Former World Cup 2006 goalkeeper Shaka Hislop has voiced his support for Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president Raymond Tim Kee after his decision to demote head coaches Hutson “Barber” Charles and Jamaal Shabazz in favour of Stephen Hart and Leo Beenhakker.
Hart, a Trinidad and Tobago native and former Canada international coach, is the new “Soca Warriors” head coach while Beenhakker, who steered the Warriors to the 2006 World Cup, was appointed as director of football.
Hislop, who works as an analyst for ESPN, sympathized with Charles and Shabazz but said he believes Tim Kee has the genuine interest of local football at heart.
“I truly sympathize with the positions of Charles and Shabazz, I really do,” the former Newcastle, Portsmouth and West Ham goalkeeper told the TTFA Media. “They gave for our country’s football in a manner that not many else would have done, especially so given the uncertain circumstances around our football for far too long. But similarly, the TTFA, through its President Mr. Tim Kee, will have to make unpopular decisions from time to time.
“As long as those decisions are made genuinely in the best interest of the game, I won’t criticize. And everything I’ve seen and experienced first-hand from Mr Tim Kee tells me he acts genuinely.”
Hislop felt the time of the change, which occurred with less than a month to go before the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup, was inconsequential as Trinidad and Tobago should always be focusing on the World Cup.
“As much as it immediately precedes the Gold Cup, I don’t think that is or should be our focus as (much as) the direction our football is heading (in),” stated Hislop. “Our focus should always be consistently qualifying for World Cups, and at the very worst competing, really competing, in the final stages of World Cup qualifying.”
Shabazz has said he felt disrespected at being asked to work as an assistant to Hart although Charles accepted the demotion.
But Hislop suggested that the fall-out from the coaching changes was due to a “disconnect” between the TTFA and the Ministry of Sport. The technical staff, including Charles and Shabazz, has not been paid a salary this year.
“I understand why some coaches wouldn’t support the move,” he said. “The underlying issue really is the disconnect between the TTFA and the Ministry of Sport. With a clearer understanding of respective roles and responsibilities for both the Association and the Ministry, and clearer expectations for coaches, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.”
Hislop admitted that he does not know much about Hart. But he is thrilled to see Beenhakker involved in local football again.
“I’m a huge Leo Beenhaker fan,” said Hislop. “I maintain he’s the best coach, bar none, that I’ve worked under. I welcome having him back, in any capacity.”