September 12, 2018

Trinidad & Tobago and Brazil have very little in common when it comes to football. Although both countries are wealthy in resources, T&T ranks 3rd and Brazil 4th in the wealthiest nations in the western hemisphere behind the US and Canada , both countries have taken totally different paths in the world’s game. T&T has featured in only one World Cup in its history, led by Lincoln Phillips as its Technical Director in 2006, while Brazil are five-time World Cup winners, and if the country ever not qualified for the World Cup, well let’s just say it would be devastated.  There is one more quality that both countries do have in common. What or who is it? Narada Wilson, an established football executive born in Trinidad and Tobago, but lives in Brazil where for the last 9 years he has grown his career behind the scenes in football to bring knowledge back to the Caribbean football nations.

Since 2009, Wilson has spent his time in Brazil planning events such as the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, and with his busy schedule leading up to the Copa America, this year is no different. He is a part of the Copa America team who will be hosting the tournament in the summer of 2019.

Despite having no prior ties to Brazil through ancestry or a family member having done business in the country, Wilson took it upon himself to become fluent in Portuguese in order to be a part of many events in what is arguably the greatest football country in the world.

With 53% of the 211 million people in Brazil of African descent, outnumbering Whites at 45%, Brazil faces major race issues and some experts would even consider Brazil’s racial issues to far outnumber that of America. Factor in the government eliminating “African” or “Black” to describe its citizens, the term is now “Brazilian”, the favelas (slums), poverty, and crime, that has affected communities of African origin, and Brazil isn’t the most open country to Black executives who wish to do business. Yet, Wilson has and continues to defy the odds.

We had the privilege to sit-down with him to learn a bit more about his work on Copa America, and a company that he co-founded with his partner called BrazilLink to help build a bridge between South America and the Caribbean, as well as more on his thoughts about the world’s game. – Narada, thank you for taking the time out to speak with us today.

NW: No problem at all, it is a pleasure and thank you for having me. – Can you tell us a bit more about how you got involved with football?

NW: Firstly, I am an avid football fan. I enjoyed playing football at my secondary school, Trinity College in Trinidad and several clubs during my teenage years. My professional involvement came to life one year before I left for university.  I got a start with coaching youth football thanks to Colin and Dexter Skeene and Joel Hyacinth from the SKHY football club. Those guys really took me under and introduced me to most aspects of football and I am grateful to them.  – Why did you leave Trinidad to focus on building a career in football in Brazil?

NW: In 2009 I received an opportunity to purse my studies in Brazil. My time here presented many football career paths as they are truly ‘the land of football’. Fortunately they hosted 2014 World Cup, 2016 Olympics, and several other major football tournaments/competitions both in the male and female categories over the years, to which I positioned myself accordingly to ensure I took advantage of such opportunities. – How has being in Brazil helped you to propel your career and how was the change from a cultural standpoint?

NW: Brazil gave me professional qualifications on a variety of levels. I have become more marketable and in a short space of time was able to attain a wealth of experience. Very few can boast of being part of two of the largest sport events in less than 5 years. That is a feat that has afforded me many opportunities to consult and assist numerous federations and organisations over the years. Culturally, a lot was different; form the language to the music but the sporting culture was most shocking. Certain days and times surround football, neither age nor gender matters in discussions as everyone follows the game, the passion is real, emotions run high. I have been able to understand how social and cultural elements influence citizens and sports in Brazil. : You started Brazil Link, what are your goals and objectives for the company and what impact do you hope to make?

NW: The Brazil Link came to life in 2012, an idea formalised by my partner Cy Padmore, who has a wealth of experience living and working in England and France. His wife Ila, is a Brazilian educator and an essential part of the company as well. The idea has been to bridge the gap between Brazil and the Caribbean through three distinct areas; Travel, Education and Sport. We have had success on many levels and the journey has been a learning experience.  In the sport department we have represented some of the best athletes of our region, offering a complete athlete support system. In travel, our service has aided several groups and organizations travelling between destinations, most notably, Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee for Rio 2016 games. The education arm has seen us offer Portuguese/English classes and packages for students and persons wanting to study the languages and culture, using our region as an alternative to traditional markets to those interested. What are your overall thoughts on the world of football and how do you see South America, Caribbean, and the African nations fitting in? Do you think that Europe has taken full control of the sport seeing that they are now owners of the last four World Cups?

NW: Football continues to grow for the better, most of the misfortunes have been coming to light and being addressed. We are seeing more technology involved which is closing the gap between several nations and more players are plying their trade around the world. The problem or delayed progression I see with football in the Caribbean, South American and African nations all differ from each other.

South American nations are simply suffering from a drain on young talent as the demand is high for their players and the sale of players contributes heavily to the economy. At age 18, young players are shipped off and involved in foreign football systems and on their return to National duty they are not able to flourish 100% because the ecosystems are different.

Using an International Sport success research model, there are 9 pillars to sport success. The African nations score low in the departments of Training facilities, Research/Innovation, Coaching development and even Procedures/Policies. This means that even with an abundance of talent and financial support, the players are not being exposed to the best conditions for development, the data is not being recorded and adjusted for efficient or continuous progress, so what you find is that the region is years behind. The same model can be applied to the Caribbean, where our region scores low in research/innovation, and competition. The Caribbean has had success in decades gone by but never built on it because the data was neither recorded nor adapted, so the restart button is always hit whenever a new administration or government arrives. Our region’s more frequent domestic opponents are not primarily football powerhouses, this hinders our rate of improvement. These differences or limitations are not as apparent in several European countries which aids in their success. – Do you think that Brazil will ever rise to the dominance that it once showed in the late 70s, 80s, and 90s and THE football nation?

NW: Brazilian football is a unique situation. The success of over the decades can be contributed to having a very strong domestic league, in which most of the players weren’t internationally recognized outside of international tournaments. Today, the young Brazilian talent leaves the country at an early age and is influenced by his adopted club’s philosophy and not of his nation of birth. Brazilian clubs focus on producing players to fit into the big European clubs’ system, thus hindering the showcasing of the “Samba-style” many grew to admire. However, due to the country’s size and population, Brazil can produce talent for both international and domestic purposes. I believe that within the next 2 world cups, we would see a return to dominance by the Brazilian National teams. Sport science is being implemented more and more at all levels now in Brazil and the results will show eventually.

To learn more BrazilLink’s mission to bridge the gap between South America and the Caribbean in football, you can visit their Facebook page @TheBrazilLink.


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