Christmas came early for some members of the Barbados Football Association’s (BFA) Under-17 and Under-20 members earlier today when they toured the Frigate ARA Libertad, the Argentine Navy’s training vessel, with Argentina Ambassador to Barbados Gustavo Martinez Pandiani.
The group would have been the Under-17 group who visited the football nation last year on a week-long training stint at the Boca Juniors Campus in Buenos Aires.
During the tour, Ambassador Pandiani told the teenaged boys the idea of today was to celebrate last year’s opportunity while looking ahead to the future.
“Now we have to make plans for 2020 which would include new opportunities for training, new opportunities for getting closer to South American football. I am very surprised that you are even taller than you were a year ago, but that means you are still growing. That means you’re not only growing as players, you’re also growing as persons which is very important.
“Randy and I always highlight the idea of football as a way to live a better life. Please keep training. Remember I told you when you were going to Argentina if you don’t train, you are not going to play. It doesn’t matter if you are Messi, you need to train hard. You need to be a solidarity player, a team player; that is what football is all about,” he said.
Renaldo “Pee Wee” Gilkes, who was Head Coach of the team then noted while it was a pleasure to be a part of the historical occasion, from a cultural standpoint it allowed for the team to be ambassadors for the country as they all continued to secure relations with Argentina.
“I would like to send my heartfelt gratitude to Ambassador Gustavo. He is one who has always supported the Barbados Football Association, but more intimately he has been following this group; the group of 2002-2003.
“One of the things he said is that he wants to maintain this relationship well beyond this year. Last year when he said it, many people thought it would just be a tour to Boca and that was it, but he has introduced a cultural element to our relationship with the tour today,” he said.
Additionally, Gilkes said he welcomed the idea of Ambassador Pandiani introducing more educational programs, whether it was in the field of coaching, medical staff or for players.
“Just earlier this year, [the Ambassador] gave the opportunity to a player who is not a part of the 20/03 group, but Nicholi Brathwaite who is just a year older was given the opportunity to have a trial in Argentina.
“Ambassador Gustavo’s presence has been welcomed, appreciated and on behalf of the Under-17/Under-20 group, we want to say a special thank you to Ambassador Gustavo and to Demian [Dobry] for organizing all of this for us,” he said.
As for looking to the future, Gilkes said whether it was this group who returned to Argentina or another, either group would benefit immensely.
“Knowing Ambassador Pandiani, those talks have already begun. He is one who is always very proactive. I believe the FA will have to start to make the necessary plans to decide if it’s this particular group that goes or do we choose another group to have that experience so we can continue to grow in terms of numbers.
“I am sure that this group would like to benefit from having a second chance with that previous experience, and with the added experience of playing internationally at both the Under-17 and Under-20 levels. More importantly, I think it would give them the opportunity to grasp what most of them set out to do, which is to earn a football contract,” he said.
While he said it may be more difficult to get a contract at the Under-17 level, what would boost the players was having had the experience at playing football at the senior level.
“Looking forward to it, I believe that it is another great opportunity for Barbados to develop athletically, culturally, economically; it is just a win-win for both parties,” he said.