Former World Cup 2006 coach “Don” Leo Beenhakker returned to Trinidad and Tobago last night and is already encouraging local football fans to start looking ahead to the Russia 2018 World Cup as the national football team aims to maintain momentum after its 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup showing.
The “Soca Warriors” were eliminated from the Gold Cup at the quarterfinal stage on Saturday night after a 1-0 loss to Mexico in Atlanta. And Beenhakker, who is also the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) director of football, believes that local football stakeholders must start immediately to build towards the next FIFA showpiece tournament.
“I’m sure some of the people think well that’s five years and it’s a long time,” Beenhakker told the TTFA Media, “but, in life, five years is a long time (whereas) in football five years is nothing.
“So if you want to have this goal of going to the World Cup then you have to start now with the development of youth teams to bring them to a higher level.”
Beenhakker and new coach Stephen Hart accepted their new portfolios with just three weeks to go before the Gold Cup. The former Real Madrid and Netherlands international coach felt the team improved as the competition progressed.
He singled out utility player Joevin Jones and midfielder Kevin Molino as examples of the fresh talent available to the Warriors and said he looks forward to helping them grow as players.
“I have to say it was difficult at the start but you can see in general they were growing in the tournament (and) they were doing better and better,” said Beenhakker. “It’s more or less the same history, especially with the younger guys and I had the same experience in 2005/2006. Younger guys like Joevin Jones and Kevin Molino and others in this category; you can see they all have a lot of talent but they still make too many mistakes and I think they can be much better.
“They have the quality and potential so I am very interested in returning to Trinidad in that way and having a bit more knowledge of how they work with these young guys… The main thing is what we, the responsible people of the football of T&T, the management and coaches, are doing with (the players).”
Beenhakker suggested that Trinidad and Tobago must focus on developing players who can fit into the pace of the modern game and are able to perform under pressure and avoid unforced errors in controlling, passing and moving off the ball.
“Football is on the move,” he said. “If you compare it with the last ten years you can see every year is much quicker with less time. If you want to play a certain role in international football then you have to develop the younger players in that way.”
Beenhakker hopes the Warriors’ showing at the Gold Cup improves their relationship with local football fans and serves as a spur for their ambitions.
“We have to look for international success,” he said. “The only way to get that (is) to go back to the training pitch almost every day (and) prepare yourself; not only in technical way but also in mental and physical preparation.
“I assure you the talent is there but we have to work a lot more especially with the younger generation and the ultimate goal again is to be present in the World Cup 2018.”