GFF, Scotiabank unveil nationwide Academy Training Centres

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By Avenash Ramzan

In what can be described as historic and groundbreaking, the Guyana Football Federation (GFF), in partnership with corporate partner Scotiabank and football’s world governing body FIFA, on Thursday launched a comprehensive nationwide youth football programme, geared to mould the next generation of national footballers and create a solid foundation for the sport.

NSC Chairman Ivan Persaud and Scotiabank’s Marketing Manager Jennifer Cipriani among others at the head table

The Academy Training Centres programme is a first for Guyana, and will put the nation in the vanguard of youth development in the Caribbean. The vision of the academies is to identify and develop the skills of the best players from across the country, who will be considered for national selection.

According to the brainchild, Technical Director Ian Greenwood, the initiative, which will be rolled out in each of the nine Member Associations, will create employment for nine full-time Technical Development Officers and 14 part-time Youth Development Coaches, who will be attached the various associations.

Speaking at the launch on Thursday morning at a packed Umana Yana, Greenwood pointed out that such a structure is necessary, given the logistics and travel in a country such as Guyana. He said the officers and coaches will now become employees of the Guyana Football Federation.

Unveiling of the insignia

“There are four tiers to the structure. Tier one is myself, the Technical Director. FIFA’s recommendation is that every Technical office has a Technical Secretary to take care of a lot of the admin and communication that goes in and out. The Tier two stuff are going to be full-time members of staff based at the Georgetown office,” Greenwood explained.

GFF president Wayne Forde addressing the gathering

He continued, “For the first time ever for the GFF, there will be a Women’s Development Officer, a School’s Development Officer, a Youth Development Officer and Coach Education and Development Officer. Those four members of staff have a clear area that they’re focusing on.”

The academies will offer at least five age-specific, professional training sessions per week in line with the new national football coaching and playing philosophy. There will be grassroot participation sessions for boys and girls aged 5-11, while there will sessions for Under-13, Under-15 and Under-17 boys and Under-17 girls.

Technical Director Ian Greenwood

Each group, from Under-13 onwards, will cater for a maximum of 16 of the best players at any given time. According to Greenwood, the academies are set-up in such a way to be result-oriented and performance-based.

“From a GFF point of view we’re looking constantly for new coaches to come through. A new programme we will touch on later on will be we want to get as many former national team players involved in the programme as possible,” Greenwood highlighted.

Marketing Manager of Scotiabank Guyana, Jennifer Cipriani, said the company’s involvement is an extension of its partnership with regional body CONCACAF, as it is a major player in the Caribbean Football Union championship.

“Through the Academy Training Centres, we hope to give our boys and girls the opportunity to realise their dream of a career in football and build a national team that will be a force to reckon with at World Cups, like our neighbours Brazil,” Cipriani told the gathering.

She added, “But we also want our youths to focus on academics because of the value of education, and we need our parents to support the players on and off the field. This is why we have committed a sum of $600,000 towards the bursary awards for students, who perform well at the Academy and at school.”

Scotiabank’s Marketing Manager, Jennifer Cipriani

The financing, Cipriani pointed out, will go towards providing students with school supplies for the new school term. Meanwhile, GFF president Wayne Forde said having Scotiabank, an international brand onboard, speaks volumes of the direction in which football in Guyana is heading.

“We look forward to a long and fruitful partnership that reciprocates and perpetuates real value, as we work hand in hand to put in place the foundations for football to thrive. Today’s groundbreaking announcement is a true game changer for our sport: A professional network of GFF-Scotiabank Academy Training Centres that will operate alongside our Member Associations to develop the game in a coordinated way, all over the country. It has never been done before. With this programme, the GFF is putting our nation in the vanguard of youth football development in the Caribbean – where it belongs,” Forde stated.

He added, “This heavy focus on youth development is at the heart of our vision. It is the kind of strategy that has produced the best teams and players in the more successful Football nations across the globe. We believe it is the only strategy for success.”

NSC Chairman Ivan Persaud

Chairman of the National Sports Commission, Ivan Persaud, who is also a former Vice-president of the GFF, hailed the programme as one that could only catapult Guyana’s football in the right direction.

“I heard the Technical Director saying that this is a short overview, but I would go out on the limb to say this is a very solid programme. This is something that Guyana has been waiting for a long, long time ago and finally it’s here. After the Technical Director spoke, I think it is very difficult- and I challenge anyone here who knows anything at all about football- to try to discredit or try to find some loopholes in this programme,” Persaud stressed.

Academies will be rolled out in Bartica, Berbice, East Bank Demerara, East Coast Demerara, West Demerara, Essequibo, Georgetown, Rupununi and Upper Demerara. The Technical Development Officers and Youth Development Coaches will undergo a two-day induction and training course on February 10-11, followed by the start of the first academy in the East Bank Demerara area on February 11. All other associations will commence on February 18.

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