Since securing a spot, by virtue of the best third place finisher in the Under-20 CFU tournament played in Curacao, the SKNFA Technical Director Lenny Lake sees positive attributes for the team and the advancement of football in the federation.
After beating Curacao 3-1 and a drawn game between Cuba and St. Lucia, the St. Kitts and Nevis Under-20 team secured the opportunity to compete in the CONCACAF finals to be played in Costa Rico in February 2017.
Reflecting on the FIFA Under-20 World Cup qualifier tournament for the CONCACAF region (Caribbean, Central America and North America), Technical Director Lake is of the view that in spite of the result, the St. Kitts and Nevis Under-20 team was among the top teams playing in the tournament.
He said, “I believe the team was, arguably, one of the better teams that played in the finals. Sometimes, even though you are a good team, you don’t get the right results. It may be just a lapse in concentration in one particular match in which you did not score goals as was needed. In our case, because of a really poor opening match.”
Apart from the team’s opening match against Bermuda, Lake pointed out that the team performed creditably.
He explained, “If you looked at the results, apart from the first match in which we lost to Bermuda 3-1 after leading the match, we went on and played Antigua and Curacao. But of all those three teams that we played, Bermuda, Antigua and Curacao, we scored first. We led the game. In the case of Antigua, we led them twice, until the came back in the last minute to equalize the game. Then we took care of Curacao beating them 3-1.”
In fact, the technical director believes the team was very competitive. “I think we were quite a handful in the competition,” said Lake. “It was unfortunate that we did not get to go through, as one of the two teams from our group… I think the team is made up of tremendous talent.”
And it is not just his viewpoint. Lake said, “Some of the experts in Curacao, they thought that St. Kitts and Nevis was a team that showed good quality in playing the game, and they hoped they got a chance to move on and showcase that talent.”
So how does Lake feel having had time to consider the result of the CFU Under-20 tournament? His response, “I am pleased even though we could have done much better, and grateful that in the end, we still had that opportunity to move on to the CONCACAF tournament with a chance to show to the world that we have quite a talented team.”
But all of that is in the past now. The Under-20 will be entering a highly competitive football environment in Costa Rico. So, what does the team do?
Lake stated, “We have to continue our preparation. We cannot pause then come back. If we were to do that we would lose everything we have worked for over the past few months.”
He admits that the competition for the ‘Sugar Boyz’ will be harder. “The tournament is in February next year. It’s not far away. It’s going to be a tougher level.”
He continued, “We are going to have better opponents, so we have to match that and be prepared to compete against countries like Costa Rico, USA, Honduras.”
Lake feels confident, however, that the coaching team is up to the task. He explained, “For the first time, we used a locally based coaching staff, persons who came out of our Coaching Education Program. This was a way to test to see the quality of our coaching program.”
The coaching team includes Coach Anthony Isaac, formally the coach of the St. Peter’s Football Club; Alex Claxton, who was Isaac’s assistant – out of Nevis coaching Bath United. There is Owen Hughes, who is working as goal keeper/coach, and there is trainer Hans Richards, who is a qualified trainer, who studied in Cuba and in Hungary, assisted by Jamir Claxton, who is the director of sports in the Nevis Island Administration.
Importantly, most of these persons would have recently completed the SKNFA C-License, held for the first time in 2015, which is a higher license than the D-License that was being offered by the SKNFA for some time.
According to Lake, it was an opportunity to see, if having attained the next level in coaching, if they would be able to go out and improve the level of football in the federation, assisting with the improvement of players and the advancement of teams.
He said, “Clearly, we can see that having the chance now to advance, we can say we have achieved much out of the C-Licensing program that was introduced. It is something that we will have again next year, hoping that more coaches would see the need and take the next level of coaching.”
Lake concluded, “I am quite pleased with the local coaches and the contribution they have made. We have a staff that is qualified enough to work with the players.”