked upon as a ‘beacon of hope’ for Saint Lucia and as a formidable side to compete in regional and international football.
After all, in 2019, the National Under-14 team had won the Concacaf Division II Championships and were showered with much accolades, on their return home.
The SLFA president says it is now back to the drawing board, to re-strategize its goals and objectives moving forward to prepare a team for the next World Cup.
“We have to go and rethink whether to move forward and whether we start from Under-10,” declared Cooper. “We started from Under 14 and it did not work.”
Noting the significance of the ‘Grass Roots Development Program’, he noted, “That is definitely one of the continuous plans for the development of football on island.”
The SLFA is set to reevaluate and re-strategize the process towards the advancement of a team for the World Cup, and with focus on harnessing the talents of the National Under-14 Girls Team, does that present more opportunities to nurture and build a team for international representation?
“The intention of the SLFA, is that when it comes to women football is to bring more females into the sport so that we could expand the base. At least it would afford us an opportunity to increase our chances,” declared Cooper.