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By Neto Baptiste

Former national defender and coach, Ivor Luke, has pointed to a lack of development and the unwillingness of the current leadership of the football association to restrict the high number of imported players participating in the domestic leagues, as two major issues negatively impacting the growth of the sport here.

Luke has been named as part of a team headed by current floor member of the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association (ABFA) Barbara Coates, to challenge incumbent and former national striker Everton Gonsalves when elections are called this year.

“One of the major gripes was the lack of development in terms of clubs, and it is unacceptable also that young players are not getting enough opportunities – first, for the clubs, because of the amount of overseas players [coming in] without a limit — and second, for the national team. and then they say the players [local] are not good, but you can’t be good if you don’t get a chance to play at the highest level, which is our Premier Division,” he said.

Luke is joined by another former national player, Derrick “Pretty Boy” Edwards, who was also named as part of Coates’ slate for the elections which are constitutionally due in May.

Luke, a former captain of the Lion Hill Spliff team, supported Derrick’s decision to toss his hat into the ring.

“Derrick ‘Pretty Boy’ Edwards has served Antigua as a footballer, as a representative of Antigua and Barbuda, with distinction, and so it is a matter of if he says he wants to go into administration — because he sees that things should be done better or in a different way — that should be his right and because of his service record, he shouldn’t be questioned, in my opinion,” he said.

“He has suffered a lot from injuries just like Peter Redz [Tevaughn Harriet] and also with being arrested for months [in Jamaica]. When he was arrested the whole of Antigua said ‘no, not Pretty Boy’ because we know the character of the gentleman,” the former player added.

Revealing that he was hesitant when first approached by Coates, Luke said he eventually warmed up to the idea after hearing and seeing her plans.

“She has the temperament, she has the kind of belief that we can do better, we can be better, and we can go further in terms of our product delivery to the clubs, to the young players, and even to the older players within our league. We can do a lot more and she has a programme and a plan. It is there and she is not going to say ‘vote for me because I am going to do that within a month’, but she is saying that ‘if you vote for me that this is what I am going to do and here it is on paper’,” he said. Thus far, Luke and Edwards are the only two candidates named by Coates as she hopes to dethrone Gonsalves who has sat in the position for three straight four-year terms.