Tuesday 14 November 2023, 14:00

FIFA Forward gaining ground(s) in the Caribbean

  • New synthetic pitches laid in the Caribbean

  • Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bahamas and Dominica looking to the future

  • Projects financed and supported by FIFA Forward

Throughout the world, the FIFA Forward Programme is actively helping member associations to develop football in their countries, particularly by improving and overhauling their infrastructure. Over the past 12 months, four major pitch upgrade and installation projects have been completed in the Caribbean (in the Bahamas, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and Barbados) with one common goal – enabling the respective countries to operate in better conditions, achieve better results and help new talent to emerge. Now that these new playing surfaces have been broken in over the past few months, FIFA.com decided that it was time to go on a site visit. For a number of years, the Bahamas Football Association (BFA) had been struggling with the upkeep of its main ground, the Roscoe A. L. Davis Soccer Field. The BFA wanted to provide the best possible conditions for all of its domestic teams, which meant that the natural grass pitch was used on an extremely frequent basis. Various repairs and enforced rest periods were required as a result of this intensive use of the pitch throughout the year, combined with the limited watering that was available, which was not adequate for irrigation.

Reducing maintenance costs

In making the move to artificial turf, the BFA is hoping to reduce maintenance costs and increase the available playing time for its domestic teams and competitions, as well as conforming with governmental regulations in terms of water use. What is more, this type of surface is better able to withstand the vagaries of the weather than natural grass. Rainwater drains rapidly, which allows for better planning and reduces the risks of postponements or cancellations at times of heavy rainfall. “With FIFA financing this project, we now have a high-quality pitch, which enables us to arrange more matches and events,” said a delighted Anya James, who was elected President of the BFA in May this year. “The new pitch will have a significant impact on football in the Bahamas. Not only does it provide a better environment for our players, but it also opens up further possibilities for community use. It will help to strengthen football culture in our country,” said James, who is the first woman to occupy her position in the Bahamas. The Antigua and Barbuda Football Association (ABFA), who also struggled with access to water, had made the most of a collective procurement process run by FIFA to roll out a first artificial pitch. It once again chose to rely on the world governing body’s expertise and set about installing a second synthetic pitch at its technical centre, to better meet the needs of its various women’s and men’s national teams and facilitate access to high-quality infrastructures for its domestic competitions.

And there was light…

ABFA staff, along with regular users of the synthetic pitch, received maintenance training to ensure that the surface would keep its quality over the long run. The brand-new pitch was also fitted with floodlights, meaning that the show can still go on, even once night has fallen. “The lights give our evenings a special atmosphere and generate an area where people come and get together,” said Rohan Hector, the General Secretary of the ABFA. “With the added lighting, our national teams are no longer restricted to playing in the heat of the afternoon and can now train in the evening when it’s cooler. This represents an enormous advantage in the context of amateur football like ours. The results are remarkable and you can see significant improvements in performance. The pitch is now a place where people gather and dreams can come true.”

Raising the game

In the case of the Barbados Football Association (BFA), after more than ten years of use, the synthetic turf at its technical centre needed to be replaced in order to continue to meet the standards required to achieve FIFA certification and be able to host official international matches. The new turf will provide a smooth playing surface where the bounce and speed will be identical across the pitch, promoting control and fast-paced action and allowing players to fulfil their potential. “Thanks to the support of FIFA Forward, we were able to replace the turf, which was an important step for our association,” said BFA President Randolph Harris. “We are now able to host regional and international matches once again. Our development programmes for girls and boys have been able to start up again, which is crucial to our development.” The Dominica Football Association (DFA), meanwhile, has taken on a wide-ranging and ambitious modernisation and upgrade project at its Stockfarm facilities in Roseau, to give its national teams better playing and training conditions. Working closely with FIFA, the DFA put a full-scale development plan in place for its technical centre. The initial phase of the plan involved replacing the natural grass pitch with a synthetic one that meets international standards. The new surface was ready in July 2023 and will enable the various national teams to play in pitch-perfect conditions and will increase availability times, all while minimising the maintenance burden. The national teams will get to enjoy a FIFA Quality Pro surface for training and playing, while the broader footballing community in Dominica will benefit from the new pitch, both to play on and to watch domestic competitions.

"It is truly inspiring to see the accomplishments and impact of the FIFA Forward Programme across the Caribbean region thanks to its successful implementation and the opportunities it offers to FIFA Member Associations. The most significant advancements have been achieved in regard to football infrastructure facilities, amongst which football playing surfaces development projects have considerably contributed to improve playing conditions for domestic competitions and national teams, but also increase playing opportunities for all football stakeholders," said Hervé Blanchard, Lead FIFA regional office Barbados.

"These important achievements in Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados and Dominica are the first step towards the realization of these respective Member Associations’ football specific Technical Centres; in each case adapted to their island and football realities with a bespoke Masterplan design towards future development phases. These playing surfaces will host a lot of local and international football, see many local talent develop and grow from grassroots to elite football and of course draw crowds of avid communities, fans and supporter of the beautiful game. Much remains to be done, but the ball is rolling!"