BASSETERRE, St Kitts (CMC) - The St Kitts and Nevis Football Association (SKNFA) president Peter Jenkins says the country's rising national youth team is the realisation of a coaching investment made early last year.
St Kitts and Nevis upset regional powerhouse Trinidad and Tobago in Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Youth (Under-20) World Cup qualifying in Trinidad in October and are now preparing for the CONCACAF Finals early in the new year.
Jenkins believes their success is the reward for the emphasis on upgrading the coaching standards and structure in the country.
The SKNFA appointed Jamaica-born Lennie Taylor as technical director for football in early 2005 and his work is now bearing fruit.
"Lennie Taylor (is) out of the United States, trained in the United States, originally from Jamaica so he has an appreciation of the psyche of the Caribbean player and he started the development programme which included coaching education," Jenkins said in an interview with CMC's CaribVision TV.
Jenkins said local coaches are engaged in an ongoing certification programme to upgrade the standard of football teachers in the country.
"We are providing training for all our local coaches to get the licence from St Kitts and Nevis, and those that excel, we send them to Brazil, we send them to Germany, we send them to Trinidad, different parts of the world to get the second level of education," Jenkins said.
Jenkins said they are developing "a cadre of coaches" in the country in a move that should enhance the structure of the game, beginning at the youngest levels.
"We have a number of coaches with the English A licence and that has been the backbone of the coaching side of it.and at the national level, at all of these programmes, (under) 11, 13, 15, 17, 20, we have qualified coaches, local, working with those teams."
En route to topping the CFU Group F qualifying two months ago, the St Kitts and Nevis Under-20s toppled T&T's Young Soca Warriors 1-0 at the Larry Gomes Stadium on an early goal by Orlando Mitchum.
They showed resilience in winning the second round group over T&T, the Dominican Republic, and St Vincent and the Grenadines, who had beaten them (1-0) in their opening match.
They had topped their first round Group C series in St Martin earlier this year with a 100 per cent win record - clobbering St Martin 9-1 and also posting 2-0 victories over Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda.
St Kitts and Nevis have now qualified to play in Group B of the 2007 CONCACAF Under-20 Final Round in Mexico along with the hosts Costa Rica, and Jamaica February 21-25.
Group A is taking place in Panama January 17-21 and will feature Guatemala, Haiti, USA along with the hosts.
The top two teams from each of these groups will qualify to the 2007 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Canada.
The SKNFA got the core of the current group of players together several years ago and placed them in the local league to develop as a team, and the strategy has worked very well.
"These kids have come up through school together, the core of the team came from the Washington Archibald High School, they started in our Division Two as a club, they got promoted to Division One and they are now in the Premier Division.
"And so they have been coming up together, playing together, enjoying playing together and so now it's like a family, the other kids have also grown up together with them, different high schools but we've been able to put a good unit together," Jenkins said