Lack of age-group football affecting transition of players, says Dover

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By Akeem Greene

Current National Under-20 Head Coach Wayne Dover is backing a structured youth system in Guyana to better aid the smoother transition of talented players into the senior Golden Jaguars programme.

Until such time, Dover believes it will be difficult and there is a risk some players could be lost from the sport.

Speaking to News Room Sport in a recent interview, the former senior Golden Jaguars Head Coach indicated forcing players with a lack of structured junior football is not advisable for the best chance of him/her fulfilling potential.

“Part of the problem with youths transitioning into the senior team would stem from the lack of age-group football during the season where they can compete at their level and being given a number of games over the season and become more exposed to the rigours of competitive football.”

He added, “Naturally, talented young players will make the transition…they would be no forcing of a talented player to transition into the senior team or a senior team in the domestic programme. If there are much more junior tournaments across Guyana, it will help in the transition.”

Though the future is bright, Dover wants young players engaged in more age-group football on a consistent basis before joining senior teams

Former national footballer, Vurlon Mills, had 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.

Since the Digicel nationwide School Under-18 Football tournament was halted in 2017 after seven years, there has not been another national school football tournament.

Dover is a former Head Coach of the senior national Men’s team

The Petra Organisation has tried to fill the gap with a GuyOil League, but that only catered for 10 teams in its second year. There was also the inaugural National Under-20 KFC sponsored tournament in 2019 for clubs.

Dover indicated that the Guyana Football Federation (GFF) has been in conversations with the Ministry of Education and the private sector to forge partnerships in an effort to have youth league played across all age groups in schools.

“Guyana is going through a phase of restructuring of school football and club football, which will help aid the younger players at the nursey level– U-12, U-13, U-15, U-17 and U-20.”

“Once this has started in schools you will see a nationwide competition where clubs can scout players and introduce them into the club structure then it gives for them to be introduced for the competitive realm of football at the club level which will help nurture them through a passage of them that will realisation of them entering the senior team.”

Dover further stated, “The Guyana Football Federation is not in a financial position to undertake such a major project…those meetings started some time back, I don’t how far it is currently but that was something already in the pipeline to become a reality.”

In addition to the domestic tournaments, he said the federation will try to upkeep its presence at international tournaments, so players can gain that level of exposure.

According to the seasoned coach, these youth leagues also mean coaches have to monitor players better and be measured in how they introduce these players to senior football.

“Coaches who are working with young players transitioning into a senior team would have to be very careful with how they handle those young players- you risk the chance of forcing them too early and they have not integrated properly with the programme then you see a falling of them from that senior level.”

In the recent past, young and promising players such as Jeremy Garrett, Ryan Hackett, Curtez Kellman and Kelsey Benjamin have had opportunities with varying degrees of success in senior Golden Jaguars colours, but none have found a consistent spot in the squad or starting XI.

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