Academies key in transitioning juniors to seniors, says former national footballer

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By Akeem Greene

Former national footballer Vurlon Mills has indicated since there is no full-fledged professional football system in Guyana, having more academies is one way of ensuring more talented junior players are able to fully transition into the senior national team.

Over the years, some players have showcased immense potential at school football or junior Jaguars duties, however, as they age, they also slowly wither from the system.

“My academy is just one part of it; you need more academies in Guyana, a lot more, because we can see the talent but where does the talent go after they progress from the age group?” the 32 year-old, who formed the Vurlon Mills Football Academy, questioned.

“In Guyana we don’t have a professional system where we can channel players from the youth level straight into the senior level, but we do have some clubs that help with the transition. We have youth football up to Under-20s and if you are not good enough to make the senior team at that point then your football career most times in Guyana stops right there.”

Currently, there are nine Academy Training Centres (ATC) – one in each of the member associations. Initially, there were 13, but it is understood the reduction was made to make the current amount more feasible and productive.

The Guyana Football Federation is currently constructing dorms and a gym at the National Training Centre at Providence, and after completion there is expected to be an increased level of consistent and high intensity training for both junior and senior footballers.

Guyana Football Federation Technical Officer, Vurlon Mills

Noting a structure is vital, Mills, who retired from international football to follow his passion for coaching, indicated that the buck still stops at the junior players and them having the self-interest to improve.

“[Junior] players themselves need to be more disciplined and join a club and continue practicing and work hard towards developing themselves and have that transition into the senior team.”

“…there will be a gap between the senior team and if there isn’t continuous training then there is no smooth transition and I can attest to that because if we look at the quality of some of our senior footballers in Guyana, it is not good.”

Mills, who was appointed Technical Development Officer in 2018 by the GFF, further indicated, academics is another important pillar juniors must also strive to develop. He highlighted the efforts of Henry Chase, Principal at Chase Academic Foundation, as a model other institutions can adopt.

The private institution offered scholarships to some of the country’s most promising talents and became one of the most successful youth football schools in Guyana.

“We have a lot of talented players in Guyana but how do we merge that talent with education? He [Henry Chase] had that idea to bring these players and make sure they complete exams. My job was easy given the passion and the children loved the game.”

With eight years of dedicated service to Golden Jaguars, Mills indicted his ultimate aim is developing young talents and helping them transition into the senior programme, headed by Brazilian Márcio Máximo.

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