The Football Association's first international visitor of 2002 came from the small island of Montserrat in the Caribbean, when Carole Milne, Business Development Officer at the Montserrat FA, visited Soho Square on 2nd January to seek advice on the development of football domestically and within the 8,000-strong Montserratian community in England, double the island's total population.
In Montserrat, as elsewhere in the region, football suffers from fierce competition with cricket, a situation the MFA is anxious to improve. "Football on the island came to a halt in 1994-95 with the eruption of the volcano which devastated the island and robbed us of most of our land", explained Carole Milne. "In 2000, we restarted the league with 5 teams, secured FIFA funding for a football facility and committed ourselves to raising the profile of the game and developing the level of our football". The task is not easy, but with Montserrat stuck at the bottom of the FIFA Rankings the only way, quite literally, is up!
As well as working hard to improve the game back home, the MFA has no choice but to look to its community in England as a source of potential players for its national team. Through its National Game Division, The F.A. provided advice and guidance on developing the game at all levels, setting up clubs and leagues, and boosting the participation of boys, girls, children and parents alike.
On the international stage, The F.A. provided assistance and support to the Montserrat national team coach, Paul Morris, an Englishman with the local police force, who takes charge of the national team in his spare time. Morris attended the recent Strategic Planning Workshop for coaches conducted by FA national team coaches, Les Reed and Martin Hunter, in Trinidad & Tobago. Funded by The F.A. International Development Programme, the workshop addressed representatives of the national associations of Central and North America and the Caribbean.
"The F.A. is committed not only to encouraging participation in football in England, but also to playing a role in the development of the game around the world", explained Jane Bateman, The F.A.'s Head of International Relations. "We received visits from over 40 national associations last year, many of whom were seeking to learn about how The F.A. runs football in this country. Montserrat is one such country looking to tap our knowledge, and a classic example of a country with a huge enthusiasm to learn, but suffering not only from a lack of funding for the game, but the negative forces of nature as well. We welcome the opportunity of playing a small part in helping the island to progress the development of its football".