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Congratulations are in order for local football club Avenues United for advancing to the next round of the Caribbean Football Union Qualifiers to the CONCACAF Club Championships.{{more}}

Certainly, their advancement as runner-up of Group C was more of self belief and inner will to succeed than their actual superiority of talent, easily after being thrashed by the organized and semi-professional unit, Joe Public of Trinidad and Tobago.

It took Avenues a last gasp last Tuesday night at the Victoria Park, when all seemed lost, to get them to the next phase.

But advancing is not all of it, as the journey is long and arduous, and the Avenues camp cannot think they have reached the status of superstars – far from that.

For too often in the matches, their goalkeeper Dwaine Sandy was called into action, which points to deficiencies in being able to defend their territory.

In context, Avenues has a great deal of work to do all round, so it must not be business as usual if they want to take their participation in this competition to the next level.

But football was the real winner of the past days of competition, as most importantly, there were serious lessons to be learnt from this experience.

Avenues came up against clubs that have been in tune with the new times in football, as one could have seen that the visitors are exposed to systems of coaching and have come through the youth academies and not rely mainly on natural abilities.

For some of the Avenues players, camping and the likes were relatively new and operated against the normal daily living.

It was also evident that mentally Avenues’ opponents were prepared and were not intimidated by the occasion. The case was not the same for our local boys.

Additionally, as we all know, we do not have a sports culture and there was not that raucous vocal support that would have scared the opposing units.

Those present at the park only cheered when there was a good play or a near miss at a goal-scoring opportunity.

Incidentally, when it mattered most, when Avenues needed maximum support to get past Leo Victor of Suriname on Tuesday night, crowd attendance had dwindled from the two previous nights.

All in all, it must be good image building and positive publicity for the Avenues community, which represents one of the stigmatized areas in Kingstown, and by extension St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The qualifiers, though, should serve several folds as they helped to gauge our football with others regionally.

Certainly, after that experience, local football fans will begin tempering the ratings on our local players, as they have recognized their abilities against others within the CFU area.

The qualifiers should also have served as appetizers to other local clubs as to what to expect should they advance to that stage.

From an administrative stand point, it again tested our capacities to host competitions of such nature, especially the Executive of the SVGFF, as they had direct input into the staging of the group.

Certainly, it also gave local football fans a window to see where our local players need to get to, if they are to be competitive on the Caribbean stage.

The levels of operations in terms of seeking financial scaffolding must be upped. The use of sponsor sheets and donation drums, while may be accepted to some extent, in 2010 just cannot cut it, as those do not merit the aspiration of professionalism.

Maybe, the time has come for some of our football units to merge into formidable forces, thereby pooling resources and making the club base stronger.

Also, the matches were vindication that a comprehensive nationwide youth programme is the way to go, as well as the building of strong community-based clubs, thereby ensuring continuity and patronage.

For the moment, though, let us relish the relative success of Avenues, believing that all is not lost in St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ football, but with that knowledge that there is a lengthy, rugged road to travel to be on a par with the other top CFU nations.

There is still that call for the complete removal of the Mound at the Sion Hill Playing Field.

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