Let's be sensible with our football
I have to thank Don Leogal for allowing me some insight into Dominica's participation in their recent C.F.U Under 20 regional football tournament before offering my views for a betterment of the situation. I present a verbatim transcript of my telephone interview with Mr. Leogal who served as the national team coach at that level.
What were your assessments of the tournament standard played in Aruba?
The standard was reasonably high and Grenada appeared good against us in our first match. The other team Aruba was also good.
Dominica's best results
We lost both our matches 3-1 against Grenada and 1-nil to Aruba, but we conceded goals against Grenada while we were a player short. He was receiving treatment for an injury.
Any other contributing factors?
The surface we played on was an artificial one and our players took much time adjusting to it. Things like the way the ball bounced and the pace of its movement put them off a good bit. This in itself could have been responsible for some injuries suffered.
Can you place your finger on specific team weaknesses?
Somehow, confidence was a little low because of the unusual field setting. This could account for strong deviation from our team plan. It was such that there was much kicking of the ball without a constructive approach, causing undue pressure from our opponents.
Do you care to risk an assessment of the playing skills of the Dominica players vis a vis their counterparts?
We had an expanded squad of around 63 for initial training which was reduced to 30 after two weeks and then cut to 20 a week later. Our opponents may have rated at 5-6 on a scale of 1-10. However, our players were not far behind skill-wise.
How much training time did you and your assistant have with the squad?
Five weeks mainly at Bath Estate ground with a session or two at Geneva, Grand Bay.
Was there any time devoted to blackboard sessions?
Not much. Only about two indoor sessions for discussions etc.
That sounds very minimal. Then, how far did discussions go with the DFA executive board?
I did have pre training discussions with the president but we need more interaction with the technical staff, practically as the players on the whole had very limited regional experience.
As to your team formation what was the basic structure?
We started against Grenada with 4-4-1. However, we soon found the Grenadian plan of using 5 men in the midfield forced us to counter by pulling a striker back to prevent them from enjoying too much of an advantage in the midfield. This revised plan helped us against Aruba.
What are your basic recommendations to the DFA to help advance our progressive development?
I haven't submitted a report as yet and preferably can't divulge the recommendations of the assistant coach and myself. Anyway, it is possible to say fitness features as a prime consideration.
We need now to entertain what might logically ensue beyond the reaches of this interview. Of course, much ought to be derived from the experience that should have been gained when Aruba and other territories played here at Windsor Park a year or two ago.
Matters like fitness cannot reasonably be left to chance or haphazard arrangements. That Mr. Leogal sees the need for at least three months training of the squad can only be blessed with fruitfulness. A team is only as strong as its weakest link. This should never be fitness.
From my point of view, if these tournaments take place every two years, every effort must be made to have a solid nucleus of players training from one year to the next, with emerging players added as required.
Don Leogal praised six players for their outstanding effort, application and commitment to the team performance. Goal keeper Kelleson Thomas, Defenders Eustace Marshal (Jr), Sydney Lockhart, Striker-midfielder Delroy Parker who is under scrutiny to join a Trinidad professional unit, and midfielder Marcellus Raffoul and Jeremiah Morancie who was introduced for the second game against Aruba.
Congratulations to these players. We need now to put things in place for us to be able to compliment further, but a number of things have to be put in place in the training of our national teams. Some of these may be novelties here but should in the long term become taken as automatic provision in our scheme of things- if progressive development is our goal.
As a matter of fact, the under-20 coach should hold assignment with the team for at least three successive tournaments before due qualitative assessment can be seriously valid. Many will hold a span of five such tournaments to be the bare minimum.
Beyond all this, must be the constructive view that your Under-20 squad should routinely graduate into your Under – 23 and senior squad. It is as automatic as that. Otherwise, all efforts at grooming at the lower age group level becomes lost through weakness in required continuity.