By Neto Baptiste
Newly appointed football technical director and former national defender, Sowerby Gomes, believes the key to turning Antigua and Barbuda’s football around lies within coaches’ education.
Speaking on the Good Morning Jojo Sports Show, Gomes said his immediate focus will be to ensure that those coaches working in the system are fully qualified and equipped with the necessary tools to get the job done.
“That’s why I am saying we are tackling the coaches. The coaches are who we need to transform right now, because the coaches are the ones who are going to have to train our youths. In fact, on Saturday, I did a canvassing across Antigua to see exactly who are being affected in terms of playing and who are the coaches coaching these youths across Antigua,” he said.
“I started from Gray’s Farm, went all the way round south just to check and see exactly the kids who are being affected, who are the coaches on the ground and I recognise that a lot of our coaches, even in the B license, they are not on the ground training our youths, so they are not in the best hands,” he added.
Gomes’ appointment was made public last Friday by the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association (ABFA) while former national goalkeeper Kelesha Antoine was named head of the referees’ department.
Gomes said he is in the process of gathering information on all coaches currently within the system in hopes of bringing everyone on board.
“The ABFA, over the last number of years, started a D license course, a C license course, and now a B license course, and this B license course is basically paving the pathway for the rollout of the DNA for the ABFA which is a strategic plan which has been ongoing over the last 18 months,” he said.
“This plan started while the former technical director [Rolston Williams] was alive and I was working on that, myself and the other coaches’ educators in Antigua in Daryl Michael, Lenny Hewlett and Garry [Garfield] Gonsalves, we drafted a strategic plan which speaks to the identity of who we are as a nation and who we are as a team,” he added.
The former Villa Lions player however warned that success will not be achieved overnight and reminded that the work must first be done at the grassroots level.
“We have to develop the young ones to get to that stage, so you’ll recognise it will be a journey and along that journey we have to develop players, but before we can develop the players we have to develop the coaches and bring them up to speed to train these young ones,” Gomes said.
“It is going to take time. Three years is not going to cut it to transform the Benna Boys, so my job in terms of technical director will strictly be development of our grassroots programme, our youth programmes in terms of 15s, 17s, and 20. There will be head coaches and coaching staffs that will be appointed by the executive body that will deal with the national team but we will all sing from the same strategic plan,” he added.
Gomes’ appointment is for three years. Williams died in October last year following a bout of illness.