“We no longer have the pool of players and that fountain of experience we had when we qualified for Germany in 2006,” said CONCACAF technical study group member and FC Santa Rosa coach Keith Look Loy. “(We had) men playing in the English leagues and Scotland Premier League and so forth for years… Now, with all due respect, we have men in India and Vietnam.
“It is hardly the same. And therefore the level of expectation, I think, should not realistically be the same.”
Look Loy, a former national player and coach at youth and senior level, covered the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship in Jamaica alongside Wired868 and offered his insight on the tournament in general and Trinidad and Tobago’s showing in particular.
The following is the final instalment in a wide-ranging three-part interview that discussed the performance of the teenaged “Soca Warriors”, the merits of the local school and professional game and the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association’s (TTFA) responsibility to football development.
Now, Look Loy says what local football fans should expect in the short and long-term from their national teams and identifies a model for success based on the remarkable rise of a fellow CONCACAF nation:
Wired868: Should we be encouraged or concerned by the National Under-20 Team’s showing at the CONCACAF Championship and recent trends within the Confederation?
Keith Look Loy: I am going to marry this Under-20 tournament with the last (senior) Caribbean Cup tournament in Montego Bay. Trinidad and Tobago lost on penalty kicks (in the 2014 Caribbean Cup finals) to Jamaica but the performance of that team gave no encouragement for the 2015 Gold cup and the 2018 World Cup qualifiers. I’m being frank.
Never mind the fact that we got to the final. The performance was poor. We were able to survive against Jamaica in the final because we were very defensive. Quite frankly, that Senior Team had 11 players on the field but it was short because certain big name players didn’t pull their weight.
For us to have any kind of chance, starting with the Gold Cup and continuing into the World Cup qualifying campaign, that pool at senior level has to be prepared properly and the final eleven has to pull their weight. Without calling names, it was the talk of the stadium after that final and even during the tournament that certain big name players wearing Trinidad and Tobago shirts were doing absolutely nothing on the pitch and were burdens to the team. They have to do better.
They have to be prepared better and they have to be prepared to come on the field and give everything if they have to have any chance because that was not Jamaica’s best team.
Wired868: Do we have the calibre players who can take us to glory in the short term?
Look Loy: Our real potential is going to be challenged shortly in the Gold Cup and that is in a matter of a few months. Whether the TTFA is going to make it possible for whichever team (Stephen) Hart selects to play on the FIFA dates and to have preparation matches is an issue that is always up in the air. But they are going to have to do that.
Secondly, we no longer have the pool of players and that fountain of experience we had when we qualified for Germany in 2006. (We had) men playing in the English leagues and the Scotland Premier League and so forth for years… Now, with all due respect, we have men in India and Vietnam. It is hardly the same. And therefore the level of expectation I think should not realistically be the same.
We no longer have a Yorke and a Latapy and a Shaka Hislop and Marvin Andrews and all of these guys… That is not to say the players we have are untalented but they don’t have the experience that these guys brought to the table. That is just a fact.
We are facing two questions. Firstly, the preparation of a team to proceed into a tournament and we consistently fail to prepare teams properly. Select the right coach give them the resources, let them train, give them the practice matches, etc, etc. That is team development or preparation.
Then there is the longer team issue of player development. You know what I mean. The players we want to be in the men’s team for Qatar and thereafter, we have to be producing those players now. That speaks to the preparation I just referred to but it also refers to player development in Trinidad and Tobago as a whole.
We need to be preparing from under-10 and under-12 today and that speaks to coach development and coach education, which is non-existent in Trinidad and Tobago and under the umbrella of the TTFA. The coaches in every nook and cranny from Chaguaramas to Toco to Fyzabad and Palo Seco who have to be providing these boys from now at age 6, 7, 8, 9 and coming up the line. We have to be preparing coaches to do that.
And, secondly, we have to be talking about club development and giving the clubs and the players the best possible environment the country can afford to prepare the next set of national team players at whatever level.
The TTFF/TTFA is doing nothing to demand clubs improve their standards and to provide support for clubs to improve their standards. It is just draw up a fixtures and let them come and fight and we go on to the next season. The so-called big clubs: how good are they by international standards?
I’m talking about not their level of football on the field but their internal organisation and their structures. It is a joke. You know what I’m saying is true. But we want to talk about how we want to win CONCACAF Champions League. Pipe dreams!
Wired868: So how do we get there?
Look Loy: We have to establish the infrastructure. I love to talk about Panama because they are taking the painstaking steps to develop infrastructure at every level: club football, national teams, coaches’ education. That is how you create a consistent product, which is what the United States did.
As I was telling one of my colleagues, in 1989 Trinidad and Tobago and the United States were at the same level. They sent a team comprising university students here and beat us 1-0 at the stadium. And between that time and now they have developed the nascent infrastructure they had in place. Look at the route they travelled and where we are. One could argue we have gone backwards in certain areas.
Now, they have a national league that is the sixth largest by attendances in world football. Whereas we talking about we going Russia. We always talking about going here and going there but they’re doing it.
United States is consistently in the last 16 at World Cup level while Panama is now looking for its third Gold Cup final and to win it this year… We’re still holding on to pipe dreams because we will not do the hard work and take the hard decisions.
But let me get back on point about what it takes to get there. I like to talk about Panama because I was the FIFA development officer in charge there and the first thing they did was to develop a FIFA technical centre using their FIFA Goal money. Trinidad and Tobago does not have a technical centre that belongs to the association but we build that centre for them on behalf of FIFA back in 2003 and FIFA financed that.
Two, they put significant monies, millions and millions of dollars, into coaching education.
Three, they have significant private sponsorship and they put significant investment into youth competitions and by that I mean domestic competitions and their youth national teams. Their players go naturally from an Under-15 team to an Under-17 team to an Under-17 World Cup and an Under-20 World Cup on to the Senior National team. They have developed their pipeline.
And, four, they have established a serious professional league that has players from across South America. I have been to their professional games and you get a good crowd and a good level of football. In the CONCACAF Champions League they are not getting to the later stages but they hold their own. When you go to Panama to play against a professional team, no matter who you are, you have to send your good team and you’ve got to play (hard).
And lastly, (Look Loy laughs) they have a stable federation.
So you are talking about a stable professional environment and investment in coaching education, youth football and top level football. And without that you’re going nowhere.
Editor’s Note: Click HERE to read Part One, which discusses the Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 Team’s performance. And HERE to read Part Two on the impact that schools football is having on Trinidad and Tobago’s national teams.