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Sunday, September 20, 2020
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Coach on the “hot seat”

Last night on Krem’s Press Cadogan Sports Show, host Gilroy “Press” Cadogan called for the firing of coach Ian Mork of the Belize national team. And on this morning’s Krem WUB, Belizean educator/activist and patriot Ms. Sandra Coye also called for the immediate dismissal of Belize Jaguars coach, Ian Mork; and, understandably, it is a sentiment shared by not a few disappointed Belizean fans, after Tuesday’s 6-1 Gold Cup disaster against the USA.

Last night, Channel 7 News aired the comments of suspended assistant national team coach Charlie Slusher; and, despite his reported previous transgressions, Charlie’s comments are worth noting, as “fish from river bottom.” Perhaps that is because it is pretty much the same thing we had gleaned a few weeks ago from at least 3 players on the national team, and two were defenders.

Our players, like soldiers, are trained to follow the coach’s instructions; and, especially now that they are being paid, and have signed a contract as well, it is to be expected that a rebellion is not likely to occur. But some things take time to learn, especially when our football system has not developed our players with the textbook/blackboard approach. Understanding what is on the blackboard, and being able to translate that into action on the field of play is something that takes time to develop. And when you try to change in a couple months, what was learned over a period of years, there can be problems. Perhaps the players feel that speaking up will be viewed as insubordination, and result in being “benched.”
Coach Ian Mork has ideas he wants implemented, and our players are trying to follow his instructions. But, when faced with a confounding situation like they did against the USA, and nothing seems to be working right, while still trying to remain in a mold as ordered, it must be an absolutely bewildering and frustrating place to be in.

A good teacher has to assess what his students have understood and really grasped, before going on to more complex material. If the whole team has not had enough time to fully digest, absorb and execute what Mork is teaching, then for now he needs to depart from that script and follow the ancient wisdom of the Belizean grassroots, which is, as ‘80’s Duurly’s defender Kenrick “Crane” Major insisted this morning, to “play weh yo know.” Marvin has said the same thing; and so has former national team coach Leroy “Sherrier” Lewis, whose playing and coaching credentials are at a different level than Mork’s.

Nevertheless, many things outside the coach’s control went wrong for us on Tuesday leading up to the USA game – assistant coach Charlie Slusher suspended by the FFB Executive; contract dispute with players; midfielder Elroy Kuylen’s visa problem; bribery attempts on two of our players; defender Dalton Eiley’s sudden illness, resulting in a major last minute roster adjustment. And it was a “hungry,” well prepared and focused USA squad we were facing, who were determined not to follow the upset pattern set by Mexico and Canada. Our young men, despite everything, gave their all for the full ninety, and never, never gave up. And we struck a blow for Belizean pride; we shook their net on a beautiful set from Elroy Smith and header by Ian Gaynair.

Come Saturday and our clash with Copa Centroamericana champs Costa Rica, we will see if the Mork experiment continues, and if our boys have gained enough from the crash course on Tuesday to begin to effectively execute the style of play he envisions for our team. If not, it could be another disaster; but it is hardly possible for as many things to go wrong as did in our Gold Cup opener. That is cause for some hope and cautious optimism going into Saturday’s game. In this corner, we would still be much more comfortable if our team would return to the defensive structure they know, and which coach Sherrier Lewis had used as a basic template upon which to mold a style that proved successful for our team at this level.

Lecturing a depressed national team on the stadium bleachers after managing a lackluster 1-0 win over a hastily assembled PLB selection at the FFB stadium on June 22, coach Ian Mork had warned the Jaguars that if they played like that against the USA, they could be embarrassed.

But Leroy Sherrier Lewis took the same team to a respectable showing at the Copa Centroamericana.

When we broached the question to Mork after that first PLB Selection training match, about the supposed change in defensive allignment, he insisted that he had changed nothing substantially. However, in his Channel 7 interview, Charlie insisted that he has; some of the players we spoke to believe that he has; and the evidence on the field seems to suggest that whatever he is teaching the players, they are not understanding and implementing it effectively.

Our second round hopes in the Gold Cup will be on the line on Saturday, and coach Ian Mork will do his best to motivate the Belize Jaguars to play the game of their lives for the glory of Belize. It will not happen if the team is confused. Our hope is that common sense prevails in the Jaguars game-planning room, and we regain some measure of respect by a competitive performance. Win, lose or draw, it’s not what you do, but how you do it; and the way the Jaguars play on Saturday will hopefully enhance, and not further tarnish the waning legacy of coach Ian Mork.

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