The senior men’s football team are set to begin preparation for their 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup campaign when the Barbados Football Association’s Premier League kicks off on Saturday.
The FA’s top-flight team is where players are selected to represent the country.
That was confirmed by Head Coach Russell Latapy during a press conference at the BFA’s Wildey headquarters on Wednesday.
“I’m also looking forward to a fantastic 2020 season with the national team, but also with the Premier League. The Premier League is where I can get players from to strengthen the senior squad. I’m really looking forward to all the movement with the different teams, with players going to and also with the coaches. There are a lot of changes this season, so it looks like a really exciting season and I think it can only strengthen the national team,” he said.
With the Premier League set to be equally competitive, Latapy said the tournament games would be used as practice heading into their first game against Guyana in March.
“Preparations for Guyana starts with Premier League where the boys would be playing games, so they should be at a decent level of March fitness. We try to develop our identity, how we want to play which is trying to score goals first and foremost. We want to be entertaining, that’s the only way we can really get the fans to come out and support the team; if we’re winning games and are entertaining.
“First and foremost we will try to be more clinical in terms of the chances we create and the chances we take. The two games against Canada taught us a lot about playing at that level. We know we have to be more solid in defense as well. Every coach will say that the two major aspects are you don’t let goals in and you try to score, so these would be the two key areas that we’d be working on and concentrating on,” he said, adding that discussions were currently ongoing to secure some friendly games ahead of the first Nations League game.
However, Latapy, a former Soca Warrior, said his biggest hurdle was getting players to understand the level at which they were playing and what is required of them.
“On the national team presently we have a group of very talented players. As we know, talent is not the only ingredient that will get you to success and to reach the levels that we want to reach too. My major challenge is getting the boys to understand when you represent your country, you know you represent the 300-odd-thousand people and you need to put your best foot forward. I think the players are starting to understand what is required and how lucky they are to be in the position they are in and we’re definitely moving in the right direction,” he said.
And while he has not benched the idea of overseas players just yet, Latapy said they would continue to work with whoever players they had, but any player was welcomed to join the ranks of the senior squad.
“I’ve said it and I will continue to say, any player we can get to help us move in the direction that we want, who is going to come into the team and be a team player and work together, moving in the same direction, we would welcome them. With the TD we are presently looking at players we think can come into the team and strengthen the team.
“We are however working with the players we have here to improve them. Whichever way it takes, we know we have to play Guyana on the 26th and 31st. We are going to prepare the team in the best possible way we can, with whoever players we have and progress against Guyana in these two games,” he said matter-of-factly.
With almost 40 players on the national roster, the coach said whoever was available for the Guyana outing, based on fitness and form, will represent the Bajan Tridents.
“Presently we’re trying to put our team at the level we should be at to play international football. If we can work on our shortcomings and improve on the things we’re good at, then we’re better prepared for anybody we play against. If I can get us to play to our potential then we’ll be ready,” he said.
Additionally, Latapy said they would include junior players as best as possible.
“What we have to do is concentrate on the players that are available to us. We have a couple of young players coming up that we would get into the squad, see how they gel and how they develop into the squad.
“Right now we have the usual suspects. Thierry Gale has been off playing professional football for some time and where we can bring him in and he can be an asset to us he will join. Unfortunately, we don’t have any magical name who’s playing for Barcelona or Real Madrid. What we have are honest players who want to represent their country and we’re going to give them that opportunity,” he said.
“We have two young goalkeepers who have been doing very well. My philosophy is if you’re doing well, you deserve to maintain your position. I would guess at some point Keasel’s opportunity will come again and I hope when it comes he can grab onto it and help the national team to progress.