BFA may pay for scrapping senior team
Kenny Thompson fears the Bermuda Football Association’s decision to dismantle the senior national team could come back to haunt them.
On the eve of Bermuda’s opening World Cup qualifier, Thompson has criticised the BFA for disbanding the national side in 2008 in favour of developing under-23 players.
The ex-national team coach believes there could be a heavy price to pay for stunting the international growth of Bermuda’s older players, many of who will line up against Trinidad today.
“I have to be honest, I don’t believe our preparations have been as they should have been,” said Thompson, who led Bermuda during their previous qualifying campaign.
“This goes back to the BFA’s decision to dismantle the senior national team programme as part of their Strategic Plan in 2008; I didn’t agree with it then and I don’t agree with it now. The national programme always needs to be operating, that’s why we’re at a disadvantage this time around.
“The idea was to develop a group of young players for international football. It sounds good in theory but in reality preparing players for this type of arena doesn’t happen in a straight line.”
While Bermuda Hogges have provided 36 matches against overseas opposition, both home and away, during the past two seasons, Thompson doesn’t consider those games as adequate preparation for a World Cup campaign. He also believes it’s unacceptable that the national team haven’t kicked a ball in anger since playing Cayman Islands in the Digicel Cup three years ago Thompson’s final match in charge.
“The senior national programme has been dormant for too long. Yes, we’ve had the Hogges but their opposition is not the same as an international opponent. For the most part our more experienced players have been idle,” he said.
“In every team you need young players and seasoned players, and along the way both sets need to be experiencing international games.”
Thompson reckons it will be difficult for Bermuda’s current crop of players to repeat the feat of his team, which defeated Trinidad 2-1 in Port of Spain in 2008. He feels their ‘inferior’ preparations and lack of international experience could leave them cruelly exposed when up against the Soca Warriors’ glittering array of stars.
“We had a far more experienced defence with Kevin Richards, Omar Shakir and Kofi Dill, plus Meshach Wade who was sitting in front,” he said.
“I think it’s going to be more difficult for this Bermuda team because Trinidad will be more focused than before. They took a lot of flak from that defeat and won’t want that happening again.”
“Also, we didn’t have to contend with Kenwyne Jones who was injured; that was a piece of good fortune for us. Nothing’s impossible though but our players will have to stay mentally strong and enjoy a fair slice of luck, just as we did in 2008.”
Despite coming agonisingly close to knocking Trinidad out of the qualifiers, winning away, but losing at home, Thompson is no advocate of the two-legged qualifier. He thinks they favour the regional powerhouses and is encouraged that the qualifying format has been changed to a six-game group stage.
“I’m sorry not to be involved because I always wanted to oversee a group qualifying campaign,” he said. “I’ve always said the two-leg set-up doesn’t allow for less developed football nations to get better by playing more types of these matches.
“This Bermuda team know they will play six matches, win, lose or draw. Those games will provide an experience for the players to develop further for international games down the road.”
See Page 15 for Thompson’s recollections of Bermuda’s last meeting with Trinidad.