The Guyana Football Federation (GFF) on Saturday extended its congratulations to Golden Jaguars and former Western Tigers midfielder Curtez Kellman on securing a two-year professional contract with U.S. team Sporting Kansas City II.
Sporting Kansas City II, affiliated with the city’s Major League Soccer (MLS) team, is part of the new MLS Next Pro league, which is classified in the third tier of the U.S. soccer system. Kellman impressed the club during a trial facilitated through Guyanese-born former Canadian international and Sporting Kansas City striker Alex Bunbury, the Guyana Football Federation and Western Tigers.
“We are delighted for Curtez, and have every faith in him to seize this amazing opportunity and work hard to reach his full potential as a player in this crucial phase of his career,” said GFF President Wayne Forde. “Curtez is not only a hugely talented young man; his exemplary attitude, commitment to his career, and dedication to improve every aspect of his game since a young age have impressed everyone who has had the pleasure of working with him. He is a true role model for all young players in Guyana to follow.”
The MLS Next Pro is designed as a feeder system for the MLS. According to Bunbury, Kellman has all the ingredients necessary to impress the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame player’s old club and make the step up to the top tiers of U.S. soccer. “This is a really special moment because it opens the door for other Guyanese players to get these kinds of opportunities,” said Bunbury. “The type of player that my old club Sporting Kansas City are looking for is exactly what this young man is. He has got quality and his character is impeccable. We should all be complimenting this young man because the feedback I’m getting from everyone is that he is a class act on the field and off the field.” Golden Jaguars Head Coach Jamaal Shabazz encouraged Kellman, who has also played for Georgetown Football Club, to “make a total commitment” to this opportunity and said he looked forward to “monitoring his progress”.
Former England youth international Matthew Briggs will captain Guyana’s senior men’s national team in its two 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in June. Briggs, who plies his trade in the Danish Superliga for Vejle Boldklub, will lead the side in its must-win Group F fixtures against St. Kitts and Nevis on June 4 and Puerto Rico on June 8.
“I’m honoured to accept the captaincy – it’s always been a dream of mine to captain a national team so I am thoroughly excited to get this journey started and to see what the future holds,” said 30-year-old defender Briggs, who was the youngest player to play in the English Premier League when he made his debut for Fulham aged 16 years and 68 days in May 2007. “We’ve got two games coming up and I hope we all give 110 percent like I know we will. We’ve got all the capabilities to go and win both of these games.” Briggs made his first international appearance for the Golden Jaguars in a 2-0 friendly win against Grenada in 2015. Capped 14 times so far, he scored his first goal for Guyana in a 4-2 victory over Aruba in the Concacaf Nations League in November 2019.
“There’s excitement in the camp. Going on the last camp, we didn’t perform to our full potential, which was disappointing for us, so we are excited to get into these two games now and put that right. We want to win both games. I look at both these games and I think we are favourites to win them. I think we will be the better team and we’ve got more than enough quality to win both of these games.”
Head Coach Marcio Maximo said Briggs was a natural choice to lead the team because of the professional example he set to the other players during matches and away from the field of play. “Equally important as performance and attitude on the pitch is attitude off the pitch – that is why we have chosen Briggs,” Maximo said. “He always showed good commitment and a professional attitude. He stimulates all the younger players to follow his example. He is always at the same level in good and bad times, totally professional, and the players respect him.”
The Golden Jaguars are training in Antigua before departing for St. Kitts and Nevis on June 2 for their last two first round matches. After a 3-0 loss against Trinidad and Tobago and 4-0 win over the Bahamas in March, Guyana lies in third place in Group F and requires favourable results elsewhere to reach the second round. Only the top team from each group will progress.
“We wish Matthew all the best as he skippers the Golden Jaguars for the first time in June,” said Guyana Football Federation President Wayne Forde. “It’s a great honour to lead one’s country, and we know Matthew has got everything it takes to be an inspiration and example to his team on and off the pitch.”
“We would also like to pay tribute to Sam Cox, who has captained Guyana with passion and dedication in recent years. Sam has been a great ambassador and warrior for Golden Jaguars. The whole nation is grateful for his service in leading Guyana to some of its greatest moments on the pitch, including reaching its first men’s Concacaf Gold Cup in 2019,” Forde said.
Guyana Football Federation (GFF) President Wayne Forde has presented the FIFA-approved Disciplinary Code to the newly-appointed Chairman of the GFF Disciplinary Committee, enabling the Committee to begin its work with a priority on resolving outstanding cases.
The new composition of the Committee was proposed by the GFF Executive Committee and approved by the GFF Congress in December 2020. It includes Chairman Eusi Anderson, who serves as General Counsel at CSM-DANCO, State Counsel Shawnette Austin and former Guyana Trades Union Congress Vice President Lancelot Baptiste.
The Congress voted to replace the former Disciplinary Committee following a long period of inactivity and a lack of communication that led to a backlog of outstanding disciplinary matters.
During a meeting with the new Chairman on Friday last, GFF President Wayne Forde underlined the urgent need to address and resolve the list of outstanding cases as soon as possible.
“It is vital that the new Disciplinary Committee moves swiftly to provide clarity on matters that have remained unresolved for far too long,” President Forde said. “We look forward to seeing progress on those issues as we work to enhance the governance and reputation of football. The Executive Committee has every confidence that the new, highly-qualified members of the Committee will act with integrity and professionalism in the interests of good governance.”
The GFF Disciplinary Committee is one of three independent judicial bodies within the framework of football governance, alongside the Ethics Committee and the Appeal Committee. It examines and passes judgement on all disciplinary matters relating to GFF members, affiliates, officials, players, clubs, intermediaries and match agents.
“I am humbled by this appointment as the Chairperson of the Disciplinary Committee of the Guyana Football Federation. I look forward to working with the football fraternity in Guyana, our partners in the Caribbean and our partners globally to improve the circumstances of football in Guyana,” Anderson said.
“Undoubtedly there will be challenges, undoubtedly there will be opportunities, but my resolve remains to bring the best of my skills, ability and time to bear in this new dispensation. I look forward to serving everyone in football and working with the local fraternity to build strong strategic partnerships for the overall improvement of football.”
The Guyana Senior Men’s National Team, the Golden Jaguars, moved a step closer to the full resumption of training on Sunday with the first wave of physical evaluations of players taking place at the Guyana Football Federation National Training Centre in Providence.
The fitness tests provide important information for the coaching staff and will inform individual and squad training regimes in the run up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in March. The evaluation, conducted over two days with different cohorts of players, follows testing of the domestic-based squad and backroom staff for the COVID-19 virus this week as part of protocols put in place under the UEFA Assisted 100-day “Bounceback” programme.
The National COVID-19 Task Force has granted permission for training to resume as long as strict measures are in place to defend against the spread of the virus.
“Today’s rigorous tests give our coaches a clear idea of the fitness levels of individual players and what we need to work on to ensure the squad is in peak condition come March,” said GFF President Wayne Forde. “Considering the lack of competition over the past year, we are pleased to report that the squad is already looking in good shape thanks in part to the individual training plans they were given by the GFF technical team during the lockdown.”
“Going forward, we will be taking every precaution necessary to ensure that the squad and staff remain safe and well during this time, including regular testing for COVID-19. We look forward to the full resumption of training in the coming days, as long as conditions allow, and remain ready to take any action required if the pandemic enters another difficult phase.”
GFF Fitness Coach Wilson Toledo and Golden Jaguars’ Assistant Coach Charles Pollard oversaw the fitness evaluations on Sunday, with a total of 25 players going through their paces.
Guyana has been drawn in Group F with Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas for the Concacaf regional qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which takes place in Qatar. The Golden Jaguars will kick off their delayed campaign away against Trinidad and Tobago on March 25th. The winner of the group will proceed to the second of three qualification rounds.
Following the green light from the Covid-19 Task Force for the resumption of national team (Golden Jaguars) training, a local-based squad of 32 players were selected for initial training and the results from their tests are pending.
The Guyana Football Federation also tested staff for the COVID-19 virus ahead of the scheduled resumption of training for the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in March and June and the Concacaf Gold Cup in July.
The tests, conducted at the GFF National Training Centre in Providence this week, and is expected to pave the way for the safe and responsible return of competitive domestic and international football.
The GFF, supported by medical professionals from the Ministry of Health, tested 32 players who – once given the all clear – will then be free to participate in initial physical evaluations, scheduled for Saturday, January 9th and Sunday, January 10th at the National Training Centre.
Once those evaluations are complete, the squad will commence training under strict health and safety protocols. Ten members of the national team backroom staff were also tested.
“This is an exciting moment for the players and staff as we make progress in implementing our 100-day ‘Bounceback’ plan, following our engagement with the UEFA Assist programme,” said GFF President Wayne Forde. “We are extremely grateful for the support and guidance of the National COVID-19 Task Force in approving our plans and the Ministry of Health in conducting these tests. We are taking every possible step to provide a COVID-secure environment so that the squad and staff remain safe and well during training.” “With several important fixtures on the horizon, it is important for us to commence our preparations as soon as possible, as long as conditions allow, to give Guyana the best chance of success in the 2020 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in March and June, followed by our historic return to the Concacaf Gold Cup stage in July.”
The national squad will be split into two groups of 16 for its physical evaluation on Saturday and Sunday, with weekly COVID-19 tests planned to monitor the wellbeing of the group as it progresses through its training schedule.
“I would like to reinforce the importance of testing for the safety of everyone. All of the players were present without any absences, which proves that they are aware of this issue. They represent the nation. We hope that the results are good and that we can continue our work,” said Golden Jaguars Head Coach Marcio Maximo.
Considered one of the brightest youngsters in Guyana’s footballing fraternity, Curtez Kellman has always been dedicated, hardworking and humble in his growth.
Now 22-years-old and well aware of what it takes to succeed, Curtez firmly believes in this quote by track and field legend Jesse Owens; “”We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, discipline, and effort.”
In an exclusive sit-down with The 592 Dugout, the outspoken footballer shared his journey thus far, a fascinating story of positivity and discipline.
Kellman who made his international debut for the Golden Jaguars back in 2017 at just 19-years-old in a friendly against Indonesia revealed that football was not his first love; “I started playing football as a teenager, I was already 13 or 14-years-old. The first sport I loved to play was cricket, I always used to prefer cricket over football”.
However, as he got into ‘Jogo Bonito’, the ‘Beautiful Game’, his preference quickly changed; “I believe I was meant to play football, it was always in my genes because my dad used to play and many other family members. I eventually joined the Georgetown Football Club (GFC) in 2014 and that’s where my football journey all started”.
The persons that he credits with his development are no strangers to Guyanese football; “After Vurlon Mills and Faizal Khan took over at GFC after the death of Coach Peter Lashley, under their guidance I quickly developed into the player I am today”.
The guidance of Mills and Khan along with the support of his mother, father and many other relatives has meant alot to the youngster.
Mills who has been one of Guyana’s best footballers until his recent retirement from international duty has always been Kellman’s inspiration. “I have always looked up to Vurlon Mills due to the fact that he’s disciplined and gives good advice. He’s a mentor and has always been with me helping to ensure that I make good decisions. He has played a pivotal role in my development in the sport”.
Curtez who admires the football of Sergio Busquets and Paul Pogba has played numerous positions in his career thus far and spoke about his role in football; “I’m a utility player but my preferred position is that of a Defensive Center Midfielder, I’m more of a player to break up plays, make passes going forward and also in keeping possession”.
Reflecting on his first call up to the Golden Jaguars, Guyana’s National team, Kellman revealed that it was a strange experience; “I first got called up to the National team at age 17 against the Canada U-23 side in 2016. Being the youngest in the camp was an odd feeling because I was not accustomed to being with more mature players, but gradually practicing with them I gained more confidence and I got used to it. It’s always an honour to represent your country and I want to continue working hard, to be in the best shape and the best of my ability so that I can be a main call up for the national side, that requires consistency which I always strive for”.
Presently, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Kellman who was on a scholarship to the Eastern Florida State College explained that budget cuts caused the College not to have a football program anymore which meant he was out of a scholarship. However, as good fortune would have it he was offered another scholarship from Daytona State College which he accepted with pride.
“I’ve gained a full scholarship from Daytona State and I will be completing my associates degree there, I have one more semester to do so. On the professional side of things I’m fully focused and I think this is the right opportunity now for me to be in a professional environment. I’m fully confident that I can and will succeed at the next level with the attributes I possess, the discipline that I have is key”.
Looking at the future, Curtez is full of ambition; “I’m working on getting a few tryouts with some professional teams and hopefully everything works out in my favour. I have realized that having a certified agent is very important and that’s what I’m currently working on. I don’t want to divulge any details as yet because it is not confirmed, but the agent that I’m in talks with had a professional career in the USA Major League Soccer (MLS) and he currently works with a lot of the MLS players”.
In a resounding statement, Kellman spoke of where he came from; “I grew up in East Ruimveldt and when people hear about that area, they always view it as a ‘bad’ area but we have a lot of good that comes out of our community and I am one of them. It is because of that perception of my community, I want people to look up at me as an inspiration to do good things and as a mentor”.
“In life you will always face challenges and that’s reality but it always depends on how you face them as an individual”.
Speaking directly to any youngster who has ambitions in sports, Kellman dropped this gem of advice; “Youths once you have aspired to do something, focus on following your dreams, do not let anyone tell you that you can’t do it or that you can’t make it. Always believe in yourself and work hard to achieve your goals”.