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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 October 2006, 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK
White flies the flag in Bahamas
By John May

Bahamas coach and technical director Gary White
Gary White talks to his charges
Steve McClaren may be coming under fire, but there is one young English coach who is proving a success on the international stage.

Southampton-born Gary White has lit a rocket under the Bahamas, sparking a meteoric rise for the island nation in the Fifa world rankings.

The Bahamas have made a record leap of 55 places in one month, up to 138 in the world rankings, and they have also jumped to 16th place in the Concacaf listing which includes such giants as Mexico and the USA.

On football's Richter scale, the Bahamas' feat would hardly trigger a flicker on the dial, but it marks a huge success for the Bahamas Football Association and coach White.

When White took over as technical director and national team coach in 2000 he found a federation with piecemeal domestic football and who were unable to raise a team for the 1998 World Cup qualifiers.

White set out to raise the awareness of football among the Bahamas 300,000 population scattered around the 700-island archipelago.

Coaching football among the swaying palms with a journey to work that involves island-hopping on speedboats sounds the ideal job for a football lotus-eater.

As White told BBC Sport: "This is a beautiful place and the temptation for most people coming here would be to kick back and enjoy the lifestyle.

If you've lived here all your life, the beaches are just the norm

BFA coach Gary White

"But if you've lived here all your life, the beaches are just the norm."

White knew he had good raw material to work with. Natural athletes abound on the islands, all he had to do was turn their athletic attention from basketball and track and field to football.

He established senior leagues on each of the three main islands and set up regional youth development programmes.

In addition to the national senior squad, the Bahamas now have an Olympic Under-23 squad, a senior womens' team, and mens' and womens' squads at Under-20 and Under-17 level.

The Bahamas rise up the world rankings is due in no small part to two crucial victories for White's men in the Concacaf Gold Cup qualifying compeitition.

Bahamas National team
The pride of the Bahamas

In the first qualifying round, wins over the higher-ranked Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands helped the Bahamas to take their place in the second round.

White's squad has largely emerged from the BFA's school and national development programme he set up, but the players inevitably have to play abroad to stretch themselves.

Several play in America's Major League Soccer, some in Europe's minor leagues while White has also fixed up trials for three players at Championship side Stoke City.

Although White, who took his coaching badges after failing to make the grade as a youngster with Southampton, has played a major part in the Bahamas' rise, he insists most of the success is down to the players.

"I think they have got to take the credit. I can only do so much.

"I can coach them and pass on certain things to them, but it's their ability that does the talking at the end of the day."

SEE ALSO
Island of football dreams
18 Mar 04 |  World Football


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