A little too late! Pro League blanks T&T National U-17s; half-measure in the works

A little too late! That, according to TT Pro League acting CEO Julia Baptiste, is the reason why the Trinidad and Tobago Men’s Under-17 Team has not had its application to play in the Under-18 Division of the ongoing Youth Pro League (YPL) approved. The application simply came a little too late.

Baptiste, who has just been promoted from general secretary following the resignation in quick succession of long-standing CEO Dexter Skeene and Chairman Sam Phillip, told Wired868 that the decision to turn down the Under-17’s request was made in the best interest of the YPL since almost half of the season is already in the books.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 Team coach Russell Latapy (centre) reacts during 2017 World Cup qualifying action against Bermuda at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 18 September, 2016.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

“With so many match days already gone,” Baptiste said, “I thought it would not have been in the (League’s) best interest to enter the National Under-17 team at the time. It was just me giving consideration to the integrity of the League table. […] I felt it was the best decision to leave it as is.”

The National Under-17’s, coached by former national standout Russell Latapy and managed by Aaron Pollard, had hoped to get a run-out in the YPL competition to provide them with sustained match practice. But, Baptiste pointed out, with four games already gone in its season, this year’s competition will see one more round of league matches followed by a knockout tournament.

And even if the Under-17’s registration were completed in time for action this weekend, they would have been able to contest at most five matches in the League. Furthermore, as the current pool of National Under-17 players features youngsters attached to clubs in both the Under-16 and Under-18 Divisions of the YPL, the transferring of players could, in Baptiste’s eyes, have proven problematic and would have potentially put the League on hold.

The new CEO gave the assurance that the League’s decision would have been different if the season were longer than its current one round plus knockout schedule.

The National Under-17s were bidding to claim the spot in the Under-18 category left vacant by Morvant Caledonia United, whose co-founder, Jamaal Shabazz, informed the League of the club’s inability to field an Under-18 team for the current YPL season.

Photo: Central FC striker Willis Plaza (centre) receives his Wendy’s Player of the Month award from Wendy’s marketing officer Melita Sharma (left) while then Pro League secretary Julia Baptiste looks on.
(Courtesy TT Pro League)

Baptiste told Wired868 that Caledonia had been completely removed from the Under-18 Division so that teams did not benefit from their withdrawal by way of additional points for forfeited games. Inserting the Under-17s at the midway point of the competition, she suggested, would have created a grey area with respect to determining whether or not teams had received points for the games which “Cale” should have played.

Initially, last month, Pollard and National Under-17 assistant coach Duane Richardson informed members of their 40-plus player pool that they were required to sign transfer documents for Caledonia in order to turn out in the Under-18 Division of the YPL competition. However, the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) quickly reversed its position and proposed that the National Under-17s play under their own identity, a move which was recommended by Latapy and supported by Technical Director Anton Corneal.

In the end, their late bid for a YPL spot proved unsuccessful although plans are underway to arrange friendly games for Latapy’s squad against the top flight clubs.

The Under-18 Division is currently headed by Club Sando, who lead three-time and defending champions San Juan Jabloteh on goal difference, with Jabloteh having a game in hand. The “San Juan Kings” have swept all three age groups of the YPL over the past three seasons and they currently sit in first and third spots in the Under-16 and Under-14 Divisions respectively.

Photo: The Trinidad and Tobago National Under-15 Team players pose before kick-off against a Republic Bank XI at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 15 April, 2017.
Most of the squad members have graduated to the National Under-17 ranks.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

In the middle of conducting a CONCACAF D-License coaching course in Guyana, Corneal could not be reached for comment on the collapse of the plan. Wired868 was also unable to reach Latapy.

TTFA General Secretary Justin Latapy-George declined comment on what lies ahead for the Under-17’s and would say only that he had no problem with the TTPL’s decision to turn down the application.

“For me, it’s not a matter of being surprised,” he said, “as the League has its autonomy.”

Team manager, Pollard, declined comment on why an approach was not made to the Pro League prior to the start of the YPL season, opting instead to reiterate the technical staff’s mission for the National Under-17s.

“Our goal is to prepare our boys to the best of our abilities,” Pollard declared, “with the resources we have available.”

“The Under-18 League would have served as good practice matches for the boys [but] we have the option to organise practice matches against [local] teams who are at a good standard.”

Director of football Muhammad Isa revealed that the Pro League has offered a compromise of sorts to the National Under-17s, which should ensure Latapy’s charges still see some action. The new proposal is that Youth Pro League clubs will take turns facing the young Soca Warriors once a week, possibly on Thursdays, in exhibition matches.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Under-15 playmaker Josiah Edwards (right) tries to escape from Republic Bank XI defender Nathan Guy (centre) while Guy’s teammate Keron Manswell looks on during action at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 15 April, 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

So, although there will be no points at stake, there should be games for the national youth team.

The National Under-17 Team is aiming to avoid a repeat of the 2017 campaign when the Young Warriors failed to advance past the CFU stage, despite playing on home soil.

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About Roneil Walcott

Roneil Walcott is an avid sports fan and freelance reporter with a BA in Mass Communication from COSTAATT. Roneil is a former Harvard and St Mary's College cricketer who once had lofty aspirations of bringing joy to sport fans with the West Indies team. Now, his mission is to keep them on the edge of their seats with sharp commentary from off the playing field.

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  1. Why Pro Leagues teams dont have youth club programes or an under U17 Pro League tournment like other countries organise it in UEFA??

  2. Please don’t rock the boat… Latapy has other things on his mind besides training de yutes.


  3. I will like to see them in the super league because it’s more competitive than the pro league facttt

  4. Read the article before making a statement

  5. If the goal is competitive games for the national team then registering them as a member of the youth pro league is irrelevant. The alternative arrangement of weekly games between the youth pro league teams and the national team is a workable solution. The national team coaches and managers will need to start being creative with respect to friendlies / competitive games for their teams. TTFA dollars is sparse so they’ll need to be proactive and take advantage of leagues like the TTSL to help keep the team match fit / active. The U20 team for example should start early discussions with the TTSL to be adhoc members of the league. As adhoc members they are guaranteed weekly games, but don’t impact the league standing.

    • Carlos, the u17s should really be playing against TTSL opposition. That’s the league they should apply to play in or use ur suggestion of weekly games against that level opposition. Eventually they should migrate to playing TTPL teams. The 2007 u17s used pro league opposition and even though they lost the 4 or 5 games they were very competitive.

    • The u20s should be playing in the TTPL as opposed to the TTSL imo. Zoran Varane’s u20s easily won the Super League back in 2008. They didn’t lose a game if I remember correctly. That team went on to qualify for the 2009 world championships.

  6. I haven’t read the whole article however based on the headlines I think it’s a poor decision .. visionless thinking..

  7. At first I wondered why they wouldn’t allow them in
    But you will be hard pressed to fault the new CEO with this decision.
    It’s way too last minute and disorganised and a logistical nightmare
    The exhibition games once a week serves the same purpose as one team would be on a bye anyway as Caledonia isn’t in the division anyway
    So it doesn’t make sense to make serious waves with the u18 league already in progress .

    Make do and have the practice games
    Next year, register early if interested

  8. Lol, Trinis good yes.

    You all should not be bashing the ProLeague.

    TTFA officials solely responsible here… Solely !

  9. “was made in the best interest of the YPL since almost half of the season is already in the books.”….. what about the best interest of National football? Very myopic thinking…..

  10. What about best interest of National football? Sigh

  11. At least — hopefully — they’ll still be getting games in. Not sure how beneficial it’ll be to play against Pro League or Super League senior teams…but that could only help, I think?

  12. BS, doesn’t the Pro League understand the major importance of preparing the country’s National youth tram.

    An invitation should have been sent every year to facilitate these teams growth and development.

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