ST JOHN’S, Antigua – President of the Antigua & Barbuda Football Association (ABFA), Everton “Batow” Gonsalves, has lent his voice to the ongoing debate over the high number of overseas-based nationals selected to represent the Benna Boys at the finals of the CFU Caribbean Cup, starting today (Tuesday), in Jamaica.
The former national striker said that instead of viewing the invited players as apart and separate from the national squad, they should instead, be seen as the legitimate and deserving nationals they are.
“We must appreciate the fact that an Antiguan is an Antiguan, and if we do believe in CSME and if we do believe in Africa for Africans, we are going to have to look and revisit how we speak about persons of our descent who are not born here,” he said.
“At the end of the day, the ABFA is very cognizant at this point in time in managing the balance of local players alongside the professionals overseas-based, and our duty is to get more locally based players into professional contracts where they can provide a good standard of living for themselves and also represent Antigua at the highest level,” the President added.
A total of 14 overseas-based players are included in a 23-member squad currently in Jamaica where they will contest Group B of the finals against Haiti, Martinique and hosts Reggae Boyz. The number of overseas-based in the senior national football team is the largest in the country’s history.
The continued success of the senior national team through the direct inclusion of the overseas-based players, Gonsalves said, could serve to open doors for young talented players.
“It is important for us to see that because of the requirements of the competition demanding additional players, and as you can see with the Jamaican contingent, the Trinidad contingent, the Haitian contingent and the likes, we have to match that if we want to win competitions and to lower the rankings for Antigua & Barbuda,” he said.
“Scouts from overseas will have to recognise Antigua and then can come through connections or directly and then contract a player directly because the work permit would not be an issue and we will have the younger players going off to ply their trade,” he added.
The football boss also lamented the collapse of the Antigua Barracuda franchise and the role it played in the development of locally based players.
“One day I believe that maybe government would see the need of a Barracuda like set-up and it doesn’t have to be Barracuda because we all know what happened in that so it could be like the Wadadli Deer or it can be a new name, but we have to get back a Barracuda like professional set-up in Antigua & Barbuda to continue the professional development of our players,” Gonsalves said.
Five of the 14 overseas-based players have been included in the senior national team for the first time. The first timers are defenders Christopher Cordara-Soanes, Alvin Jarvis and Aaron Tumwa, midfielder Myles Weston and striker Jordon Smith.
Antigua & Barbuda Benna Boys will open their campaign in the finals against Haiti tomorrow (Wednesday).