Q&A: GFF president Wayne Forde talks Gold Cup

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As Guyana competes at the Concacaf Gold Cup for the first time, Guyana Football Federation’s president Wayne Forde shares his views on the country’s historic qualification and subsequent debut.

Guyana is pitted in Group D alongside hosts USA, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago. On Tuesday, Guyana lost 4-0 to the USA, and will face Panama today (June 22) before clashing with Trinidad and Tobago in the final group game on Wednesday.

Below is the full interview.

Question – Describe how you felt seeing your team take the field against the United States?

Wayne Forde – It was an unforgettable moment that will remain with me for the rest of my life. To hear our National Anthem being played before the 19,000 + fans who were in attendance, most of whom would have heard of Guyana for the first time and the millions watching from around the world, was truly a solemn moment of national pride.

This was nothing short of a remarkable opportunity for our country and football, which has set in motion an avalanche of international goodwill towards the sport.

On June 18, 2019 Guyana announced its presence to the global football community with a commanding performance against the second strongest team within our Confederation. We now have to build on this visibility and maximise the commercial opportunities it will generate in the coming months and years.

Guyana’s starting line-up against USA

Question – What are your thoughts on the team’s performance against the defending champions?

Wayne Forde – The Golden Jaguars earned tremendous international respect by demonstrating that we have the quality to play at this level. I am very proud of the players, Coach Michael Johnson and the entire technical team.

We were never under any illusion about the quality of the US team, despite their poor form recently. The plan was to play positive football to prove to the world and ourselves that we can compete at this level. Anyone with an honest pair of eyes would agree that the final score line did not represent the true story of those historic 90 minutes.

The USA Senior Men’s National Team’s annual budget is 100 million US dollars. Their technical staff comprise of 40 professionals, they travel around in a private jet and the list goes on. This is simply the cold reality of what we competed against on June 18.

Flashback! Golden Jaguars celebrate victory against Belize which sealed qualification for the Gold Cup (Photo: Avenash Ramzan)

Question – Do you believe we have the players to push for the 2022 FIFA World Cup?

Wayne Forde – I am confident that we now have the quality of players and the professional set-up to pursue any goal. Once the programme becomes fully commercialised and self-sustaining, we will be able to accelerate the activity level of the team.

While these are early days and a lot of learning and networking is taking place, we have to remain optimistic. The GFF has set itself two difficult goals, the first being to qualify for the Concacaf Gold Cup – that box has been checked off; and the second goal is to qualify for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. We will achieve that goal as well.

Question – What is the GFF’s long term strategy for the Senior Men’s National programme.

Wayne Forde – The Golden Jaguars is an important asset of the GFF, unfortunately to date, we have been unable to monetise this asset. This is due primarily because of our ranking, inconsistency and poor visibility up until recently.

We have been deliberate and strategic in reversing this situation, the challenge now, is to build on the recent gains. The ultimate goal is to create a National team programme that is attractive to sponsors, both locally and internationally.

This will allow us to redirect the investment that is going into this programme, towards the Academy Training Centre (ATC) programme and other areas of football development.

Golden Jaguars players in training at the GFF facility at Providence

Question – What do you have to say about the Local vs International players discussion?

Wayne Forde – I am very respectful of the views of fans and other stakeholders despite how few they are, but I am afraid they are missing the bigger picture. Football is a business and, in business, sometimes you have to make practical decisions in order to yield the best returns on your investment.

I am confident that in time they will see the logic in what we are doing. I am happy that all of Guyana is behind our Golden Jaguars as they continue to make history before a global audience.

Question – How is the GFF coping with the financial demands of the Gold Cup Campaign?

Wayne Forde – It is extremely challenging indeed but it is a necessary investment. We have to lean very hard on our creditors in order to cover many key areas of the team’s operation.

Question – Did the Government provide any support to the GFF, financial or otherwise?

Wayne Forde – We have requested financial support from the Government and continue to lobby for their support, unfortunately we have been unsuccessful to-date. It is terribly disappointing given the positive visibility this team is bringing to the country; we however have to remain optimistic that there will be an improvement in attitudes towards sports in general.

The first evidence of a shift in attitude towards sports at the National level, would be the refurbishment and sustainable maintenance programme of school grounds right across this nation.

Until we understand the enormous impact this will have on the early discovery of talent, all other initiatives will be nothing more than window dressing. It is very frustrating to witness the successive lack of understanding of the correlation of youth crime, obesity, early pregnancy, literacy etc. and sports.

Question – What are your expectations for the remaining two games?

 Wayne Forde – I am absolutely confident that we will be competitive in each of our remaining games. We are respectful of the teams in our group but will play positive and attractive football while we search for our first win.

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