By Neto Baptiste
Technical director for football in Antigua and Barbuda, Rolston Williams, does not believe that an all-local squad can take the country’s football to the next level.
Williams made the statement during a recent interview, adding that for the country to be competitive on both the regional and international platforms, there must be a fusion between the homegrown and overseas-based players.
“The Caribbean countries are not playing all locals; they are playing more overseas players and we cannot be naïve here in Antigua and Barbuda to say we want all locals and still want to compete. It cannot happen and it would not happen,” he said.
The outspoken coach also accused the country’s most recent coach of experimenting with a squad of all-local players during the recent failed bid to qualify for the Gold Cup, but noted this was not a realistic goal.
“Mr Dinzy came and he tried to play all locals and you cannot develop at a national level with players that are already 26 or 27 [years old] and tell me you are developing; you can’t develop that way. There must be a national philosophy where we have a curriculum for all clubs, all academies across Antigua and Barbuda doing the same thing into an elite programme with those players already developed, going into the national team and then you can say we can have all locals [playing at the senior level],” Williams said.
Meanwhile, while denying there had been a rift with some overseas-based players at the time, President of the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association, Everton Gonsalves said the decision to utilise all local players had received the blessings of the executive.
“Our overseas-based players are not only the persons you think are overseas-based players because it’s a stream and some will come in, just like Peter Byers is no longer a national player and we didn’t go and tell Peter Byers he is no longer a national player but the usual players have been busy. Some have been invited and they couldn’t come for injury reasons but we took, as head of the organisation, this time around that we are going to give our local players a chance to get to the World Cup,” he said. Antigua and Barbuda missed qualification to the Gold Cup after finishing third in Group C of League B with nine points from their six matches.