By Neto Baptiste
Clubs competing in the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association (ABFA) domestic programme are not in favour of a cap being placed on the importation of players.
This, according to President of the ABFA, Everton “Batow” Gonsalves, is the main reason why the body has not moved to place any restrictions on teams wishing to import players in an effort to boost their chances of winning a championship.
“People are speaking about Batow and them don’t want to put a cap on this and on that but the competition rules, including any having to do with a cap, will have to be approved [by the clubs]. So if I go up and propose a cap of only one overseas player and the majority of the clubs — because we have a democratic organization — says put it to a vote and the clubs reject it again, then am I supposed to take the beating for that again,” he said.
Gonsalves was weighing in on a discussion regarding the apparent neglect of youth development in the sport at the club level.
The former striker also said that local players are faced with the tough task of juggling a full time job and remaining a permanent staple in their community teams given time constraints and other factors.
“The local players work. They are not full time footballers and what some of these clubs are doing is bringing in full time footballers so we have to change the culture of our minds and say we are going to turn some local players into full time footballers. How much money you work for at Observer? If its $600 then I am going to pay you $600 to play football, so we will get better footballers and see the local development, but nobody wants to do that,” he said.
“The time when the local players are working for free is gone and everybody is playing football now for something and nobody is playing for free anymore. Those are days when you, I, Gary [Garfield Gonsalves] and Epilus [Veron Edwards Jr] use to play for love of community,” the president added.
Gonsalves said the FA has and continues to make significant investments in the education and training of young players in an effort to provide them with the necessary exposure needed for development.
“And what we are trying to do at ABFA is that if the clubs are not necessarily buying into spending a significant amount of their finances into local development, then we at the ABFA have decided to put a lot of our funds into the development of our scholarship programme, so the local players have an opportunity to go overseas, get an education, develop over there and when they come back they will add to the further development and the winning ways of the team.
“When Empire was winning, what was the bulk of the team? Wasn’t it the college players like Boast [Conrad Whyte], Quashie [Lennie Quashie] and all those guys?” he queried.
The importation of players has long been a staple in football and, more so, the Premier Division. This year, the Old Road FC imported 10 players, while other clubs like Grenades FC and defending champions Liberta Blackhawks have also invested in the importation of players.
Teams competing in the First Division are also accommodating players from overseas.