By Rae Roberts
The challenge to produce a high-quality Grenada National football team to compete in the Gold Cup and the FIFA World Cup Qualifying Competitions will be a herculean task for the recently GFA employed Canadian coach, Michael Findlay. The COVID-19 pandemic has created an environment that is not conducive to productivity but instead, a period of fear of being involved in gathering with people from different households.
Nevertheless, Grenada is scheduled to play its first game in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying Competition against El Salvador in San Salvador on the 25th of next month and that’s a huge fixture. In the remaining seven weeks to the kick-off, coach Findlay has a tight agenda – first, he must become familiar with the football culture in Grenada, scout around to see the available talents, select what he considers to be the premier crop of footballers, and then the biggest task is to program the players into an effective unit.
Another challenge is recruiting Grenadian overseas-based footballers, particularly from the various English league competitions. Unlike the era before COVID-19 Pandemic when shuttling half a dozen Grenadian professionals from leagues in Europe and North America to Saint George’s was easy, today traveling is complicated. Some borders are closed; travelers are subjected to PCR test three days before the flight and must return a negative COVID-19 test. Then upon reaching your destination, you are sent to a mandatory five-day quarantine. The hassle of moving from one place to another takes time in this COVID-19 environment.
Coach Findlay has a tremendous task ahead of him to find the best players and produce a winning team. The Grenada Football Association (GFA) will have to make a big investment to keep the chosen 22 players plus officials together in an exclusive camp, referred to as a bubble, ensuring everyone is constantly monitored thus having the confidence to practice and interact fruitfully. El Salvador on three occasions qualified for the World Cup Finals and is highly competitive in the Latin and Central America competitions. Many of their players are career professionals competing in several of the top flight competitions in Europe, Mexico, and North America.
Coach Michael Findlay’s resume and credentials indicate that he worked at a high level of international football, having served as the assistant and interim Head Coach of Canada’s Senior Men’s Team. Also, he had stints coaching the Canadian Olympic team, U18, U15 youth teams, and Assistant Coach of Canada’s U20 National Team. Important to note Findlay has the experience of FIFA World Cup Qualifying tournaments, two Gold Cups, and over 150 matches from youth to senior levels. The GFA, I am sure will do their utmost to provide him with all the necessary support so he delivers an outstanding national team. The players selected must also play their part going the extra mile, even in the most difficult conditions, to make this venture of participating in FIFA World CUP Qualifiers and the Gold Cup a big success for themselves and Grenada.
Coach Charlie Joseph, who Findlay is replacing, did a marvelous job in the CONCACAF Gold Cup Qualifying tournament, playing undefeated. The upcoming assignments are much tougher and preparations for the games are being compounded by the uncompromising WHO COVID Pandemic protocols. Coach Finlay surely faces a giant new football challenge in an underdeveloped nation – where facilities and players’ attitudes are vastly different from the ones where he operated for much of his professional career. The Canadian therefore will have to be creative and sensitive in his quest to bring the best out of our amateur players.
Grenada has a busy six-month calendar of home and away games perhaps to be played in an empty stadium. FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifying matches in this region have no room for second place nations. Only the winners from the first round group fixtures will advance to the second phase. Grenada, El Salvador, and US Virgin Islands are contesting the winner take all-around robin series and we wish the coach, his staff, and players a successful period of preparation and above all victories in each of their respective games.