“I’m very proud of the girls”- Coach Castello praises U-17 footballers

- GFF officials impressed with performance of young ladies

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The Guyana Under-17 Girls’ National Team created history on Monday, qualifying for back-to-back Concacaf Championships for the first time, following a commanding 6-0 win over the Turks and Caicos Islands in Florida.

The decisive win saw Akilah Castello’s side finish second to Honduras in Concacaf qualifying group C.

As a result, Guyana will progress to the 2022 Concacaf finals tournament as the best-placed runner-up in qualifying, following a 1-0 win over Anguilla and a 6-0 defeat to Honduras.

The crucial victory against a Turks and Caicos side impacted by COVID-19 came courtesy of two goals each from Fruta Conquerors forward Sandra Johnson, Kwakwani’s Jalade Trim and Anaya Willabus from BW Gottschee Soccer in New York.

Coach Akilah Castello

“I’m very proud of the girls and what they have achieved in qualifying for the Concacaf Championships,” Head Coach Castello said.

“They worked hard at all times, showed a great attitude in training, and followed the game plans. I want to thank the excellent support and leadership of the Guyana Football Federation (GFF) Technical Director Ian Greenwood, the International Support Group, and the GFF Executive Committee.”

“There is still a lot of work to be done to prepare the girls for the championships early in 2022,” Castello said. “We need investment and support from the Government of Guyana to allow us to perform in the championships.”

Paul Beresford, Director of GFF Women’s Programmes, also expressed his pride in the milestone accomplishment of the group and support staff.

“This was an extremely challenging campaign and both players and staff exceeded all of my expectations,” Beresford said.

“We will start the process of preparing for the next round immediately, and we look forward the continued development of this group.”

(Image: Concacaf)

GFF technical staff highlighted eye-catching and consistently strong performances from Conquerors’ Johnson, captain Alyssa Blake from Albany Alleycats and Georgetown Academy Training Centre’s Akeelah Vancooten as instrumental in the team’s journey to qualification.

“This back-to-back qualification to the U-17 championships is another watershed moment for the country, signalling to the powerhouses of Concacaf that Guyana has arrived,” said Technical Director Greenwood.

GFF Technical Director Ian Greenwood

“Since the relaunch of the women’s programme in 2017, we have seen rapid growth and historical achievements in women’s national team performances as a result of concerted building. This success is no accident; it is clear evidence that the GFF’s National Football Philosophy and robust Youth Development Strategy is producing top class performers and coaches.”

Greenwood added that the constraints caused by the pandemic, such as a lack of local competition, had created big challenges for the team’s preparation, alongside an increase in costs due to necessary COVID-19 protocols and testing.

The 18-strong squad for the qualifying tournament included 16 Guyana-based players from across the nation, including five players from the Orealla community in Region Six, five from Georgetown and four from Region Seven. Region One is also represented in a squad boasting a significant proportion of talent from hinterland communities.

“We have made a significant investment into scouting and recruiting players from our hinterland communities, and we are all aware of the high cost of internal travel to places like Kamarang, Waramadong, and Orealla,” Greenwood added.

“After the identification of players, we invested heavily in bringing the players out for the entire preparation period, covering accommodation, meals, and transportation.”

“For this group of players to continue to grow and build ahead of the upcoming Concacaf Championships in January 2022, we need real investment and support from the Government of Guyana and our key stakeholders to maintain team cohesion by ensuring our hinterland-based players are provided with the resources to continue to train with the squad at the GFF National Training Centre,” he added.

The Under-17 team qualified for the Concacaf Under-17 Women’s Championships for the first time in 2019, but the competition was cancelled due to the pandemic.

The 2022 championship is scheduled for January 22nd to February 6th.

“The future is bright for the Lady Jags programme and the best is certainly still to come,” Greenwood concluded.

“The U-17 qualification provides another massive boost to the overall programme, and we hope this success will catch the imagination of the general public in Guyana and inspire another generation of young girls to get involved in football.” (GFF)

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