Friday, April 12, 2024

College girls raise World Cup hopes


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Barbados’ road to Canada will have a largely American feel to it.
The country’s World Cup soccer hopes seem that much better now after NCAA Division 1 collegiate forward Washida Blackman has joined fellow United Stated-based female footballer Melissa Roachford to give Barbados more firepower heading into next year’s CONCACAF qualifiers.
The Bajan-born 20-year-old – a current student at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia – expressed great delight over being added to the national set-up after spending the last week training with the ultramarine and gold at the Wildey Astroturf.
“I’ve always wanted to represent my country,” said Blackman, who was born to two Barbadian parents but moved to the United States at a very young age.
“Growing up and playing soccer in the States I used to have this Barbados wrist band to show some sort of representation, but I mean it would be even better to get a chance to really represent.
“So it’s nice to play with different people who also want to represent their country but now my focus is on us qualifying for the World Cup and me pushing myself to be the best player I can be to help my teammates,” she added.
It’s the second time in as many qualifying campaigns that Barbados reached out beyond these shores to improve the squad after bringing in a then 24-year-old Roachford to add experience to a very youthful side.
But the talents of the former Texas Southern University midfielder just weren’t enough, as Barbados fell short of making the 2011 World Cup in Germany following successive 3-0 and 5-0 defeats to Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago respectively.
However, Roachford has been buoyed by the inclusion of another player with NCAA Division 1 collegiate experience, and has admitted the squad is a lot better than the one which played in those 2010 qualifiers.
“I honestly think we have as good as a chance as anyone else out there,” reasoned Roachford.
“The level of the girls has greatly improved since I was last here and once we get the hard work put in we have a great chance to go far.
“But I’m not getting any younger so this may be my last chance to do something great for Barbados and I think we have what it takes to do just that.”
It’s a sentiment that head coach Lennux Ferdinand also shares after suffering heartbreak three years ago but seeing a renewed spirit in his girls during these last couple of training sessions.
“I’m going to be really honest and say we have a great chance but I have got to instill that in the girls’ minds because their last defeat against Trinidad in 2010 has left a dirty taste in their mouths,” Ferdinand explained.
“And it’s been really important having these overseas-based girls because it’s now showing us there is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel.”


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