President of the SVGFF, Venold Coombs. (Photo: E. Glenford Prescott)

By E. Glenford Prescott

President of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation (SVGFF), Venold Coombs, is rating 2015 as a very successful year in the life of the organisation.

Coombs, who overcame what many say was a bitter battle against former executive members to win a second consecutive four-year term, has never passed up an opportunity to highlight what has been achieved during his tenure at the helm of the SVGFF.

“We have had real positive things happening in football since I returned as president, but this year is possibly one of our best years with success on and off the field. With women, men youths and development. We have done well,” Coombs said.

The president said that it is suggested that the success of sporting bodies is measured by performance and achievements and that being the case, the SVGFF can confidently claim a great deal to shout about in the last 12 months.

“When you look for instance at our national teams, we have won the senior Windward Islands tournament and took most of the major awards then. We went into the World Cup Qualifiers and are into the semi-finals stage of the CONCACAF Zone. So, clearly, we are showing good signs,” he said.

Completion of the women footballers training course.
Completion of the women footballers training course.

He said that the U23 also did well by reaching the semi-finals of the CFU/CONCACAF Olympic Qualifiers and this was historic since it was the first time the team had gone that far.

The president also point to the women footballers who also marched into history by winning the inaugural Windward Islands senior women’s competition, while the U20 reached the semi-finals of the CFU competition.

Coombs said that success of the male teams in particular was reflected by the number of local players who were contracted by regional clubs to take part in their domestic competitions.

“We had players going off to Antigua, Barbados, Trinidad and Guyana, and “Lef Eye” (Myron Samuel) getting a contract in the MLS. We expect that with the resumption of the World Cup Qualifiers that more of our players will be looked upon by scouts and could get offers, but we also have to be very careful in ensuring that our players are not exploited because we had a situation where a guy was trying to get Tevin (Slater) to Germany but when I examined the details it did not look right  so nothing came of that,” he pointed out.

He said that another area that under lined the SVGFF’s period of positivity was the return of large crowds to domestic matches at the Victoria Park.

“We have injected large sums of monies into local football in the form of prize monies and this has had a positive impact on the attitude of the teams/clubs and fans, for people will want to see who are going to win a first prize of ten thousand dollars so the spectators will come in their numbers and you see that is exactly what is happening.”

He said that training was also a high point with coaches and referees all getting their fair share during the period.

“We had our coaches being given the opportunity to take part in the first ever CONCACAF D License course and this puts us in a good position to have more qualified coaches in preparation for the CONCACAF/FIFA Club License Programme, which is expected to be introduced in 2016.”

He said that more people were also added as match commissioners in 2015.

On other matters of development the president identified the Grassroots Programme as a major vehicle in the SVGFF’s thrust forward and said that with possible support from UEFA they are hoping to expand the programme across the island.

He said that there were some negatives among all the positives.

“One of the major minuses will have to be the situation with the executive, which for many months took centre stage in the public domain. It was fuelled by mischief and unethical behaviour and, in the end, the people who were involved in this despicable and unsavoury act received their just reward when they were voted out of office.”

He said that this is in the past and he is looking forward to the New Year with plenty of hope, optimism and confidence of continuing the advancement of the sport.