Many teams at the inaugural CONCACAF Under-15 tournament in the Cayman Islands do not have fanciful expectations in terms of results and scoring records.
Antigua & Barbuda are one of them, partly because resources are limited but also because head coach, Paul Banta, only arrived last month and is still getting to know his players.
Banta inherited an Under-13 squad, in fact, and some of them are playing in the Cayman tournament.
“It’s been quite a struggle because I really didn’t know how strong they would be,” Banta said. “Pretty much the development for those boys is about three years what it should be in terms of just tactical awareness. Their skills are okay but they are not able to withstand the pressure of this type of a tournament.”
Antigua & Barbuda have done pretty well okay, winning one of their first three. An excellent achievement actually, considering some players who did not make the final squad were so young and physically immature it would have been pointless allow them to make the trip.
“There is a development need there, big time,” Banta said. “And it has to start before age 15.”
The players Banta has high expectations of are Javorn “Bozo” Stevens and their defender Roderick Hunt, their skipper .
“Bozo could have a professional career, he is that good and Roderick reads the game very well and understands what I’m saying. Bozo too, they help run the show.
“The others are nice young men but they’re lacking for consistency in what they’re doing. We’re demanding that the guys start thinking beyond being a boy, stop messing about and think like young men.”
Banta wants to help create a proper youth development program in Antigua & Barbuda, for girls as well as boys.
The 69-year-old American added: “I think this is a fabulous tournament for youth. CONCACAF has really put a lot of time into this. They have come up with something really unique.
“No one’s doing this in the world and you’ve got to give them 100 per cent support.”