Weymouth Warriors are set on defending their 2017 Barbados Premier League title with an even more well rounded pproach this year.
The "Bajan" side is in Santiago, Dominican Republic to contest the inaugural CONCACAF Caribbean Shield which pits eleven of the best clubs in the Caribbean from different member associations competing for the silverware and qualification for the 2018 CONCACAF League.
Founded in 1958, the club has rich history, capturing the Barbados Premier League crown on seventeen occasions dating back to 1962 and winning the FA Cup title on eleven occasions, the last being 2017. Currently they have a few Barbados national team players in their squad including midfielder Romario Harewood and forwards Kemar Headley and Hadan Holligan.
Weymouth head coach David Ward is a former Barbados national team player himself and he spoke of the importance of his side competing in the Caribbean Shield.
"It means a lot for the club. It's the first time for us and we are excited about it. We are proud about this participation in the CONCACAF Caribbean Shield" he said.
"This will take us forward particularly in the football circles for the youth as this will give them something to go after. We all know you need something to identify with. This will give them something to aim for," said Ward who possesses a UEFA B license.
Ward is hopeful that the Barbados national team can benefit from opportunities being offered to assist the growth of club football.
"The level in my opinion in Barbados is very high. The national team needs to be improved and hopefully the improvement of the clubs can have a positive effect. There are a few individuals who have not been selected as yet but hopefully they will get a look in soon. But for us being here, the main thing is gaining the experience and hopefully going onto qualify for the next round and perhaps the CONCACAF League," Ward added.
Weymouth went down 2-1 to USR of Guadeloupe in their opening Group A encounter on Friday but Ward is far from discouraged after his team put on a determined showing before conceding a second goal in the 78th minute.
"I thought we played well and we gave it a good fight. The main thing for us is to build on our performances and I think we are going to come back better and give it a strong go in the other matches coming up."
Nicole Puckerin. finance and planning officer for the Barbados Football Association is also in Santiago as she attended the CONCACAF League Development Workshop over the weekend. She also spoke on the benefits of the Barbados League benefitting from the Caribbean Shield and the ongoing workshops.
"The sessions so far have been very informative and we can definitely have some discussions back home on how the League can be improved. Whatever information that I pick up here will definitely help us back home. The one thing that caught my attention at the workshop is the marketing of sports. Sport is intangible so the idea is how best we can get persons coming through the gates and we've been given a few ideas so far.," Puckerin said.
"I think Weymouth Wales being part of the Caribbean Shield is definitely going to spur the excitement in Barbados because more clubs are going to want to get to where Wales are and hopefully that is going to improve the level of competition in Barbados," she added.
Puckerin welcomed the efforts of CONCACAF to assist member associations and clubs through competitions such as the Caribbean Shield and League Development and Club Licensing Workshops.
"Unless the game of football has proper marketing, administration and coaching courses, the football level is not going to improve so therefore the foundation courses by CONCACAF are definitely going to improve the game and we are grateful for them," she stated.