EARMARKED as a “true game changer”, the Guyana Football Federation (GFF)/Scotiabank Academy Training Centre (ATC) was officially launched yesterday at the Umana Yana. The extensive and comprehensive ATC’s initiative will see the implementation of a nationwide youth development programme create a clear pathway for players to move from grassroots level straight up to the national teams, at all age group levels.“Today marks a giant leap towards realising that dream of success, as we embark on a new era of hope for football in Guyana. This nationwide network of GFF/Scotiabank Academy Training Centres will play a major part in our plan to transform football in Guyana,” declared GFF president Wayne Forde.Forde pointed out that such a widespread programme has never before been undertaken in the football fraternity in Guyana.In attendance to help usher in the groundbreaking initiative were several other GFF executives, as will as Director of Sport Christopher Jones and Sports Commission chairman Ivan Persaud.Persaud called it a “very solid programme, saying that players “will ultimately leave the programme being a better person”.The ATC programme is expected to focus on the overall well-being of the young players including nutrition, behaviour, fitness and sports psychology. It will involve scouting for new talent, coaching young players through coordinated weekly sessions and recruiting coaches and referees to work in each specific region.Seated at the head table at yesterday’s launch (from left): GFF executive committee member Dion Innis, GFF VPs Rawlston Adams and Bruce Lovell, GFF president Wayne Forde, Scotiabank’s Jennifer Cipriani, NSC chairman Ivan Persaud, GFF Technical Director Ian Greenwood (Adrian Narine photo)This will not only create a constant supply of players, but also ensure that the players are of the best quality.“Football has the potential to be the number one sport in Guyana for many years to come. With this programme, the GFF is putting our nation where it belongs – in the vanguard of youth football development in the Caribbean,” said Forde.To carry out the programme’s mandate and ensure its success, the GFF will employ a team of nine full-time Technical Development Officers and 14 part-time Youth Development Coaches, in addition to the six-member technical staff, led by GFF Technical Director Ian Greenwood.A broad overview of the programme, its structure and objectives were delivered by Greenwood during his address yesterday.The academies, of which there will be an initial 13, will be distributed across the GFF’s nine member associations. Associations from Bartica, Georgetown, Essequibo, Upper Demerara, East Bank, East Coast and West Coast Demerara will all have one academy each. More extensive areas will have more than one, with Berbice getting two, and the Rupununi starting off with four.The programme is specifically tailored to suit differing age levels, with academies for five specific age groups, namely grassroots sessions with boys and girls aged 5-11, Under-13 boys, Under-15 boys, Under-17 boys, and Under-17 girls.Each group will provide a maximum of 16 players at a time.Both the players and the staff’s continual inclusion in the programme will be merit-based. Greenwood will be tasked with reviewing academy intake and overall performance on a regular basis to ensure fairness, quality, and consistency.Funding for the programme will come from the GFF, International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) and Scotiabank.Scotiabank will be supplying an initial fund of $600 000 worth of annual bursaries to cover school supplies for ATC participants. The bursaries are expected to go to those exemplary players with the best attendance at school and at the academies.Scotiabank’s Marketing Manager Jennifer Cipriani spoke on behalf of the company.“Scotiabank enjoys giving back to the communities. Through ATCs we hope to give our boys and girls the opportunity to realise their dream of a career in football,” she said.
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