Forde: Gold Cup qualification was more than football to us
June 18, 2020 marked the first anniversary of Guyana’s historic appearance at the Concacaf Gold Cup when the ‘Golden Jaguars’ took to the Allianz Field, St. Paul, Minnesota., USA to take on defending champions USA.
The performance of the debutants was heart-warming despite the 0-4 loss to the USA. The second match at the First Energy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio, saw Guyana putting on another robust performance even as they went down to Panama 2-4 when this nation’s first Gold Cup goals were scored, Neil Danns netting both.
The third and final match in their Group D sojourn at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City saw the Guyanese coming up against neighbours Trinidad and Tobago. Guyana drew first blood through a Neil Danns goal, but the ‘Soca Warriors’ hit back minutes later to equalise, the match ending 1-1.
GFF President Wayne Forde reflects on the historic journey.
Question (Q): Your thoughts on the first anniversary of our Golden Jaguars Gold Cup debut?
Wayne Forde (WF)- June 18 will remain a day of national significance and all of Guyana should be proud of what we were able to achieve. When I reflect on how it felt to be singing the National Anthem while looking out on the faces of the players and staff who were all beaming with pride and a sense of mission, I can still feel myself fighting back the tears. It doesn’t get any better than to debut against the defending Champion – the USA – considered the second-strongest team within our Confederation, with an annual budget of 100 million United States Dollars.
Q: How significant was this achievement in the context of our new development thrust?
WF – Getting to the Gold Cup was much more than football to us. It was a test of strategic discipline, which demanded great risk and even greater faith, which certainly played a role in the fortuitous circumstances that led to our qualification.
We made bold decisions, such as hiring a new Coaching staff, doing a camp in Brazil, encamping our team at one of Guyana’s finest hotels. While none of this was easy, it infused a sense of confidence and belief in everyone involved but for me on a personal level – I fully understood the risk we were taking and the potential impact failure could have had on the morale of the organisation – this was an albatross that I wore with a reassuring smile. Thank God it all worked out in the end, since I did not have a plan B.
Q: How excited were you to finally be with the big boys in Concacaf?
WF – There is always a measure of vanity associated with these occasions, despite how short- lived it might be. We were in one of the toughest groups; USA, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago, which have all played at the FIFA World Cup and boost an advanced national Football machinery. Despite this, we finished third and played some really good football in the process.
Q: How challenging was it to put together a competitive team and what was the investment like in terms of preparing?
WF – It was the most challenging campaign Guyana has ever undertaken and the most demanding financially. The preparation for the Nations League, playing the Nations League and the Gold Cup, would have cost the GFF in excess of five hundred thousand United States Dollars (US$500,000).
Q: Your thoughts on the team’s performance during their three matches?
WF – There is no question that the team rose to the occasion and played well against superior opposition. I still believe we should have ended with a win again T&T but in all, I am very proud of the performance and general conduct of the staff and players both on and off the field of play.
Q: Do you feel a sense of pressure now to ensure that Guyana always qualify going forward?
WF – No I don’t and the reason for this is because we have invested well in a professional structure that is geared for optimum performance, which will continue to grow and produce excellent National teams consistently, hence, Gold Cup appearances would become less effortful..!
Q: Are you satisfied that the Technical structure of the GFF enables future qualification form a youth development perspective?
WF – I speak from a position of evidence, we have a solid National Team structure and it will only get better in the coming years. The investments we have made in coaching education, infrastructure development, administration etc., will continue to pay dividends.
Q: With COVID-19 jerking the developmental thrust, what are your plans to pick up the slack and continue consolidating?
WF – This set back has given us an opportunity to reexamine our plans and identify new opportunities. Football will return much stronger and with special emphasis on correcting some of the areas that were particularly problematic over the past few years.
Q: From a financial perspective, how do you see the GFF coping with the challenges ahead, ensuring programmes at every level inclusive of male and female football?
WF – We are developing broad plans and models that are within our financial means, the next stage is to consult with the members and obtain their blessing to implement these plans. Once this is done and everyone makes a commitment to work within the resource and limitations we are forecasting, I believe we will be able to meet our football development goals for 2021, despite the setback of 2020. (GFF)