Should we repeat mistakes of the past?
Passive response to the two football matches between Dominica and the British Virgin Islands at Windsor Park revealed a number of things – some of them expected or even inevitable, but others rather unpalatable if any outlook towards progress is entertained. The very good bit of evidence was the passionate effort displayed by our Dominican players. They tried hard and we must compliment them for this, a feature the more commendable in that most of the players are quite young and relatively new to the sport. Even moreso as the youthfulness factor the spectatorship comprised to a large extent the early age group spectrum, and most pleasantly, the sizeable ingredient comprised women and girls.
The matches represented home and away fixtures in the first stages of qualifying for World Cup 2018. The Virgin Islands, not having an acceptable stadium, played the match on Thursday as their home encounter. This ended 3-2 in Dominica's favour – coming from behind twice. Sunday's home match for Dominica ended goalless with Dominica missing bags of scoring opportunities.
I run the risk of displeasing many of my readers, just as I did several years ago when St. Kitts played similar engagement here. We had won by a score of around 8-1 or thereabout. It was incumbent upon me to truthfully assess that the Kittians had not even heard of the word football – much less to play it. Alas, a number of persons went up in arms and thought I was unpatriotic! Far from searching for the grain of truth in my utterances, out football authorities preferred to bury their heads in the sand. Then, lo and behold, St. Kitts returned precisely two years later and inflicted defeat on Dominica at the same Windsor Park! Would you believe it? It really happened.
Thursday's engagement began with both sides displaying signs of early nerves. Passes went astray with regularity. One, though, must commend our boys for adjusting by slowing down the game, realizing the situation demanded it. This allowed B.V.I to measure their approaches with greater freedom. However, a clear possessional superiority rested with Dominica and should have resulted in a couple of cheap goals missed inexplicably from very close range. As sometimes happens, a level of frustration leads to a measure of desperation in attack. Our defence lost shape and was punished with a goal coming against the run of play, the local crowd numbering well upward of a thousand fell silent.
This quiet period seemed to benefit us and brought about the equaliser going into the interval. The second half saw a replica of the B.V.I opening goal. Our defence caught again out of position while committed to attack. Stung by this second reverse, a greater sense of urgency resulted in one of the best through passes I have witnessed to bring up an unchallenged approach on the BVI goal keeper to again level the score at 2-all.
After many close shaves and near misses, Dominica eventually got the winning goal 3-2 in face of a fairly exhausted B.V.I and brought a sense of relief from the burden that we had not won at home for a fairly long time by our men's team.
Sunday's match played two hours earlier at 5.p.m, revealed a rather more organised approach by the visitors, only to be worn down to a stage where Dominica might have found the net successively if it had not been for shooting and heading inadequacies.
Flagrantly, this weakness brings back to mind a question I put to imported Trinidad coaches Ibrahim Issa and Jap Brown in the eighties who I solicited for the manner they would address the similar inability at converting goal scoring chances endemic in our national team. The two gentlemen shook their heads, suggesting there was no need to engage in drills specific to the end product of goal scoring. Maybe they thought prayers would be of greater applicability. If so, our prayers have not been on an answerable wave length or perhaps not yet forthcoming. If a player's career measures around fifteen years, we are on a third generation of this scoring impediment.
Please, let it be emphasized I am not in any way slamming the players for this inexorable scoring disability – for we have known about it for ages, but what have we done about it? Wherein lie the answers we ought to have embraced long since? Take it or leave it, the art of shooting is not like wine. It does not improve with age. It starts with very clear early beginnings. There are very distinct fundamental defects in basic football development contributing to poor shooting - the essence of which is not convenient to explore in this article. Suffice it to say a shooting weakness which surfaces at the level of national chapters to regional representation requires serious remedy almost bordering on surgical procedures.
Every effort should be made to encourage the growth of crowds attracted to football at Windsor Park. One way to do this would be to avoid relying on the sheer gullibility of the current paying public, most of whom are clueless as to a truly decent standard of play. All that surfaces form the stands presently is a naive hysteria erupting anytime Dominica received the ball in an advanced sector of the field. This, too, impacted forcibly on our players to resort to wholesale lengthy kicking downfield in a less than artfully constructive manner.
Your national team, not only at senior level but in junior age groups, must be tailored to standards way above that exhibited by the British Virgin Islands, but that also of the Windward and Leeward Islands, of Barbados, Trinidad, let's say of the Eastern Caribbean. Our performance rating must answer to absolute yardsticks, at least up to what we produced in the sixties and seventies. Genetically the blueprint is not lost but misplaced. We should seek to recover and reclaim it fully.
Ever since the time when lamentably we suffered 10-nil and 7-nil defeats by Mexico our World Cup explorations should have assumed solid remedial action based on therapies geared upon technical advancement commensurate with what St. Kitts and Antigua managed starting from further back comparatively in their qualitative assessments. I insist our players have the potential. But we must treat them better by first having better regard for them and consequently doing much better by them in the way we nurture them into meeting the requirements modern football demands. We cannot at all be serious if we are satisfied to measure ourselves alongside utter newcomers B.V.I. Fraternal concern for our players must be the cornerstone of our driving force to achieving for them the pinnacle of having the best way forward in elevating Dominica's football.