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SportWired: Schizophrenic selections threaten Warriors’ progress

Nothing divides opinion like team selections. Should the coach go for experience or fresh enthusiasm? Loyalty or new blood?

It is impossible to please everyone and there are pros and cons for almost every choice.

And, no, I was not pleased with the 18-man squad selected by joint head coaches Hutson “Barber” Charles and Jamaal Shabazz for Trinidad and Tobago’s upcoming friendly internationals away to Belize and Peru on March 22 and 26 respectively.

As a sport writer and one who never played or coached at the highest level, it is important to be respectful to those who have dedicated their lives to the finer details of the sport.

Thankfully, a more knowledgeable football mind than mine supports me in this instance and I will let him put forward my argument.

So, newly-minted 2012 Caribbean Cup-bound national coach Jamaal Shabazz, please put the 2013 Gold Cup-bound national coach Jamaal Shabazz in his place.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago national co-head coach Jamaal Shabazz. (Courtesy Allan V. Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago national co-head coach Jamaal Shabazz.
(Courtesy Allan V. Crane/Wired868)

I found the selection of 21-year-old Point Fortin Civic Centre midfielder Marcus Joseph to be particularly bizarre.

Joseph, a former Joe Public and Ma Pau employee, inexplicably quit the Pro League over a year ago and dropped two divisions to play amateur football in the Southern Football Association (SFA) instead.

The 2012 Shabazz would understand as he too was once tempted by a SFA player, Sylvester Teesdale, and put his foot down.

“(Sylvester) Teesdale is not playing in the Pro League but in the zone,” Shabazz told Wired868, on 3 December 2012. “He is a good player but what kind of intensity is he facing there as opposed to Richard Roy (in the Pro League)? We have to make this a lot more scientific and transparent. A player must know that there is a pathway to the national team whether he is playing in the zone or secondary schools. So it will improve his ambition.

“If a guy is a good player and he wants to become a national player, he knows what he has to do and it makes for fairness.”

The post-Caribbean Cup finals Shabazz is more open-minded.

“Marcus (Joseph) worked with us for the Peru game and he is following a fitness programme we set out for him,” said Shabazz, on 12 March 2013. “For now, he is the exception to the rule that we talked about. This game will help determine what the future holds for players like him.”

So whose philosophy is better for the immediate future of the national team?

The old Shabazz wanted players operating at the highest possible level as he felt they had a better chance of making the step up to international football. He believed that a player’s ambition offered a clue as to whether he deserved the national shirt and understood that one dodgy call-up could taint the selection press and negatively impact on squad morale.

Teesdale had been a key member of the T&TEC team that finishing second in the 2011/12 Pro League but, with the club in disarray during the 2012/13 pre-season, he was too slow to jump ship to another top flight club.

Photo: Sylvester Teesdale was part of the Trinidad and Tobago national team that overcame financial woes, a marathon qualifying campaign and infighting between the TTFF and the Sport Ministry to qualify for the 2012 Caribbean Cup finals. (Courtesy TTFF Media)
Photo: Sylvester Teesdale was part of the Trinidad and Tobago national team that overcame financial woes, a marathon qualifying campaign and infighting between the TTFF and the Sport Ministry to qualify for the 2012 Caribbean Cup finals.
(Courtesy TTFF Media)

By the time T&TEC decided to stay in the Pro League, the 29-year-old attacker had already registered with a SFA club.

Teesdale was a member of both Caribbean Cup qualifying tournaments. He scored once, managed five assists and had been marooned in St Kitts during Tropical Storm Rafael along with his teammates.

He had already agreed to rejoin T&TEC as soon as the transfer window re-opened in January too.

Regardless, Shabazz did not allow him to train with the team before the Caribbean Cup finals.

And Joseph?

A talented midfielder with an impressive left foot, he was a member of two youth World Cup teams but never made an impact in adult football and dropped out of the top flight of his own volition. When Pro League teams like Central FC, Police FC and St Ann’s Rangers scoured the country for fresh talent in January, he did not put himself forward.

Photo: Marcus Joseph (left) tackles German midfielder Tony Jantschke during the 2007 FIFA Under-17 World Cup. Jantschke is now in his fifth professional season with Bundesliga club, Borussia Mönchengladbach. (Courtesy FIFA.com)
Photo: Marcus Joseph (left) tackles German midfielder Tony Jantschke during the 2007 FIFA Under-17 World Cup.
Jantschke is now in his fifth professional season with Bundesliga club, Borussia Mönchengladbach.
(Courtesy FIFA.com)

Why bother? The new Shabazz allowed Joseph to train with the Warriors in early February although the young man was not even playing competitive football since the SFA season closed in the middle of January.

Civic Centre failed to qualify for the Super League qualifying tournament and will again play in the SFA next season, which is unlikely to start before May.

So, after Joseph’s trip to Belize and Peru, he will put his feet up for the next two months or so.

The Warriors only have four international matches carded before the July 2013 Gold Cup tournament and Joseph will be in the squad for at least half of them, even though he will still be a SFA player this summer as the Pro League does not re-open for business until August.

Zonal football is not what it used to be; it cannot be. The best local players gravitate towards the Pro League where they can earn a living, attract scouts and hopefully earn a move abroad.

Photo: DIRECTV W Connection midfielder Joevin Jones (centre) hones his trade in the Pro League against the likes of Defence Force man-mountain Keston Williams. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: DIRECTV W Connection midfielder Joevin Jones (centre) hones his trade in the Pro League against the likes of Defence Force man-mountain Keston Williams.
(Courtesy Wired868)

There are eight Pro League teams with a roster of at least 25 players each. At a minimum, there are probably 160 Trinidad and Tobago players campaigning at this level.

The Super League has 12 teams and, if we allow for a18-man roster, that means another 216 players.

So subtract about 80 Trinidad and Tobago players on scholarship in the United States or playing in various leagues around the world and then minus a further 376 players from the top and second tier of the domestic game.

And, after you have removed over 400 of the country’s best players, you are left with the guys that Joseph comes up against every weekend.

So, without wanting to be an unkind to a young, promising player, can someone explain why he is being accommodated in a team that has just over three months to prepare for its most demanding tournament in six years?

What made his position so different to Teesdale’s?

What individual fitness program is Joseph on that compensates for virtual no senior team experience at a passable level? And why did Warriors captain Jan-Michael Williams not get a chance to follow that program too since he was blacklisted, after his fall-out with W Connnection, despite training every day with national goalkeeping coach, Jefferson George?

What message are the selectors sending to the chosen and overlooked Trinidad and Tobago football players?

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago national goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams (bottom) is congratulated by his teammates after inspiring the squad to the 2012 Caribbean Cup final. (Courtesy Allan V. Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago national goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams (bottom) is congratulated by his teammates after inspiring the squad to the 2012 Caribbean Cup final.
(Courtesy Allan V. Crane/Wired868)

“The selection of the final squad is based on the coach’s determination but I think being called up to a training squad should require definite criteria,” the old Shabazz told Wired868, last November. “What is the reward for a player who is doing well in the Pro League on a weekly basis or season in and season out? We need to develop policy and guidelines regarding that.”

How, then, will the new Shabazz explain to Central FC winger Jason Marcano why he was omitted again despite being the Pro League’s on-form winger for the past month or so?

“Foreign based players often come home and are not active or training with anybody,” said the old Shabazz. “Do they deserve a place in the national team? How does their inactivity impact on their fitness?”

World Cup 2006 midfielder Chris Birchall, who was selected ahead of the likes of Connection captain Clyde Leon, has played roughly 20 minutes of football in the last five months. Is he in any form to do justice to his ability let alone his selection?

And what about Keon Daniel who walked out on the “Soca Warriors” for two qualifying tournaments but returns to the squad with a minimum of fuss?

“He explained that it was a difficult time for him and that he didn’t deal with it in the best manner,” said Shabazz. “We didn’t delve too much into it… He said he is sorry about how he dealt with it and he didn’t mean to disrespect anybody.”

Even Trinidad and Tobago football legend Dwight Yorke issue a public apology after he missed an international friendly due to an illness in his family but was then spotted at a local nightclub. So how does Daniel return without, at the very least, an unreserved apology to all Trinidad and Tobago football fans, let alone his teammates?

The national coaches boasted to anyone who would listen about the desire and grit of the 2012 Warriors who ignored low match fees, no stipends, insufficient preparation and even a tropical storm to force their way into the upcoming Gold Cup.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago defender Seon Power (second from left) joins the celebration during the 2012 Caribbean Cup finals in Antigua. (Courtesy Allan V. Crane/ Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago defender Seon Power (second from left) joins the celebration during the 2012 Caribbean Cup finals in Antigua.
(Courtesy Allan V. Crane/ Wired868)

But, arguably, dressing room unity is at stake when a settled squad is dismantled for the sake of amateur, inactive and non-committal players. It set my alarm bells off and I am probably not the only one.

The old Shabazz would surely have been the new Shabazz’s biggest critic.

T&T 18-man squad to face Belize and Peru

Goalkeepers: Marvin Phillip (Central FC), Cleon John (North East Stars);

Defenders: Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Daneil Cyrus (DIRECTV W Connection), Carlyle Mitchell (FC Edmonton—Canada), Aubrey David (Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA);

Midfielders: Chris Birchall (Port Vale—England), Densill Theobald, Keyon Edwards (both Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA), Ataullah Guerra (RoPS—Finland), Keon Daniel (Philadelphia Union—US), Joevin Jones (DIRECTV W Connection); Kevon Carter (Defence Force), Darren Mitchell (Central FC), Marcus Joseph (Point Fortin Civic Centre);

Forwards: Kenwyne Jones (Stoke City—England), Devorn Jorsling (Defence Force), Cornell Glen (North East Stars).

 

Editor’s Note: Read Jamaal Shabazz’s response to criticism of the selection of the Trinidad and Tobago squad here

Jason Marcano was subsequently added to the Trinidad and Tobago team as a replacement for unavailable midfielder Ataullah Guerra.

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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4 comments

  1. Don’t know what is worse. Lets hope that the team motivate themselves to prove us wrong. Yes both Jason Marcano and Hughton Hector have been the most overlooked players over the last 7 years. However I won’t mind giving Marcus Joseph a chance to prove himself as an emerging youngster. I would not argue the defensive selections even though I would have picked Julius James for sure who is a speedy underrated ball winner to partner Mitchell. The midfield is just a bit too predictive. Theobald is the perfect player and passer for the defensive holding position (not a goal threat, he needs to shoot) given that Hyland is injured. But without Guerra who is brilliant in going forward we lack some flair/creativity for the middle like what Molino/Hector would also give. Kevon Carter is excellent on the right and Daniel may lack pace and aggressiveness but is our set piece specialist and has a good touch. He should probably be tried in the middle and not the left side for a change. The forwards selected are not mobile enough for counter attacking football and the number of chances we produce around the box. Glen being the fastest of the lot is become more of a target player which would mean that we almost have three of the same type of forward only difference being shooting ability in which Jorsling would be the best. Then we still have to depend on that final ball so that they could score goals. Lester Peltier who I think is T&T best player at this moment should definitely have been picked as he brings great attacking capability in terms of pace and being able to run at defenders. He is also aggressive enough to be at the end of crosses into the box as well. For these other strikers, crosses needs to be more pinpoint accurate and the build up play may be slower. Except for the one-twos with Carter which would send him down the line to make those crosses. All in all the team that we have does not enable us to use the capability of target strikers effectively hence the frustration of Stern John in his latter years. We need those fresh, pacey youngsters up top. Dwight Yorke was one that was given a chance as a youngster 28 years years ago.

  2. Everyone has a story, Wayne. Maybe it is valid, maybe not. But I was looking from the point of view of the national team. I think he should show the commitment to maximise his ability and that every player should show a good work ethic before being allowed to wear the national shirt. But that’s my opinion.

  3. Lasana ….. I know you are entitled to your opinion but shouldn’t we find out why he went to play with his Zone team? I find it strange that a player playing in the Pro League leaves to play for a lower/lesser team without good reason.

  4. Steupssssssssssssssss

    I am surprised at Shabazz. How could he justify picking Joseph? Fitness programme or not this has opened the door to all sorts of things now. Is he now bowing to the powers that be? So many questions without plausible answers and if we go this way I am now left to think that there really isn’t any change in the TTFF. They still continue to tell the coach/es who to pick. Shabazz seems to be conforming like all the other local coaches. They couldn’t tell Beenhakker who to select so why tell Shabazz and Charles? But say what, this is Trinidad and Tobago Football for you, everyone trying to have their day in the proverbial sun. This must be the work of some football stalwart who trying to convince Shabazz and Charles that there are better players in the zones too and these players should not be denied and all the additional rhetoric that they like to bandy about for their own agendas. But go ahead Shabazz, let them guide you and see what ditch we may end up in. There must be progression and if a player is that good then he should be playing professionally. We like to follow England in everything, well follow them in that nah….they not taking an amateur player to play on their national team though. Because the best players are paid to play. Steupssssssssssssssssss. Well I tell all yuh we really not going anywhere fastttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt.