By Neto Baptiste
Technical director for the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association (ABFA) Sowerby Gomes believes an ongoing one-week camp in St Croix, USVI will serve to better prepare the senior women’s team for what he anticipates will be a tough Group A in the CONCACAF leg of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Qualifiers starting next week.
Gomes, who is currently in St Croix with the team, said the camp will offer an opportunity for the team to jell ahead of their February 16th opener against Puerto Rico.
“I think one of the key things of us coming here is to jell with our US-based girls, those who are in universities and colleges and those who are living in the United States, so we would have brought our players from Antigua up. This camp is to try and improve them so that we can see exactly how they look before actual game day; it is certainly a preparation camp where we would be able to see everyone in full flight and as a result of that, from this camp, we would be better able to select the team going forward,” he said.
Antigua and Barbuda Benna Girls will open their qualifying campaign against Puerto Rico on February 16 in Puerto Rico. The Antiguans face Mexico four days later at home before hosting Anguilla on April 6. The Benna Girls round off their campaign against Suriname on April 12 in Suriname.
Gomes said mental toughness will be a major factor during what he anticipates will be challenging Group A encounters.
“I think our greatest strength now is to work on the mental toughness of these girls and to see how well they can come out of it. In fact, these two games that we have in preparation, will definitely show us something. We know we are on to a real difficult task in the likes of Puerto Rico and then Mexico; it will certainly be a learning experience for us, but we are going out to give our best,” the TD said.
The former national defender went on to lament the scarcity of seasoned veterans in the line-up, adding that many may have lost interest due to the prolonged hiatus due to Covid-19.
“We really have to face the reality we have on island in Antigua and that is we don’t have enough experienced players at the top and I think the major reason for it has to do with no competition for the last two and a half years and as a result of that those senior players who would have been playing in competitions certainly did not keep themselves engaged. Most of them are either overweight or their mind from the sport has turned because they have just not been engaged,” Gomes said.
“In the meantime, our under-17s and our under-20s who have been in training as a result would have shown more interest and would have been athletically more agile in terms of making selections,” he added.
The team will play two friendly matches against the US Virgin Islands this week before travelling to Puerto Rico for their opening encounter.