Antigua coach defends record number of overseas players
ST JOHN'S, Antigua (CMC):
Antigua and Barbuda's head coach, Rolston Williams, says the decision to include 14 overseas-based players for the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) finals was made in the best interest of the country's football.
Williams was reacting to criticism in some quarters over the record number of overseas-based players in the 23-member squad announced on Thursday.
He says Antigua & Barbuda, known as the Benna Boys, are no different from other countries preparing for what is expected to be a tough final.
"Jamaica only has room for four local players; Haiti in the same group - 14 overseas players, the same amount as us. Martinique - it's the strongest team they have ever put in a CFU championship is this year with some 11 players out of France," said Williams.
"So if we are a little dot on the map and these countries who are big countries are bringing back all these overseas players and seeing the importance of the competition, why not Antigua?"
Five of the 14 overseas players will be making their debut for the Benna Boys - defenders Christopher Cordara-Soanes, Alvin Jarvis and Aaron Tumwa, midfielder Myles Weston and striker Jordon Smith.
The other overseas-based players are Brentton Muhammad (goalkeeper), defenders Zaine Francis-Angol and Connor Peters; midfielders Keiran Murtagh, Caluam Jahraldo-Martin, Jorrin John, Joshua Parker and strikers Nathaniel Jarvis and Dexter Blackstock.
"We made Barracuda a laughing stock when we had all (local players). We couldn't win a game and we put a lot of blame on the players," said Williams.
"Now, they are not playing professionally, we are saying that they are good enough to play and we shouldn't bring overseas players, so we are just contradicting ourselves over and over."
Last month, Antigua and Barbuda achieved their highest ever FIFA world ranking, jumping to 70th in the world to position themselves only behind powerhouses Trinidad and Tobago in the CFU rankings at number two.
Their movement has come as a result of their impressive form in the recent second round of the CFU qualifiers.
"What do we really want as Antiguans? Do we want Antigua's name to be out there?," the coach asked.
"Do we want monies to come in the FA so we can start developing programmes, having coaches full-time so we can develop our local players to the level that they can compete at the highest level?."