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Former footballer St Clair Harrigan has accused the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association (ABFA) of turning a blind eye to the pleas of a number of youth players whom, at one point, sought financial assistance while on trial with several academies in England a little over five years ago.

The Antiguan and former English Harbour player, who lives in England, said he and others had reached out to the ABFA seeking financial assistance in the amount of £1,000 per player, but said the response was not favourable.

“We reached out to the ABFA over five to six years ago and even when ‘Banks’ [Gordon Derrick] was in power and we reached out to these guys when we had them [the players] in an academy in England with Arsenal, and the ABFA promised to help and this was before ‘Banks’ was in his issue with FIFA and up to this day they haven’t given any help,” he said.

“We had the guys in England doing trials with Brentford, Luton Town, Watford and no help from the ABFA. We actually got a lawyer as well, from England, trying to reach out to them [ABFA] to try and do some student visas and every time the lawyer emailed these guys, the ABFA, they never replied; all promises,” he added. 

The players, Harrigan said, were eventually forced to return home after failing to secure the necessary financial support.

Former national player Sowerby Gomes, who is an integral figure in the management of one of the young players and national youth striker, Ronaldo Flowers, denied Harrigan’s claims, stating that there were some efforts on the part of the FA to assist Flowers.

“Because of Ronaldo’s age, Ronaldo still had to attend school while he was in England and that was a costly exercise. The ABFA jumped on board to assist Ronaldo and that was just around £1,000, which is what the ABFA would have contributed, but remember the ABFA is not in the realm of funding young athletes to go off to school. They may give a one-off shot from time to time to assist a young person in their development, but the ABFA is not solely responsible for sending off one particular individual and sponsoring them throughout their academic career if they are in college or university,” he said.

Admitting that more could have been done, Gomes, who is also head of the Villa Lions Soccer Academy where Flowers honed his skills as a player, said financial circumstances did not allow for the young player to remain in England.

“More could have been done but just that where Ronaldo was coming from there was just not enough support from that family background because they were not just in that position to help him. Yes, he was doing well in England but we recognised that of he was to remain in England, there was not just enough financial support,” the coach said.

Harrigan said the players would have, however, missed a great opportunity to filter into the England system as the clubs were seemingly impressed with a number of them.

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