Words of Encouragement to U20 National Footballers

Roosevelt Skerrit address footballers

Football House, Bath Estate

During the just concluded World Cup, Costarican, Joe Campbell, because of his extraordinary performance during the World Cup was picked up by Arsenal and he signed a $60 million deal with them. You could sign a $600,000.00 with…

I want to recognise my colleagues who are here and the President of the Football Association, Coach, Don Leogal, other members of the DFA, the media and more importantly, you the ambassadors of Dominica who will be going out to represent football, represent Dominica and represent yourself.

The most important thing you must have in doing anything whether you are a farmer, a nurse, politician, a priest, a pastor, whatever you are doing, a coach and in your case a footballer, one of the most important things you must have is pride; pride in yourself and pride in your country. When you watch the World Cup and all of you watched maybe every single match that was carried live on the television; every single game that was carried live on the television. You see big men crying before the world, they cried, they did not hide to cry. Why do they cry when they lose? Because of prided, they were playing for their country and they were playing for the sixty million people who the country may have, for the five million people the country may have, for the one hundred and fifteen million people the country may have because they were not only representing themselves, they were representing Brazil, they were representing the Republic of France, they were representing Costa Rica, they were representing Argentina. Because they feel that they have not been able to bring the expected joy that they people were hoping from them to them by winning that particular game and by winning the World Cup. So they were crying not for themselves personally but crying for the country which they represent.

I often find that we in the Caribbean, and I am not saying so as a criticism I am saying so with the hope of we paying attention to it and I always find that we watch cricket, for example, a guy goes out there who is being paid to be a batsman, he gets a duck and he just walks out and the next time the camera is on him he is smiling and he is playing or he is on his phone or having a coke and so forth. You don’t get the sense that he is upset with himself that he got out. When you watch the Australians play, you watch the English people play, these guys they play with a sense of pride and determination. Because for many people it is a source of accomplishment that they have gotten to the point where they can represent their country and for you, because when I heard the number of people who were called out for training and only twenty of you who are here today and who will be travelling to the tournament, you are the cream of the crop. And you are the cream of the crop because you have demonstrated the coaching team that you have what it takes to represent your country, represent the DFA and you have demonstrated that you have the capacity and ability to play good football. How do you translate that into satisfaction of all of us in Dominica? It is by winning. You have to respect the coaching team; you may not agree with what Coach Leogal is saying to you but he is the expert, he is your coach and you cannot go out there and change the game plan, that which the team has agreed to; football is not an individual game, it is not tennis.

So you have to have pride and I keep telling people that pride is more than half of what you need in anything. You know when a guy comes to your home and he is building a house for you and he sees that the plastering is not done properly he leaves it and he goes, he says that is all right when he paints it, it will cover it. But anybody who has pride in his work would have tried to correct that error in plastering. So you have to have that level of discipline. If the Coach says that you have to be here on time, and I want to apologise for not being on time. I have been working on the budget and I had to break the meeting to come here that is why I asked my colleagues to come with me because they are part of the Cabinet’s sub-committee on the budget because for the rest of the week I say I am not going to any function but I decided to come to only two functions today, one was the Grotto Home and I decided to come here this afternoon to meet with you and speak with you especially as young men in the country. I know that we can find ourselves in difficulties as a young man if we are not focused on what it is that we want to achieve for ourselves.

So if you believe that because you come from a challenged background, economically you cannot make it, you are fooling yourself, my brother. All of these fellows you see playing in Brazil they do not come from rich families, they all come from the worst parts of Brazil, the poorest parts of Brazil. That is why teams like Columbia have more black people than other people because the black people come from the poorest parts of Columbia but they have talent. They have talent and because they have been able to demonstrate discipline they get selected on the Brazilian team. Do you believe, you should know history, for example, I never believe I would have seen the day when a black man would be on the Italy’s team or on Germany’s team but you had a black guy on Italy’s team and you had a black guy on Germany’s team. You think he got selected because they wanted to have a black guy on the team? Do you think so? With all the millions of people in Germany and all the hundreds of thousands of people that they could have selected that they would choose a guy who came to Germany and lived them for some years? Because he has the talent, he has the skill, he has the determination and he had the discipline.

So you have an opportunity to make it on Dominica’s team, you have to translate that and never tell yourself that we cannot see you on television. Never tell yourself that we cannot see you on television playing for one of the European teams and making the millions because sports have money these days. Sports have money these days but they would only select you if they think that you can bring some benefit to them based on what they see because there will be scouts, people will be watching you.

Another thing I want to touch on that I believe has affected and I have heard coaches say so publicly, that has affected Dominica’s football is that too many of them sometimes get themselves involved with the consumption of cannabis in particular, marijuana. I do not smoke so I do not know how marijuana makes you feel after you smoke it so I cannot speak to that. I do not understand how just before you go on the playing field you can smoke one or two spiffs and expect to have your rational faculties. You cannot go to party the night before an important match, an important game. So we have to stamp out the consumption of drugs that will have an impact on our way of life, something that we have to pay attention to but you have to go out there, my brothers, representing the country.

I will speak to the President of the DFA and whatever else is needed, I know DFA is part of a multi-billion dollar company called FIFA and they may have made, at least, $150 billion in Brazil just by the television rights and so forth but whatever we can do with the DFA to assist you … another thing I want to ensure is that while you are going on with sports you also have to work on your academics and so forth, school. And those of you who may not be at school for some reason we would need to know that, Coach, so we can get them back into a school programme, they can get an academic skill or a technical skill to couple that with their sporting talent.

I wanted to come here to say to you, my brothers, that I am very grateful for the invitation by the Coach to be here, the moment I got the invitation I called him and said I will come. The teams which represent our country are selected by the respective Associations so I have no part to play in selecting anybody on any team but you are representing me, you are representing the whole country. I believe that you have in your Coach a very serious person and I want you to recognise that you have to respect him.

Let pride and let yourself understand that you are representing Dominica and people will be watching you, they will be watching you for all sorts of things. So go out there and you have to tell yourself you can win. If you tell yourself, well, I am just going to know the place and so forth you will maybe start checking out the country on the internet and see how beautiful it is and you will see they have nice beaches there and nice looking people and so you might go motivated for that but you are going to play ninety minutes of football for each of these games and I have no doubt that you have the talent, I have no doubt you have the determination to go out there and win every single game that you have played and to win the tournament.

Having a positive impression of yourself can bring positive results. If you tell yourself you are going to do it you are going to do it. Another thing that has to be important is that all of you come from different backgrounds so even within your family people are different and you will always have frictions within your family. So you expect there to be frictions among yourselves and so forth but at the end of the day you have a mission to complete. You are going on a mission and you must stick to that mission of playing football and representing your country, Dominica. So do not allow a simple little thing your comrade may have told you to disturb your mind to the point where you go on the football field and mess up things. You have to be above that and play football for Dominica because there are many of us in the country who may have loved to be in your position when we were your age. You could ask the Sports Reporter on MARPIN I am sure he would have loved to represent Dominica on a number of teams and so forth. You called about 65 persons to train and only twenty of you made it so that in itself, first of all, is an achievement; we now have to punctuate or qualify that achievement by winning the tournament.

When you go out there you have to show a greater sense of enthusiasm. When I walked in here I thought I was coming to a wake – somebody dies and we come to sympathise and so – you have to look more energetic; you have to look like you cannot wait to get there to start playing football. You may be tired and so forth but ninety minutes, you may have overtime. In the tournaments you have the thirty minutes extra time, no, in the first leg. So the first leg is knockout. So you don’t want to come back to Dominica faster than you left. So the pressure on you is even greater because I thought you would have been placed in a group…

Footballer: We are in a group right now, from the group then it is the other stage.

Prime Minister: Okay, so only one team makes it from the group.

Footballer: Yes, one team from the group.

Prime Minister: In the World Cup two teams could make it from the group. So it is tighter in the World Cup. There is very little room for skylarking; there is very little room for error. Every game must be treated as your last game, it is almost do or die, so to speak, but I feel within you that you can make it and you can make yourselves proud, you can make Dominicans proud. Shane Shillingford is playing cricket for the West Indies, he came from Dublanc, and Shane is a guy long before he made the team he would go to Dublanc and maybe that is the only guy you would see on the field playing by himself and anytime there is cricket anywhere, if a team were to go to Dublanc, before he made it to West Indies team, and you were missing one guy you could guarantee no matter where the team is from Shane would join the team just to play cricket. He was always disciplined. You cannot want to represent DFA and Dominica and find yourselves in problems with the law, you have to stay away from these things; you have to be leaders in your community; leaders in your school; leaders at your home and leaders on the field.

So let us go out there, you leave Dominica on Wednesday, disciplined so when you board the plane people must ask if they do not see Dominica written on your polo shirt they must ask who are these young boys and so forth. Some of us may have to take a little shave up before we go there and so forth, so when we go to Melville Hall we are looking fresh. If you want a barber I can volunteer myself. You might need a little brush up and so on and let us go there and play football and so on.

I really wanted to come on the invitation of your Coach to be here with you this afternoon and to wish you all the best and I will follow you; I will follow the developments of the tournament. Sports is a career now, a lot of guys do not play because they like the game, people play because that can be their source of earning. Jordon is maybe making more money now than when he was playing but because he was a respected basketball player and he was good at what he did. He makes the most money in any footwear you can find in the world. Michael Jackson is making more money now than when he was alive. Look at Beckham, Beckham has all sorts of lines and all sorts of endorsements. Don’t go and do a Suarez and bite anybody or fight with anybody. Personally, I believe Suarez should have spent the night in jail in either Brazil or Uruguay when he went back to Uruguay because a serious man like this, an international star, arguably he may be the best player in the world or second best player in the world, how you find yourself biting the guy. I don’t know if he has too much teeth in his mouth but if you have too much teeth in your mouth remove some of them and put some dentures or something. You cannot go out there and cause your team to go out because you decided to bite a guy. So that is the level of ill-discipline that some of these guys get involved in.

So let us go out there and do what we have to do and represent the country. Obviously the Referee is always right; you cannot go and argue with a Referee. I saw Referees get a lot of blows in Dominica, lots of fights in Dominica, fellows beating Referees and so forth. You cannot beat a Referee. You may not agree with him but his decision is final and must be respected. So let us play disciplined football and respectful football, always respect the authority.

So today is opportunity, my brother. I think a number of Dominicans did not make it to the next level of football because sometimes they lack the discipline. You do not want anybody to say your President or your Coach came to say, this guy is good but he is not disciplined; mister is a rude fellow. You want to avoid that completely.

I want to thank you for listening to me and I wish you all the best. Work as a team, you represent yourself, you represent your country and I think everybody, the whole country is looking to you because I have always maintained for us to rebuilt cricket and, of course, football, we have to start with folks like yourselves. Often times we want to correct the problems of our sports by looking at the eleven people who are on the field at any one time. I think we have to go back to the schools and what Don has been doing for so many years, the Football Academy and I still believe, Mr. President, we need to have a National Academy for football so that not only the youngsters who live in the Roseau Catchment area would have access to this. And what Andy has been doing which is not continuing in Portsmouth and so forth, we need a National Academy and we are prepared as a Government to partner with the DFA in that regard, to have a National Football Academy where those who were part of the Academy can be given scholarships to attend high school and the State College where we can provide them with the football boots and all the stuff they require and provide them with a small allowance and so forth. We need a proper Academy where we can have a “breeding ground” of potential players so that if we have 300 young people in the Academy then that is who we are looking to. And, of course, we will have tournaments across the country.

We are entering into a partnership with the Dominica Cricket Association, we have partnered with them with the construction of the facility at Portsmouth; we will be giving them a subvention every year, once they are ready to go with it, which they will use to pay for the staff and we will join forces with them to have this National Cricket Academy in Dominica. I am offering the DFA that similar arrangement where we can provide you with a subvention so that we can have a National Football Academy so that we can have this breeding ground. While we have the various tournaments, my concern about the tournaments is that we do not know what is happening in preparation for these tournaments because a lot of these guys who play football do not come to practice with them teams, they only show up on the night or the afternoon of the game to play. I think we have to try to correct this by controlling the entire gamut of the programme.

So if we have 200/300 youngsters across the country who we can manage in terms of their regime of training and exercise and going to the gym and building their muscles and so forth, then we know that we have 200/300 people plus what we will get from the tournament who we can choose from. I believe that we are limiting ourselves because if the Coach has only three weeks to get these guys prepared and they can only do it in the afternoons for a couple hours, we are shortchanging the team and we are shortchanging the Coach because two weeks to get prepared for an international, because really and truly it is an international tournament, you would not have enough time. I think through this Academy by having 5, 6, 7, 8 whatever you require of coaches, of various aspects of the game, then we can better place ourselves in preparing the Under 19 Team and the National Senior Team for tournaments not only for the youngsters but also for the senior team. Wasn’t the Captain of the Brazilian team 21 years old? How old are you comrade?

Footballer: 19.

Prime Minister: He is just two years older than you and he was the Captain of the Brazilian National Team at the World Cup and it is a country of millions of people. Brazil has the largest population of black people after Nigeria; it is a massive country, it is almost like a continent in itself. So here it is that your 21 years old did in Brazil.

I just want to put it out there, Mr. President, that we are prepared to partner with the DFA in any way possible because, yes, you might be the person responsible for football but at the end of the day this is Dominica and all of us have to work together and consolidate the little resources that we have for the greater good of all concerned. There are a number of things that we have to do.

I have some views about sports and so on and some of them are, not controversial but provoking which I believe we have to speak on but not today but sports in general and so on. I believe more can be done in terms of preparation and I am prepared to be part of that process representing the Government and whatever resource the Government can put towards that effort.

I wish you all the best, my brothers, and God bless you. Thank you very much.

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