The St Lucia Football Association [SLFA] Inc. is extending support to local football players aspiring to compete at the professional level in the sport through its Player Development Programme.
According to SLFA’s general secretary Victor Reid, the Player Development Program is a “support system” geared to facilitate and cater for the island’s national players or other prospective athletes. This support programme aims to help harness a cadre of top-ranked footballers.
The SLFA general secretary noted that several overseas –based semi-pro and professional clubs have been scouting for talent and are desirous of getting local players with the requisite ‘skills set’ into their respective camps.
“The SLFA has facilitated the process to a certain extent,” Reid told reporters at a recent media brief. “For instance, some players may be playing in Jamaica, or in the Dominican Republic and they can’t afford the airfares to get there for the trials, so we would give them that kind of support to go to the trials.”
Also, he said, there are other instances whereby “some players don’t have the means …not just to go, but in terms of having equipment and so forth. And so, we would give them that kind of support”.
Added Reid, “We also look for clubs (overseas) and try to get them to look at (scout) our players and to take them on and allow the player/s to play for them.”
He said “the trend of thought” indicates that players must get the opportunity to play in the overseas leagues to acquire the “proficiency” that is needed to make it to the professional stage.
With focus on producing players of a high quality, Reid asserted: “So that is one of the thrust that we have , to try and get as many players as possible out of Saint Lucia …to play and compete in tournaments on a regular basis.”
He said that while at the national level, players get to compete within a six-month period or so, however the SLFA is cognizant of the value and importance of players’ participating in higher professional leagues.
In addition, said Reid, the SLFA also provide scholarship opportunities for young players. He added, “In the past we had a strong scholarship programme with the Free Kick Foundation …and we also have a local component of the Scholarship Programme where we provide support to young Saint Lucians to attend classes at the secondary school level and also at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College [SALCC].”
He said the “International Scholarship programme is on a low” due to the Covid-19 issues and “we are hoping that by sometime next year, it will resurface.”
Reid explained that additional support is provided to national players through dialogue and consultation with the national head coach Stern John and his technical team “on how to deal with their issues and how to become better national players and so on…and he (John) has developed a very good rapport with some of these players, in terms of giving them the advice and the support that they need to become the best players that they can be.”
Commenting on plans for the establishment of a semi-professional soccer league on island, the SLFA general secretary stated that the onus is on getting players “more playing time” and to promote “our own semi-professional league in Saint Lucia”.
He asserted: “The objective is to raise the standards and to give them the opportunity to play more football in Saint Lucia. That will augur well so for us, in terms of our national teams that the players will not have to be traveling, all the time …and hopefully, as they progress in Saint Lucia, the clubs will recruit them to play for them.”
Additionally, said Reid, the SLFA has implemented its Training Development Program with the view to assisting each of its 19 league /affiliates with the sum of S20, 000 to help with its community development programs. He explained that the figure may vary from $20, 000 to $30,000 each year depending on the structure of the program
However, there are certain criteria that the affiliates must meet to access these funds, and this includes; having a technical director, women’s football programme, national programme, budget and “the leagues getting 50% of the funding in the first six months …and they get 50% in the second part of the year.”
Reid said, the SLFA has also initiated the use of QuickBooks to the leagues, and “every league member has an online QuickBooks account, so when they receive the $10,000 or whatever sum it is, you have to enter it into QuickBooks and every transaction is recorded in QuickBooks”.
He said an SLFA accounts clerk reviews the accounts daily, “because FIFA needs to know how the funds are spent and FIFA needs to be satisfied that the funds are spent properly on things that are in the regulations.”
On the Talent Identification Programme, Reid explained that FIFA had conducted a survey of Saint Lucia football and in addition, provide countries with an opportunity to put up a program that is subsequently funded.
Reid says the SLFA has been in dialogue with FIFA officials and have requested the implementation of a zonal programme “where we are going to identify those young players who have potential and bring them to a centre in the zone, maybe two or three times per week where the coaches work with them and help them develop, so they can grow up into national players …or to develop into players that can represent their various leagues in the U-13, U-17s and so on as we progress.”
He said that soon as the funds are available “we can launch the program, islandwide.”