Bahamas Football Association (BFA) President Anton Sealey discusses the importance of Concacaf NextPlay for the growth of football in his country.
Concacaf NextPlay is an innovative grassroots initiative to promote access and increase participation in the sport within the region, while fostering a wide range of social values.
The BFA is one of the Member Associations within the Caribbean that launched the program, which also debuted at the Barbados Football Association, Jamaica Football Federation, and the Saint Vincent & the Grenadines Football Federation. A fifth program in Trinidad & Tobago will kick off later in the month.
What’s the importance of the Concacaf Next Play Program for the BFA?
Firstly, we want to say that being selected by Concacaf to be part of this pilot program is a great honors. Being one of five countries chosen out of 41 to be a part of the NextPlay Program, is testament to the BFA’s desire to develop and improve the beautiful game in our country. For Concacaf’s support, we are both proud and grateful.
The NextPlay program is extremely important to the development of football in The Bahamas. Capturing the sporting interest of the young primary school children, is paramount to growth. The world has shown us that exposure to the game at an early age sparks an interest and a desire to play. Once the interest is there the numbers playing football will grow exponentially, thus giving us a large base for our developmental pyramid. From this a sustainable growth pattern will eventually culminate in a competitive Men’s and Women’s National team. This importance is further enhanced by the young players becoming aware that the governing body for Caribbean Football is not only taking an interest in their development, but also an active role in helping to promote the game in the Bahamas.
What’s the impact of grassroots initiatives for football in the Bahamas?
Football is probably the number five sport in the Bahamas, after Track and Field, Basketball, Baseball and Swimming. Our aim is to make it the number one sport. This will happen once children get to play. Once they are introduced to the game, football will become the teacher and the students will want to play. The primary school is the “first contact’ and as such is the foundation on which we can develop football here in the Bahamas. “We build it and they will come”. The impact will be immediate, it will get more students playing, building a much broader base and as such the enjoyment of the game itself will do the majority of the work.
Government support is crucial to the development of the game, how are local authorities supporting the BFA in this program?
The government has been very supportive of the whole program. The BFA has already established a strong working relationship with the Primary Schools Sports Coordinators, however, Concacaf’s support for this grassroots initiative will take that relationship to a new level. It will provide access to greater resources and thus help the BFA provide a new level of support for the Primary School program. The government has already allocated time to dedicated teacher/coaches to get a higher level of training. Additional equipment such as balls, bibs, cones, and shirts have all helped to prove to teachers that this is a Concacaf supported, sustainable program, that is here to stay.