One year to the day of the Golden Jaguars, Guyana’s national men’s football team making their historic debut at the Concacaf Gold Cup in the USA, Guyana Football Federation (GFF) President, Wayne Forde explained that “Getting to the Gold Cup was much more than football to us. It was a test of strategic discipline, which demanded great risk and even greater faith, which certainly played a role in the fortuitous circumstances that led to our qualification”.
Today, (June 18) marked the first anniversary of Guyana’s appearance at the Concacaf Gold Cup when the ‘Golden Jaguars’ took to the Allianz Field, St. Paul, Minnesota., USA to take on defending champions USA.
The performance of the debutants was heart-warming despite the 0-4 loss to the USA. The second match at the FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio saw Guyana putting on another robust performance even as they went down to Panama 2-4 with country’s first Gold Cup goals scored by Neil Danns.
The third and final match in their Group D sojourn at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City saw the Guyanese coming up against neighbours Trinidad and Tobago. Guyana drew first blood through a Neil Danns goal but the ‘Soca Warriors’ hit back minutes later to equalise, the match ending 1-1.
In his reflection, Forde contended; “June 18 will remain a day of national significance and all of Guyana should be proud of what we were able to achieve. When I reflect on how it felt to be singing the National Anthem while looking out on the faces of the players and staff who were all beaming with pride and a sense of mission, I can still feel myself fighting back the tears”.
He alluded to the fact that the Guyanese side was facing a Concacaf giant; “It doesn’t get any better than to debut against the defending Champion – the USA – considered the second-strongest team within our Confederation, with an annual budget of 100 million United States Dollars”.
“We made bold decisions, such as hiring a new Coaching staff, doing a camp in Brazil,
encamping our team at one of Guyana’s finest hotels. While none of this was easy, it infused a sense of confidence and belief in everyone involved but for me on a personal level – I fully understood the risk we were taking and the potential impact failure could have had on the morale of the organisation – this was an albatross that I wore with a reassuring smile. Thank God it all worked out in the end, since I did not have a plan B”.
The GFF boss also touched on the fact that Guyana was in the ‘group of death’; “We were in one of the toughest groups; USA, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago, which have all played at the FIFA World Cup and boast an advanced national Football machinery. Despite this, we finished third and played some really good football in the process”.
Meanwhile, Forde pointed out the challenges in funding the journey; “It was the most challenging campaign Guyana has ever undertaken and the most demanding financially. The preparation for the Nations League, playing the Nations League and the Gold Cup would have cost the GFF in excess of US$500,000 (GYD $100M).
He also reaffirmed his pride in the performance of the team; “There is no question that the team rose to the occasion and played well against superior opposition. I still believe we should have ended with a win again T&T but in all, I am very proud of the performance and general conduct of the staff and players both on and off the field of play”.
Asked about if there is any pressure to qualify for the Gold Cup in the future, Forde stated; “No I don’t and the reason for this is because we have invested well in a professional structure that is geared for optimum performance, which will continue to grow and produce excellent National teams consistently, hence, Gold Cup appearances would become less effortful”.
Looking ahead, Forde is confident about the future; “I speak from a position of evidence, we have a solid National Team structure and it will only get better in the coming years. The investments we have made in coaching education, infrastructure development, administration etc., will continue to pay dividends”.
With the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic which has brought sports to a halt, Forde views the time out as a positive; “This set back has given us an opportunity to reexamine our plans and identify new opportunities. Football will return much stronger and with special emphasis on correcting some of the areas that were particularly problematic over the past few years”.
In concluding, Forde revealed that the GFF is working to ensure that the federation’s financial machinery is rock solid; “We are developing broad plans and models that are within our financial means, the next stage is to consult with the members and obtain their blessing to implement these plans. Once this is done and everyone makes a commitment to work within the resource and limitations we are forecasting, I believe we will be able to meet our football development goals for 2021, despite the setback of 2020”.