A release this week confirmed that several of the Pro League’s most talented footballers have signed deals with teams in various corners of the European continent. I say various corners, as most of them are not exactly the European hotbeds of football.
But who will benefit from these overseas moves?
The Kazakhstan Premier League, for example, has twelve teams. But Kazakhstan is a vast country, twice the size of Alaska, with mammoth distances between the clubs. Attendances at games average around 500.
Meanwhile, it is suggested that some players may find themselves in the Finnish third division—the fourth tier of football in Finland.
Is the Finnish third division of a higher quality than the Pro League? Is the Kazakhstan league better? If not, that means our top players’ abilities will reduce, not improve.
So, if they’re not going there to improve their football, it must be the money.
Fair enough, players deserve to earn top dollar. But, are players being shipped out to anywhere that will pay the selling club a fee? No details of transfer fees have been released as yet.
I can’t blame a club for selling a player. They need the cash and if the player gets the deal he wants, so be it. But are they really being advised correctly?
I guess that the clubs will say that they have the right to sell players overseas if it can benefit their club, which is, of course, their business.
However, when Trinidad and Tobago’s joint national head coach is involved, this is where there is a moral dilemma.
Jamaal Shabazz has undoubtedly worked passionately to grow Caledonia AIA into a formidable football team, not just in Trinidad & Tobago but also in the Caribbean. Should we, then, even dare criticize him for capitalising now on years spent counting pennies to put a team together?
Well, yes, actually. If we accept that these transfers are not necessarily designed to improve the players, then could our national coach be weakening the player pool to benefit his club?
And this is where there could be a conflict of interest.
Most people cannot wear two hats. If Shabazz had his trip paid for by TTFF, then that is clearly wrong. However, if he paid his own way, is that okay? What comes first, club or country?
I must say at this point that I tend to admire Shabazz as a coach.
He does seem to have a knack of building a team and motivating them to win. In fact, it was noticeable that during his tenure as Guyana head coach, the form of Caledonia noticeably dipped. But upon his return, the club literally caught fire and finished the season superbly.
I most certainly agree with Shabazz that Pro League clubs must be active in the global transfer market. But selling players to minor clubs in minor leagues does not help develop the national team.
While it may be okay for teams like W Connection to offload players to balance its books, the involvement of the national coach in the possible dilution of national talent is not acceptable.
We have seen the likes of Kenwyne Jones, Stern John, Carlos Edwards and Jason Scotland not selected for national teams because the expense in flying these players back home and they often return somewhat jet lagged and fail to perform at their highest potential. And these are players from one of Europe’s top leagues.
How long, and how much, is a return flight from Kazakhstan?
And we have also seen our recent national departures to the Far East, such as Willis Plaza, asked to agree not to make themselves available for international call ups. Does this really benefit the players?
To play in the UK, a player must have played in 75 percent of his country’s internationals over the last two years. Could players such as Plaza not make the grade in the English Championship or League 1 or even the Scottish Premiership?
By selling their soul and putting a fistful of dollars before their international careers, will these players actually be losing out financially in the long term?
And if this trend continues, where will it leave our national team?
Although the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) certainly cannot block clubs from selling players to these countries, should they really be paying one of the main perpetrators?
Read Jamaal Shabazz’s response here
Editor’s Note: Do you think Caribbean footballers can benefit from moving abroad to the less glamorous leagues? Is there an upside to starting your career in Finland, Vietnam or Kazakhstan?