By Neto Baptiste
President of the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association (ABFA) Everton Gonsalves has assured football lovers that action will kick off in the body’s lower tiers this month.
In an interview on Thursday, the former national striker indicated that slow club registration has forced the football association to extend its deadline date but the aim is to have both divisions start during the course of September.
“The premier league started on October 27 last year but we are looking to start way before that and the First and Second Division usually starts in September at around the 21st, but we are looking to start earlier in September,” he said.
The football boss acknowledged that the lethargic registration could impact the original target date of September 21 but said clubs have been making efforts to make good on their commitments.
“A number of them are utilizing their offsets; those who have offsets, for outstanding fees and a number of them are requesting to pay in instalments, which I am considering and also, the transfer window would have opened yesterday [September 4] and you know you can only transfer if you’re registered, so that has served to speed up the registration packages,” he said.
Gonsalves said also that work has commenced at the Antigua Recreation Grounds (ARG) with a view of having the facility ready at the earliest possible date, while preparations at the FA’s technical center are also being finalized ahead of next week’s National League contest against Aruba.
“The time-frame, looking at where we are going, we are looking to bulk up the numbers and you know we have a good relationship with the prison, so we have requested their assistance to come and do most of the preparatory work so that Merrick can move speedily along. The sprucing and make-up is being carried out at Paynters to ensure that another signal moment for us where, we promised local matches and we got that, we promised international friendlies and now we have an international full competition match on a FIFA-available date,” the president said.
Head curator at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground Anthony Merrick had predicted it could take at least three months before the ARG is completely back to its pristine state. Gonsalves is however hopeful that the facility could be ready by mid-October.