Vasco da Gama risk falling through the cracks a second time unless they invest in a youth programme, according to the club’s former midfielder Voorhees Astwood.
The Portuguese-Bermudian club returned to the local football landscape after a two-decade absence after being voted in as provisional members at the Bermuda Football Association’s semi-annual Congress last week.
Vasco, who will start in the First Division, disbanded at the end of the 1999-2000 season and Astwood fears lightning could strike twice if they do not implement a youth programme, something they did not do during their previous stint among the BFA ranks.
“I would like to see them do as well as any other team, but if you don’t invest in your youth then your future fades away after those experienced guys move off and a similar thing could possibly happen,” said Astwood, who is also a former Dandy Town, Devonshire Colts and Bermuda player. “Investing in our youth from as young as you can is very important because they are your future and if you don’t invest in them then what sense does it really make?”
Despite vowing in their application “not to solicit, poach or entice any player monetarily or otherwise from any affiliate club in order to form its team”, several club representatives in attendance at the Congress meeting voiced concerns about Vasco re-entering the BFA leagues.
Ray Jones, the Devonshire Colts president, expressed reservations about the addition of another team based on the island’s small pool of players, as well as the potential movement of players to Vasco.
Asked for his take on the issue, Astwood said: “If clubs take care of their players who are presently playing for them then nine times out of ten those players are going to stay right where they are. You have to treat your people right and if you do then they are not going anywhere and are going to support you.”
Vasco were one of the most dominant teams in the 1980s and 1990s, winning numerous league and cup honours, including the elusive Triple Crown during the 1997-98 campaign.
Astwood was a member of Vasco’s Triple Crown winning side.
“That experience was one of a kind and was my first time and I’m sure a few other guys first time also,” he said.
“There are a number of guys that I can reel off who were at the top of their game at the time, so it wasn’t a difficult process merging them together. We could look at the next guy and know his next move, so that made our job a lot easier on the field. Most of us came with tons of experience and John Rebello did a fantastic job as our coach to combine all those different talents and personalities.”