GFF selects 20 boys for historic UEFA-sponsored U-16 trip to Europe
The Guyana Football Federation (GFF) has selected the final roster for the nation’s first participation in a UEFA-sanctioned competition, with 20 players making the grade in the Under-16 boys’ national squad bound for the experience of a lifetime in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Facilitated by UEFA Assist, the Junior Jaguars will play Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lithuania and Montenegro in a unique development tournament in southeast Europe this month, following a nationwide search for talent and weeks of intensive preparation at the GFF National Training Centre in Providence.
The Under-16 squad making history for Guyana this month comprises Shemaiah Samuels, Troy Gibson, Omar Sam, Shakem Welcome, Matrim Martin, Reegan Lewis, Herman Gill, Christopher Whitter, William Escarraga, Hemant Khedoo, Jayden Culley, Bryan Wharton, Elon Anderson, Travis Williams, Jaden Harris, Gerry-Mayer Burnette, Swade Edwards, Dexter Milo, Seon Cato and Kvist Paul.
The squad will depart for Europe on Saturday under the guidance of Head Coach and former Golden Jaguar international Vurlon Mills.
The players and staff will be hoping to make a positive impression on European audiences as well as impressing national selectors ahead of Concacaf Under-17 Championship qualifiers in August.
“It means a lot for us, for Guyana’s football, and for our development,” Mills said.
“This is part of nation building, networking and development in the whole for football because it forces us, as a small nation, to work hard to implement ideas, philosophies, methodologies and best practices that UEFA might have for us to improve ourselves.”
“With tournaments like these, our football can really explode and take off,” Mills continued. “I am really glad for these youngsters, who will be participating in this tournament – they will never stop talking about the experience of being the first team to represent Guyana internationally in Europe.”
Guyana will play Bosnia and Herzegovina on April 19, Lithuania on April 21, and Montenegro on April 24. Hosts Bosnia have ranked as high as 13th in FIFA’s world rankings, but currently lie in 59th place, with Lithuania in 138th place and Montenegro, who have previously peaked at 16th, in 70th position.
The unprecedented opportunity for some of Guyana’s most promising young talent to perform at international level on the European stage is the direct result of the GFF’s sustained focus to foster a strong relationship with UEFA and other international football partners as part of its efforts to strengthen Guyana’s standing and image in the football world.
“The opportunity we have been granted by UEFA is truly a watershed moment for the GFF, which punctuates the importance of international relations in football,” said GFF President Wayne Forde.
“These young boys have been given a huge responsibility to make a first impression of Guyana within the European football space, both on and off the field of play. They are now our ambassadors, and I am extremely proud of the confidence and eagerness with which they have embraced this responsibility.”
Forde said the weather, opposition and conditions in Bosnia will likely pose a challenge for the players, observing that “a great deal of learning will undoubtedly take place and we all have to manage our expectations”.
“I would like to thank the boys’ parents for trusting the GFF and our technical staff with the care and protection of their sons as they set off on this historic journey,” he concluded.
GFF Assistant Technical Director Bryan Joseph said he was pleased with the preparations so far under the leadership of Coach Mills, and expected the whole group to rise to the occasion and represent Guyana to the best of their abilities in a spirit of fair play and respect.
“That will bring credence to the work we are putting into youth development across the football spectrum,” Joseph said. “I want to say special thank you to the team at UEFA Assist and President Forde. It is testament to the vision of the organisation as we continue to make every effort to ensure our players get the necessary exposure and opportunities for them to fulfil their football potential.”
The staff list for the trip is as follows:
Head Coach – Vurlon Mills
Assistant Coach – Devnon Winter
Goalkeeping Coach – Eon DeViera
Fitness Coach – Wilson Toledo
Team Manager – Randy King
Team Doctor – Nico Alstrom
Equipment Manager – Rawl Joseph GFF Assistant Technical Director Bryan Joseph