By Tim Grainey – F.C. Indiana has a unique relationship with the Caribbean and Haiti. General Manager and Head Coach Shek Borkowski is also the head coach of the Haiti national team and his work to bring some of his international players to train in the U.S. has some asking why the program should not be expanded. Soccer365’s Tim Grainey looks into a proposed model in The Grainey Report.
Is A Caribbean Team in NWSL’S FUTURE?—F.C. Indiana, a two time WPSL Champion (2005, 2007) and a W-League finalist (2008), has long been a developer of North American and international talent—with such notable alumni as Brittany Bock (Sky Blue FC in NWSL and a U.S. U-23 and U-20 international), Monica Ocampo (Sky Blue FC of NWSL and Mexican National Team), Eve-Marie Nault (KIF Orebro in Sweden and Canadian Olympic Team in 2012), Lisa-Marie Woods (Boston Breakers of NWSL and the Norwegian National Team), Aivi Luik (Perth Glory/Brisbane Roar and the Australian National Team) and Mizuho Sakaguchi (2011 Women’s World Cup winner with Japan).
F.C. Indiana changed its focus when General Manager and Head Coach Shek Borkowski was named head coach of the Haitian Women’s National Team in February 2012.
Borkowski brought the Haitian selection to train in Indiana for six months at a time the past two springs, playing a string of American college sides. Last year, the Haitian squad comprised the majority of his F.C. Indiana side in the eight team WPSL-Elite.
Coaching Haiti has been truly a developmental project for Borkowski and his F.C. Indiana staff, and while there have been some successes, including narrow 2-1 losses to Notre Dame during exhibition matches in South Bend during the past two spring seasons; there have been considerable setbacks, including a 6-0 exhibition loss to the Seattle Reign this past summer and a 5-0 loss at Brigham Young University last August. In WPSL-Elite last summer, F.C. Indiana finished with 1 win, 2 ties and 11 losses for 5 points in 14 games.
Borkowski’s goal is to have a competitive Haiti side that can compete for one of the 3.5 spots CONCACAF is allotted for the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada (with the host nation granted an automatic spot.)
Borkowski has seen progress, though it has not been necessarily apparent in the results column. Haiti lost 4-0 last summer to Australia in Indianapolis. Haiti’s goalkeeping has been the biggest challenge and was particularly problematic during the WPSL-Elite season. Another issue that the coaching staff has been working to eliminate is that the team will play coherently for 50-60 minutes but then allow a goal and collectively hang their heads, finding it nearly impossible to respond on the field and fight back offensively.
The structure of a professional setup—F.C. Indiana was a professional side before even the start of WPS in 2009 and is now based in South Bend after stints in Lafayette and Goshen—has helped the Haitian players to focus, which is difficult to do at home, where club practices can be disorganized and not conducive to coherent team play, while the infrastructure is still not rebuilt from the devastating earthquake of 2010.
Beyond his work with Haiti, Borkowski has assisted in the development of women’s soccer throughout the region, coordinating with the Caribbean Football Union—a sub-regional federation within CONCACAF comprised of 25 full members and six territories that compete in CFU and CONCACAF tournaments. Borkowski has been of late is working to support professional player development with CONCACAF President and FIFA Executive Committee member Jeffrey Webb, Caribbean Football Union President Gordon Derrick, and the soccer federations of Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago and the Cayman Islands.
Modeling upon what NWSL did with U.S. Soccer, the Mexican Football Federation and Canadian Soccer Association–which support the salaries of a number of their national team pool players who compete on NWSL teams–F.C. Indiana is proposing that a CFU-funded side join NWSL when it expands, expected to be for 2015. This team would be comprised of eight players drawn from Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and the Cayman Islands.
These players would be subsidized by their federations and play in the league, along with other professional players and the national team players allocated from the three CONCACAF powerhouse nations. Other Caribbean nations could be represented in future years.
Borkowski said that the plan will allow top players from Caribbean nations to train: “in the NWSL’s professional soccer environment and excellent play….Without this project, Caribbean players will be locked out of opportunities to develop, gain experience and all Caribbean countries will find themselves further behind the U.S., Canada and Mexico. This project is the only viable option for development in the Caribbean.”
If this proposal does happen, it will be another element in NWSL’s mission to develop women’s professional soccer in the region and a key lynchpin for Caribbean women’s soccer development. Will this then spur other regions to sponsor NWSL teams, such as from Africa (CAF) or South America (CONMEBOL)? The NWSL could become a truly global professional league for the women’s game.
Tim Grainey is a regular contributor to Soccer365. He is the author of Beyond Bend it Like Beckham. Get your copy today.