Passion, heart and "uncoachable players" in St Lucia
Our photographer from St Lucia is Skye Gerald, a 17-year-old football player from Soufriere who represents the St Lucia Women’s National Team. Our Goal Click photos were taken in collaboration with leading NGO Sacred Sports Foundation in St Lucia and streetfootballworld.
What is your footballing story?
I started playing football at the age of 11 when I first entered secondary school in Soufriere. I currently play for three teams, the Black Panthers Youth And Sports Club, the Soufriere team, and the National team. I have been a part of the National team since I was 15 years old and I first represented St Lucia in Suriname in 2015. Now I’m in training to play in the Windward Islands Tournament in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in November. So I have been part of the National team for three years.
What did you try to show with the photos? Was there any wider meaning with the photos?
The photos were taken in Soufriere and Canaries. They show the Black Panthers Youth And Sports Club and the Canaries men’s senior team. I tried to show that both male and female footballers in St Lucia have what it takes to be the next Lionel Messi and the next Kelly Smith, and the love and respect we show for the sport.
What is the Black Panthers Youth And Sports Club?
An organisation called Gig’s Soccer Academy started in 2009, starting with ten footballers, but now having approximately 150 footballers, both male and female, ranging from 4 to 40. Football was the sport that the coach Gilroy Lamontagne grew up playing and it was his dream to give back to the children in his community of Soufriere. Young boys in particular are at risk in our community, the idler they are, the more potential trouble they can find themselves in.
From inception, it has been our goal to provide a safe environment to foster a healthy lifestyle and a passion for football in our youth athletes. All our sessions prioritise individual ball skills, promote the development of motor skills and building stamina and endurance, as well as fun activities to put those skills in practice and develop teamwork and cooperation. Our Mission is to strive for excellence, enjoy the process and good results will follow.
One of our biggest achievements was the development of the Black Panthers Senior Football Team. It has always been our goal to allow our Academy to evolve, so that our young adult players could continue to develop and be challenged. In our first tournament in 2013 we made it to the semi-finals and we went on to make it to the finals of every competition since then, winning three out of our six finals. We are also Soccerama Champions, giving us an opportunity to represent Soufriere in the President’s Cup.
20 of our footballers, both male and female, have made the national football team and have represented St. Lucia in CONCACAF, CFU and Windward Islands Competitions held in Haiti, Cayman Islands, Suriname, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad, Honduras and the United States.
We have also ventured into other sporting disciplines. As result of our participation in athletics and netball we decided to change our name to Black Panthers Youth and Sports Club. Our biggest achievement to date is having five members of our Club receive Football Scholarships to Colleges and Universities in the United States. We continue to work hard to provide opportunities for the children of our community through sports, while developing life skills so that they can be successful.
Why is football so important in St Lucia and St Lucians?
Football is important in St Lucia because it keeps St Lucians active and promotes healthy lifestyles. It's also a meaningful way of bringing the community together, an outlet to engage in something purposeful. A lot of the Canaries team are short tempered and uncoachable players, who love, have passion and heart to compete. Football is a universal language. Football is used as a tool to promote healthy lifestyles and career opportunities.
Do the national teams get good support from the St Lucia Football Association?
The National Teams get some support from the FA, which could be upgraded. The future of youth football is actually going nowhere. More often the next generation national players do not have the correct coaching and discipline to compete internationally.
What is the football culture in St Lucia?
The football culture in St Lucia is very rich. People come out to support the commercial leagues. But there are no club leagues connected to FIFA, so people rarely follow it. If there were a Premier League, teams from Soufriere and Canaries would play, and would be travelling around the island with their fans. If we don't have that in club football then football is going nowhere.
If Black Panthers won a Premier League automatically they would play in the CONCACAF Champions League, maybe against teams from the MLS. Due to the failure of the St Lucia FA to organise a Premier League for about four years, there is no incentive to qualify for Confederation club competition. If the FA had club football organised then you would see an even richer culture.
What work does Sacred Sports Foundation do in St Lucia? (by Nova Alexander)
Sacred Sports Foundation has been the leading NGO in St Lucia, using sports as a tool to tackle youth development and social transformation. It is internationally accredited for providing human rights and anti-discriminatory education.
Youth unemployment is a major problem in the Caribbean standing at 45% - 60%. The Island of St. Lucia is a classic case. Some 5,000 kids leave school every year. The Island creates less than 400 new jobs at that level. Another 400 fairly well off kids leave the island to study or work abroad. That leaves 4,200 adding to the unemployment line every year. At least half of those do reasonably well at school but lack gainful employment and opportunity. The rest live in depressed neighbourhoods where crime, sex abuse and poor education are the norm. We focus on that bottom sector, helping communities find solutions to their own problems.
Sacred Sports Foundation believes the United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda has important consequences for sport policy. Limiting violence and harmful practices affecting vulnerable communities and children, reducing inequality, building inclusive communities, and strengthening governance and transparency are all central to the post-2015 agenda and are issues faced within sport which require ongoing attention.