It is time to get back out on the pitch and back into training.
That is the view of both the President of the Barbados Football Association (BFA) and Head Coach Russell Latapy, who were both speaking during a post-game press conference earlier today.
The team returned home on Wednesday following a 21-day trip for the first leg of their FIFA World Cup Qualifiers in the Dominican Republic. They went down 1-0 to Panama but pulled off a 1-0 victory against Anguilla at the Felix Sanchez Stadium.
“We need to be on the pitch. We need to work on a lot of different aspects of our game. I think it is a situation we at the BFA are going to sit down once we get out of quarantine, discuss these matters, and figure out what is the best way to move forward.
“If it’s a situation that we can get permission to train, that will be the best-case scenario for us. If that is not the situation, we know what we did for these two games passed, it is a possibility and something that we definitely have to look into and go back to somewhere and have a camp for two or three weeks before we compete,” Latapy said.
Harris however said the team would have to return to the Dominican Republic in June, as it was their home game. He added from an administrative level, they were able to pull off the first leg without a hitch and gave kudos to team manager Cadijah Mars, the general secretariat, and General Secretary Edwyn Wood for administering the situation in the best possible way.
He noted the inconvenience of having to set up an overseas training camp came with a $400 000 price tag, but noted the merits.
“We were able to guarantee the players trained as they should, had enough rest as they should, they had the correct treatment as they should and their nutrition was guaranteed. We have to do what we have to do as this is the highest level of competition. But of course, we have to make sure that things are done correctly under the circumstances,” the president explained.
With no competitive football played for over a year on island and training restricted, management is hopeful there will be a change in local protocols for the team to get some much-needed ball time.
“I’ve had some initial conversations with the president in relation to how we move forward in June. I don’t know if we’re going to open up here at home where we can play and be closer to the support that we need. I know there is a possibility we can go back to the Dominican Republic and play these games. I think it’s a bit too soon now to figure out exactly what we’re going to do when we get there, but I am sure in the coming weeks, once there is clarity on these decisions, then we can get back into it.
“What we really need to do is we need to get back on the training pitch and work on the things that have gotten us to this point, which are the good things, and improve on our weaknesses. Like everything else, it is really difficult to throw a group of young men into a situation and say you have two weeks and now you get ready to play international football. If we don’t have a choice and we have to do it, we will do it, but I think the ideal situation was having that group of young men on the pitch so you can help develop them and work on aspects of the game we need to improve on,” the head coach said.
Latapy noted on the training pitch he got a better idea of when things were not right with some of his players.
“These young men haven’t been playing football here because of the COVID situation. A lot of these young men come from difficult homes and difficult circumstances that they need support with. I also think that winning is about good practices and good habits, and the best way to develop these habits is really on the training pitch. If we can get them back on the training pitch that will go a long way in moving in the direction that we want to move in.
“A lot of these young men, if you’re not around them you cannot understand what is happening with them. For me, it’s really about being around my team, being on the training pitch with them, and developing a relationship with them. One that they trust you enough to know that you’re trying to guide them in the right direction, and they trust you enough to know that they can speak to you about anything and feel comfortable about it,” he said.
Harris, who is a vice president with Concacaf, said they went “way overboard” because there was no choice in this particular situation, and said under normal circumstances, the trip would have been “a real problem”.
With a more than packed summer ahead, with two World Cup Qualifiers and Gold Cup Qualifiers, Harris said as soon as they were out of quarantine, they would see how best they could get assistance under the current circumstances.
“To be in Barbados for another two months or so, and not able to do anything while we are here is not the best situation. While I was overseas, I am sure I heard the Attorney General say that national selections can apply for exemptions in certain areas. I don’t know if football will be considered, but I am hoping so because we are at a pretty good place as far as the national team is concerned at the moment,” he said.
Harris, who traveled with the national senior men’s team for the first time as president, said it was a pleasure for him as he got a better appreciation and understanding of what was going on at the senior national level.
“I am hoping that the Football Association will be considered because I can assure everyone that our protocols we have put in place with the assistance of our local people, Dr Rene Best and also the people protocol, will put us in a safe place. As we showed everybody, we went to the DR, one of the places that more people will not consider going to, and we were able with their assistance, to put our players in as safe a position as we could. COVID was out of our minds until the two times we had to be tested. I am hoping there will be some consideration for us because to sit down here for another two months, I believe a lot of players will lose their fitness and we need really to deal with this issue,” he said.