Lessons from the Windward Islands Football Tournament
The Windward Islands Football Tournament staged here in Dominica has come and gone but it would be a mistake for us in Dominica to allow the dust to settle and the matter simply forgotten. Results of the matches themselves would by most persons be looked upon as entirely disagreeable and therefore unpalatable to the point of being altogether revolting to our appetites. It is not simply to be bent on harbouring a distasteful memory that should impel us to pay serious attention to what actually transpired in the matches. More importantly it is the absolute need to arrive at sensible analysis so that unwanted performance outcomes can be prevented in future such tournaments, assuming, of course, that the good sense of continuing and preserving this event is seen as a useful necessity.
Firstly, let us be magnanimous tournament hosts, and congratulate St. Lucia as the new champions. St. Lucia worked hard in understanding their straightforward objectives and stuck to their purpose. They beat Dominica 2-nil and followed this with a –1-nil victory over Grenada and then topped the whole thing with a goalless draw against St. Vincent. Not a rousing finale but enough to clinch the deal by freezing out their opponents in the decider. A win for the Vincentians would have given them the title. St. Lucia ended on 7 points.
St. Vincent copped second place with 5 points through a 3-2 win over Dominica and a nil-nil draw with St. Vincent and another nil-nil draw with St. Lucia. Grenada in third place enjoyed a 5-3 victory over Dominica along with their 0-0 draw with St. Vincent to see them to 4 points. Hosts Dominica occupied the cellar position losing all three of their matches: 2-nil to St. Lucia, 3-2 to St. Vincent and 5-3 to Grenada.
Where does one begin in attempting a critical look at Dominica's demise? It is best to start at the beginning. Our players were far from fit enough to engage in a tournament of this nature. Three matches in five days is a stiff assignment. Having said this, the tournament effort has to be seen to actually commence on day number one of the training programme which has necessarily to be a full three months without undue interruptions. All preparations must be concerted and complete.
Let me, at the risk of disturbing the sensitivity of many people, state categorically the standard of play in the tournament was not high and leaves much to be desired on the part of each of the participating territories. Without an unduly scathing assessment, the standard exhibited ought not to be beyond the capabilities of any decently trained secondary school. My purpose, though, is to look at Dominica's evident problems and how they may be effectively addressed.
Very first consideration has to be fitness. Our players tried hard, very hard. However, all limitations must be recognized and adequately addressed, otherwise we simply continue to waste valuable time—and end up with chronic frustrations and inevitable disappointment. No player in a Dominica shirt should be falling to ground often at the slightest touch, demonstrating physical weakness and psychological inadequacy. That happened much too often and calls for positive measures to remedy the situation. All players must be up to par with the demands of his sport.
This element of fitness must go well beyond the physical aspects. Fitness must incorporate the mental side of coming to grips with what excellence is all about in the scheme of both preparation and performance.
By all manner of critical computation the quantum of improvement needed by our players is about 15 percent—taken as the optimum requirement that will make a laudable elevation of playing standards for the purposes of this tournament and that also of full regional tournaments like CFU and CONCACAF. Of fullest concern is to entertain the importance of entering upon vital diagnosis of weaknesses inherent in our football. Every undesirable symptom of our malaise must be observed and fully understood. Afterwards, the remedies have to be conscientiously applied in expert fashion.
Time and space does not allow the fullness of dissertation demanded by the subject. And it would be my great pleasure to avail the Dominica Football Association of my services to assist in lifting our national teams off the floor—where we are kept by their deficiencies associated with an overall lack of know-how in implementing viable conversions to practical solutions to problem solving.
Problems discernible in our national team are numerous. Casting blame around will not help us. As they say, it is better to light just one little candle than to curse the dark. A poignant case of utter darkness occurred in our match against Grenada when three of our players seemed to have a committee meeting in front of the opponent's goal—long enough to allow a defender to emerge from nowhere and take away the ball! Our players appeared dumbfounded as to who should have shot at goal and which foot ought to have been used!
At another instance a penalty kick awarded to Dominica in the second half against St. Lucia should have automatically given us a welcome reprieve to reduce the deficit to 2-1. Net result was the wastage of the ball slammed violently against the frame of the goal, and the loss of useful momentum at that point.
Then, too, the incident of the ball over and over again being fed to an obviously very tired winger cried out pitifully for the desired understanding of just plain game sense. Note my avoidance of the term common sense. The latter has never been all that common! As a consequence, I urge the DFA through its president Mr. Glenn Etienne to conscientiously move to allow critical thinking to bear on the problems of our national team performances. I had thought the problems we had solved around 43 years ago in the year 1971 when I was privileged to have been Dominica's National Football coach which won the Windward Islands Tournament right here in Dominica would not by any means be returning now to haunt us. We are obligated to allow those who are familiar with these ghosts to assist in exorcising them. The shedding of tears has limited usefulness in matters like this. Team Dominica should have turned up for the post-match awards presentation, looking forward to better things for the future.