WITH the aim of reaching the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Guyana’s senior National Women’s team are heightening preparations ahead of their Caribbean Football Union (CFU) leg of the qualifier.The Lady Jags, placed in Group Four, will compete against St Kitts and Nevis on August 21 and Cuba two days later in the Dominican Republic.
Head coach Mark Rodrigues and technical director Claude Bolton announced that the Guyanese will have their first taste of International football in almost five years when they face an opponent still to be confirmed on July 24 at the Leonora Track and Field Facility.
With interest from Jamaica and Puerto Rico, the Guyana Football Federation’s (GFF) Technical Director said that decision will be made shortly with regard to the opponents the Guyanese women will suit up against.
The last time Guyana saw the Lady Jags in action was against Cuba at the Georgetown Cricket Club (GCC) ground where they won 1-0 and then travelled to Havana where they were victorious by a 3-1 scoreline and eventually qualified for the 2010 Women’s Gold Cup.
At the tournament in Mexico, Guyana grouped with the home side, Trinidad and Tobago, who at the time were coached by Jamaal Shabazz, and Canada.
The Guyanese unit failed to pick up a win at the competition, losing 7–2 against Mexico, 8–0 to Canada and 4–1 to Trinidad and Tobago, but in the end, they turned out to be the darlings of the tournament.
The Lady Jags were made up primarily of players from the U.S. and Canada collegiate systems, most of whom will be returning and Rodrigues, who along with Bolton hosted a camp in Toronto Canada earlier this month, said, “The returning players showed a high level of maturity and it was very exciting to see that in training and during the game in Toronto.
“I was quite pleased to see that our U-20 players (now mature) who were asked to join the squad were able to raise their level of play and come close to matching that of the original senior players.”
“The players, as a group, have never stopped asking me what more can they do to help develop football in Guyana. Through that contact I always kept abreast of players’ achievements in the game.” said Rodrigues.
Locally, the players will all assemble in Guyana for a camp, running from July 18 to 26, and according to Rodrigues “the focus of the camp will primarily be to get players to gel as a unit. The camp will primarily comprise of tactical and functional sessions, and with that some fitness will be addressed”
“Of course we are excited to be playing in Olympic Qualifiers. Yet again, we just do not just want to participate, we intend to leave a lasting impression on field and continue to leave a lasting impression on Women’s Football in Guyana.” the women’s head coach noted.
He added: “There is no difference this time around as compared to 2010 – the goal is and remains the same. The Lady Jags, similar to the men, are a vehicle to bring Guyanese together worldwide. This is what we have to use as a catalyst for the physical and social development of the youth in our country.”
Meanwhile, Bolton is of the opinion that “it is essential that we highlight the significance of the Lady Jags to our young players. They need to know that they too can have struggles, obstacles, and not reach glory in the eyes of others and still be proud for giving all that they have”.
Speaking on the team’s expectation, especially since the women’s team is Guyana’s most successful at all levels, Bolton made it clear that “we have no illusions. We know that this group is not expected, nor have they been prepared, to compete at the highest levels”.
However, coach Rodrigues and every single player have proudly and eagerly accepted the challenge. This effort can be the catalyst for making certain that we never face such a reality again.”