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Early days, but Borkowski has big ideas for Caribbean subsidized NWSL team

CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb (left) with Shek Borkowski. (Photo courtesy FC Indiana)

FC Indiana, a two-time WPSL Champion (2005, 2007) and a W-League finalist (2008) is leading an effort in tandem with the Caribbean Football Union to have a future NWSL franchise—based in Indiana—with national team members from a number of countries in the Caribbean basin.

FC Indiana 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 has 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 summer and a 5-0 loss to WCC Power Brigham Young University last month. In WPSL Elite last summer, F.C. Indiana finished with 1 win, 2 ties and 11 losses for 5 pts. Borkowski’s goal is to have a competitive Haiti side that can challenge 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 to Australia in Indianapolis last summer. Haiti’s goalkeeping also was a problem 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 nigh impossible to respond on the field and fight back offensively.

The structure of a professional setup—FC 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. This can be more 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. Since last year, Borkowski 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 the league expands in the future, 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,” Borkowski said.

This plan would be a key lynchpin for Caribbean women’s soccer development and be a particular help to a country such as Trinidad & Tobago, who recently lost Norwegian Even Pellerud as their women’s soccer technical director. Pellerud has led Norway to a Women’s World Cup title (1995) and Canada to a World Cup final four (2003) and this summer helped unheralded Norway to the UEFA European Championship final. One of the few Trinidad and Tobago professionals, Tasha St. Louis, played for FC Indiana and the Maryland Capitols of WPSL and abroad in Sweden. This type of program would allow her teammates and others to experience top quality professional play.

This is the type of creative thinking from F.C. Indiana and the Caribbean Football Union that would not even be a possibility in the WUSA or WPS. With NWSL being a league funded by the three leading CONCACAF countries but with franchises located only in the U.S. [though Canadian franchises are mentioned as future possibilities], this type of proposal adds to the idea that NWSL is a league that is truly developing the women’s game beyond American shores.

Tim Grainey is an occasional contributor to Equalizer Soccer.  His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham was released earlier this month.  Get your copy today.

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