Antigua is coping with Stanford loss

Football’s technical directors from
the whole of the CONCACAF region met in the Cayman Island for the first time
ever last week.

They attended a three day seminar
at the Westin Hotel and found the experience hugely fulfilling.

One of the delegates was Micah
Samuel, youth development officer for Antigua and Barbuda’s Football

He said: “I’ve been in football for
over 30 years and it’s the first time I’ve experienced all 25 countries sending
their technical directors for an opportunity to be in the same place,
exchanging ideas as to the way forward.

“I think we should take our hats
off to FIFA, the Caribbean Football Union and CONCACAF for organising this

“The exchange of ideas was super
and I think everybody is going to leave here with a ton of enthusiasm going
back to their respective countries and implementing the things we learnt.

“I learnt so much, such as how you
get funding for grassroots programmes. There are some monies for women’s
programmes that I didn’t know about, nor did most of the technical directors.”

Despite the recession and loss of
discredited financier Allen Stanford’s millions in Antigua, the football scene
there is flourishing.

Samuel said: “In football in
Antigua and Barbuda, we had a superb season last year in gate receipts. We
actually made $1 million at the gate and most Caribbean countries don’t even
see half of that amount.

“But once the money comes in, it
goes out as well. We have four national teams in training and it costs a lot to
fund them.”

But the benefits are evident.
Antigua has soared up the world rankings from 168 to 119 in the past 18 months.

“Football in Antigua is the no.1
sport and we do have a fair following from the population. Cricket will always
have its following because it’s part of the culture but football has always
been the no.1 sport. As a matter of fact Viv Richards and Richie Richardson
would openly admit that their first sporting love was always football.”

Stanford was the second biggest
employer in Antigua until his business operations were closed and he was
eventually arrested a year ago for an alleged $7 billion Ponzi scheme. Stanford
spent hundreds of millions trying to raise the standards of West Indies
cricket. He is no awaiting trial in the US for fraud.

Samuel said: “The Stanford
situation led to people becoming jobless and some people actually lost houses
and cars. It was a sad thing. The country is now picking up post-Sanford and
I’m quite sure that the country will soon return to normalcy.

“I’m quite sure the cricket will
suffer. As relates to people putting money into it, sport is sport. There are
youngsters who are good at it and there are always people willing to put money
into youngsters to help them move on from one stage to another positive area.”

The Sticky Wicket, Stanford’s
restaurant beside his own cricket ground, closed a few months ago. The staff
kept it going for about a year. The Caribbean Bank which Stanford used to
attract people to invest in was kept open by the Antiguan government.

“Antigua, post Stanford, is not so