Developing mature international players on Shabazz’s radar

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In October 2010, Guyana’s Golden Jaguars moved to 86th on the FIFA rankings. It is Guyana’s highest-ever placement on the rankings, but 11 years later the country sits at 174.

Jamaal Shabazz, the man instrumental in charting the path to that ‘top’ ranking, said in order to achieve such heights again, the country must develop better international footballers.

From a local standpoint, it is about ensuring there is strong grassroot development and then exposure. For those who display exceptional talent, the Head Coach feels is it imperative they quickly be given the opportunity to play in foreign leagues.

“The most important thing is developing mature international players by giving international exposure to them, by helping them to become professionals, and getting the special ones to go outside of the Caribbean to play at a higher level. All of that will be part of developing mature international players,” the coach explained at a recent press engagement.

“I know we come to make the argument about local and foreign, but on the pitch, it is really professional and amateur, and we got to see that as a critical step in achieving our objective,” he further expressed.

Additionally, Shabazz, who was recently re-appointed for an unprecedented fourth stint with the country’s flagship team, said the use of technology is vital and also the support in given opportunities for institutional development.

Head Coach Jamaal Shabazz (left) along with GFF’s Head of Sports Science, Wilson Toledo (centre), and President Wayne Forde (News Room photo/September 17, 2021)

The Trinidadian native was further questioned on the stance he would take on the amount of local player exposure he would give since his predecessor, Brazilian Márcio Máximo, had a strong penchant for giving locally-based players match-time.

‘I think Coach Máximo was on the right path and I am not saying this based on friendship, but you got to look at the future while keeping an eye on the present. Of course, each coach has his or her own way of doing things, but in terms of the general approach in building a team or building a programme, we got to understand that there needs to be some necessary steps to be taken.”

“I don’t get into the argument of foreign and local, I like to focus on professional and amateur and I am one who believes in all Guyanese,” the 57-year-old added.

The big goal, which both Shabazz and the Federation see as realistic is qualification for the expanded 2026 World Cup. The immediate focus will be next year’s Concacaf Nations League, set to resume in March.

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