“Get involved”- Golden Jaguars coach urges Guyanese
“It’s an opportunity for everyone from Guyana, whether you live in the country, whether you are further afield, to get involved,” said Michael Johnson, the newly appointed Head Coach of the Guyana Football Federation (GFF) flagship team – the Golden Jaguars – following the first day of the Train and Play camp that is taking place in Rio de Janeiro.
The encampment is geared towards preparing the team for the CONCACAF Nations League with the long-term plan of enabling Guyana’s qualification for the FIFA World Cup 2026.
The plain spoken Johnson firmly believes though, that for the programme to be a resounding success, the support of all stakeholders is necessary: “We need the help of the government, we all know the pitches could do with some significant investment, grassroots football can do with some significant investment.”
The former Jamaica National Player posited that they mean business with ‘Project 100’, the quest to break into the FIFA Rankings below 100: “We mean business, we’re not just saying we want to get into the top one hundred but we want to be consistent, sustainable and stay there. We want to help the next crop of players coming through.”
He pointed out that they don’t just want to get to, for example, a ranking of 83 and then come back down: “We want to be there for the next 10 –15 years; we want to be a powerhouse within the region; we want to be qualifying for World Cups and see investments coming back into Guyana, but the journey starts now.”
Johnson is challenging those who believe in the journey to come on board now: “It’s great if we all wait though, anybody can do that, but do you really believe in the message that we as a staff, we as a group of players, President Forde, everybody included is saying? We are here because we mean business; we are here in Brazil to work and we will get better, we will qualify for the top 100.”
“But in the process, we need the government to back us now, we need the sponsors now to say, listen, I’m going to this journey. We’re saying get involved in the grassroots now, get involved with the infrastructure, you know, how can you help? I really believe that this is a pivotal moment for Guyanese football. We get this right, we’ll be sustainable for the next 10, 15, 20 odd years or so.”
The first day of training was intense with players having the opportunity to showcase their talent and to prove that they are worthy of being part of the programme.