The St. Vincent and the Grenadines senior men football team, Vincy Heat, on Monday departed for Grenada today, Monday, where they will spend three weeks will be spent training for their CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala and Cuba, on June 4 and 8.
“The team has been affected by mass displacement, air quality issues and availability of playing surfaces, to mention a few,” President of the SVG Football Federation, Carl Dickson, told a press conference in Kingstown on Friday.
Dickson said that the explosive eruption of La Soufriere, on April 9, as well as the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulted in the decision to have the team travel and train in Grenada for three weeks.
The team will also play its home game against Cuba in Grenada.
Dickson said that the SVGFF wanted to mitigate the challenge of playing at high altitude by having Vincy Heat play their home game in St. Vincent rather than in Guatemala.
“But there is a strict level of protocol that needs to be observed now during the COVID period to host a game in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Right now, we are currently not meeting those standards and it is an extremely engaged exercise,” he explained.
He said that the SVGFF has set up a COVID committee that went through all of the protocols that need to be fulfilled to host a game.
“Therefore, we thought it fitting that we get as close to home and as comfortable as home as possible. Grenada presented that opportunity. Therefore, that is why we will also take the opportunity to play our home game in Grenada,” Dickson said.
Head coach ‘pleased with what we have seen so far’
Speaking at Friday’s press conference, the team’s head coach,
Kendale Mercury, said that training resumed two weeks ago, after a break resulting from the eruption of the volcano.
“I must say we are pleased with what we have seen so far,” he said, adding that the players are motivated by competition.
“So once there is a competition upcoming, they will turn out in their numbers,” Mercury said, adding that the technical staff has set fitness standards that players are expected to meet.
“And I am quite happy with the fitness of the team in terms of endurance and speed endurance at this moment, which we have been working on,” he said.
Mercury said that the team had been instructed to go home and train every 48 hours if the conditions permitted.
“And from the test we have run, we are very pleased… we are in a better place than the first two games, fitness-wise, and we are hoping that this will manifest on the field of play with the extra time that we have in Grenada.”
He said that playing against Guatemala has always been about trying to achieve a personal milestone.
“That is the goal we have set for ourselves and the personal milestone is a win because we have never won Guatemala in any game at senior level; and we have never drawn with Guatemala.”
Fitness especially important
He said that the challenge that the technical team immediately saw is the high altitude in Guatemala.
“Again, our plan was to utilise our highest peak, which is the La Soufriere volcano, for training proposes, but that is no longer possible. We are hoping [that] in Grenada, we will have access to a few mountainous areas which we have already researched, hoping that the terrain is as easy as ours here.”
The head coach said that acclimatisation is very important, but noted that like St. Vincent, Grenada does not have a 4,000-foot elevation — which could mirror the conditions in Guatemala.
“From research, it takes three days sleeping at high altitude to acclimatise. So, the strategy would be, other than training at elevation in Grenada, once we are permitted to do so, is to get into Guatemala so that we have three nights sleeping at 4,000-plus feet, which will help us.
“The fitness, as I said, is what we are more concentrating on, because as you know how the science works, if you are fitter, your body will handle the oxygen and the blood flow better and that is what counteracts at high altitude.”
Mercury said that the technical staff is making provisions to have oxygen available to players during the game, is in discussion with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which is perusing high altitude pills to ensure that they do not contain any banned substances.
He said that the team would normally hydrate about four days before the game, but at high altitude, they will have to do so for more than a week before the game.
“So these are the little things we will introduce.”
The team that will be travelling to Grenada are:
Akeem Williams, Camal Bess, Cornelius Stewart, Diel Spring, Dorren Hamlet, Garwin Davis, Jadiel Chance, Jahvin Sutherland, Jamal Yorke, Josh Stowe, Zidane Sam, Kishawn Johnny, Tristan Marshall, Kurtlon Williams, Kyle Edward, Gidson Francis, Mark Browne, Marlon Simmons, Oryan Velox, Renson Sayers, Ted Roberts, Terrason
Joseph, Trivis Fraser, Tre Crosby, Kennijah Joseph, Brad Richards, and Nazir McBurnette.
Eight officials are travelling with the team. They are: Kendale Mercury (Head Coach), Kevin Richardson (goalkeeper coach), Renson Haynes (manager), Alfred Grant (assistant coach), Jason Waldron (assistant coach), Rex Pollard (fitness trainer), Shandel Samuel (striker coach) and Otnell Douglas (executive member).
Mercury said that Tre Cosby is a Canadian-born Vincentian who will join the team in Grenada.
“He actually will be on trial because this is his first time and that’s the process we have in place for a first-time player, that he comes, he join the camp and we access him. And this is the only way we have had so far to assess him because in Canada there’s no playing either.”
Of the Guatemala match, Mercury said:
“So, as I say, it’s just to go down there and try to get a win. I know it will be difficult because the environment and the high altitude will always give us a problem in the past from my research. So that is why stressing on the fitness — a bit more emphasis was put on that because what you have at normal elevation will probably cut in half at 4,000- plus feet…”
In their first two games, Vincy Heat went under 5-nil to Curacao but defeated the British Virgin Island, 3-nil.