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Prepare to fail; Wired868 reviews the U-20 Warriors’ W/Cup effort

It took 77 minutes, a two-man numerical advantage and a goalkeeping blunder to separate Trinidad and Tobago and Panama on Sunday in their CONCACAF Under-20 Championship clash in Montego Bay.

Guess what the Panama team’s travel plans are now? And where the young “Soca Warriors” are heading?

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Neveal Hackshaw (right) keeps an eye on Panama right back Michael Murillo during 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship action. (Courtesy CONCACAF)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Neveal Hackshaw (right) keeps an eye on Panama right back Michael Murillo during 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship action.
(Courtesy CONCACAF)

Last month, the Ecuador and Trinidad and Tobago national senior women teams were within seconds of extra time after a 180 minute two-legged contest in Quito and Port of Spain before disaster again struck.

Ecuador is now preparing for the Canada 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The lady Warriors do not even have a technical staff in place nor do they know the date of their next international match.

The difference in reward for success and a near miss are astronomical. And, on the field, the tiniest detail determines which team is cheered at the final whistle and which leaves in tears.

It is a myth that every team which takes part in a competition is trying to win.

A quarter of the participants are there because of a sense of obligation. Their line is they are: “there to gain experience.” They will be trying to gain experience at the next tournament too. And the one after that.

Half of the teams that show up just want to put their best foot forward and compete. They explain that it is “eleven against eleven” and “the ball is round” so who knows what might happen?

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago substitute Akeem Garcia invites Aruba defender Marcel Kock to dance in the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship. (Courtesy CONCACAF)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago substitute Akeem Garcia invites Aruba defender Marcel Kock to dance in the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship.
(Courtesy CONCACAF)

What happens is they lose.

Only about a quarter of the participants are there to win, which would be roughly three teams in a 12 nation tournament. They contemplated the challenge well in advance and tried to assemble the best players, get them in the best physical condition, source the best technical guidance and place them within an atmosphere that provides the best chance for success.

Now ask yourself—whether you are a football player, coach or fan—what category Trinidad and Tobago falls into. Were we really trying to qualify for the World Cup? Do we really crave success in CONCACAF?

Trinidad and Tobago qualified for the FIFA Under-20 World Cup twice before in 1991 and 2009.

In the eight months leading up to the 1990 CONCACAF competition that served as the World Cup qualifiers, coach Bertille St Clair trained his team roughly twice a week for six of those months. There were two live-in camps before the qualifiers and a Venezuelan tour that included three matches against professional teams.

St Clair’s side, which was also blessed with talent like Dwight Yorke, Jerren Nixon, Anthony Sherwood and Clayton Ince, went on to finish second in CONCACAF behind Mexico while they defeated United States, Guatemala and El Salvador on the way to making history.

Photo: Central FC midfielder Leston Paul captained Trinidad and Tobago at the 2007 and 2009 FIFA World Youth Cups.
Photo: Central FC midfielder Leston Paul captained Trinidad and Tobago at the 2007 and 2009 FIFA World Youth Cups.

In 2009, head coach Zoran Vranes had the benefit of two international warm-up matches against El Salvador and a 10-day camp in Sao Paulo where they played against two Sao Paolo State first division clubs and one second division outfit.

“These three games will give us a very good chance to work on our match fitness,” said Vranes, at the time.

His then national youth captain Leston Paul, who led Trinidad and Tobago to the Under-17 World Cup two years earlier, spoke on behalf of the players as they prepared for Brazil.

“I think the trip to Brazil will bring us closer as a team,” said Paul, “because it is important that we have that bond like we had at the Under-17 level.”

Compare Paul’s enthusiasm to what the current National Under-20 players must have felt as they realised that their pre-tournament Mexico tour would not happen—some players paid their own way home from the United States with that trip in mind. And, just weeks before the 2015 CONCACAF tournament, even their participation in the Jamaica competition was in doubt.

Head coach Derek King had sent for US-based striker Ricardo John before the Mexico tour and would have had the chance to observe him at international level in December. Instead, John made his international debut in the Warriors’ opening qualifying match when they were trying to hang on to a two-goal lead against hosts, Jamaica.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevon Goddard (right) tries to keep an eye on Jamaica playmaker Junior Flemmings during CONCACAF Under-20 Championship action in Kingston. (Courtesy CONCACAF)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevon Goddard (right) tries to keep an eye on Jamaica playmaker Junior Flemmings during CONCACAF Under-20 Championship action in Kingston.
(Courtesy CONCACAF)

Proper preparation does not guarantee success. But it sure makes it easier to get there. That extra match fitness, experience in managing a match or understanding the tempo at that level could potentially be the difference between a narrow loss and a draw or even a victory, particularly with a squad stuffed with schoolboys.

The 2015 edition was captain Shannon Gomez’s third overseas competition as a national youth player and he offered some insight to Wired868.

“When a team is properly groomed and you get that experience and exposure together,” said Gomez, “it increases chemistry and your chances of knowing what to do on the field rather than guessing what (your teammate) might do.”

As is now customary, there was a hint of friction between the squad and the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) as the players returned home without getting a cent of their promised US$50 per day stipend. The coaching staff was also unpaid.

“We were told that one of our managers was in Trinidad trying to get funds for us (during the tournament),” said Gomez. “But in the end, we just got ‘thanks very much for your time and effort’ and that was it.

“Some of us are professionals and getting paid to play by our clubs. But it just goes to show you what you get for representing Trinidad and Tobago.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago national under-20 striker Kadeem Corbin celebrates his strike against Aruba. He was booked for the gesture by Bahamian official Randolph Harris. (Courtesy CONCACAF)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago national under-20 striker Kadeem Corbin celebrates his strike against Aruba.
He was booked for the gesture by Bahamian official Randolph Harris.
(Courtesy CONCACAF)

How long before players grow disillusioned about national service under such conditions?

And what about the technical staff members who leave wives, girlfriends and children with only a promise of pay for work but the certainty of abuse when things go wrong? What can international duty mean but, in theory, a chance to raise their status and then leverage it as quickly as possible for a job with a more stable and serious employer?

The most basic requirement any employee ought to have from a job is that it offers a salary which meets their self-worth or, at least, compensates for time that might have been spent elsewhere.

Surely, Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart, Under-20 Team coach Derek King and the other talented technical staff members within the national programmes cannot be expected to have limitless patience under the current circumstances.

The fate of former technical director Anton Corneal is a reminder of the TTFA’s callous treatment of its key employees. To date, the local football body has not replaced Corneal and, instead, has used Hart as a “technical advisor” of sorts.

But we are focusing on the CONCACAF Under-20 competition at the moment.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago national head coach Stephen Hart (left) with assistants Hutson Charles (centre) and Derek King. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago national head coach Stephen Hart (left) with assistants Hutson Charles (centre) and Derek King.
(Courtesy Wired868)

CONCACAF technical committee member Keith Look Loy, who followed the competition in Jamaica, will soon provide Wired868 readers with a more nuanced assessment of the technical attributes and flaws of the young Warriors and the quality of the tournament.

But it probably is not going out on a limb to suggest that the team’s fate was not decided solely by what happened on the field. And that means the players, notwithstanding their own errors in Jamaica, were also let down by the people whose duty was to provide them with the necessary tools for success.

Coaches, fans and observers cooed about the talent of the young Warriors in Kingston and Montego Bay. Yet the players left Jamaica embarrassed at their inability to take points off organised but often ordinary opponents.

“It was a disappointing experience,” said Gomez. “As one wise man told us during the tournament, if this Trinidad and Tobago team had preparation and support we would have been unbeatable.

“It is good to hear it. But hearing it and living it are two different things.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago national under-20 captain and right back Shannon Gomez (right) battles for possession against Cuba during the Under-20 Caribbean Cup. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago national under-20 captain and right back Shannon Gomez (right) battles for possession against Cuba during the Under-20 Caribbean Cup.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Trinidad and Tobago football fans will not be living that dream anytime soon. Not if these administrative issues continue.

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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36 comments

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more Kendall Tull

  2. this has been a problem for decades though, not a new phenomenon. we need to accept blame when we accept substandard treatment.

  3. To my mind, it’s fraud to hire people without knowing how you are going to pay them. And even if they feel legal options aren’t open, they sit quietly and do nothing it seems to me.

  4. To be honest, the cost as well as the pace and efficiency of the local justice system doesn’t make it an efficient means of settling disputes for most normal folks.
    Your funds would probably be exhausts soon after the opening whistle.
    My personal view though is that the coaches should be the first people to down tools. They would feel it worse than even the players.

  5. Lasana – I would agree with you if they were being paid. They are not so effectively they are working for free. They take no legal action for not being paid either so what does that say?

  6. there are some trinis who took scholarships back in the 80s who never returned eh. they were ignored as players and continue to be ignored still

  7. They should try it. Bet it is never easy to migrate at a senior age. But I think it may be necessary to improve.

  8. good list. im just wondering why more coaches arent out there

  9. I don’t think Terry is in Belgium anymore. That turned out to be a farce. But we do have Trinis who coached in US from university to MLS level while Jamaal Shabazz is in Guyana, Bertille St Clair coached St Vincent and the Grenadines and Gally Cummings was on a shortlist for Antigua at one point.
    So there are possibilities.
    Many local coaches work at summer camps in the US and I’m sure being a former national coach would be a big plus for that.

  10. (but Terry never coach a T&T team, did he)

  11. what coaches who held posts at the national level in T&T moved on to other positions abroad? Terry in Belgium sumwhere rite? who else?

  12. It may not only be misguided sense of obligation eh. There are few jobs available locally that will allow a coach to earn a decent living.
    As a national coach, you can at least pad your CV or catch the eye of a foreign employer. I’m speaking about US schools or lower league clubs. Maybe even a Caribbean island that is slightly better organized.
    I can’t say that some or any of the coaches think like that. But it is the best way to make sense of it to me.
    The other reason might just be that they believe change is around the corner and they want to have what would then be plum posts.

  13. Aside from the fact that these people seem to have a misguided sense of obligation to football and thus accept this abuse willingly, there is also the issue of the remaining Executive. If you remain part of an institution so incompetent, you are part of the problem.

  14. Comment from Yendor:
    “Ah could wager meh house that Tim Kee and the “former goalkeeper’s son” (we treating him like p*****p now ..we not even calling his name any more) are getting paid though!! Head on a block..and ah know ah safe!! It’s just so frustrating that something that seems so FUNDAMENTAL and OBVIOUS appears to be so bloody difficult for this nit wit administration. Is there any way football fans could hold a mass march or demonstration..protest even? This BS has to stop..and NOW! Enough is enough man!! Coaches and unpaid staff have to stand up for themselves as well ..a person is usually treated the way that they allow themselves to be treated..show some SELF WORTH and COURAGE and withhold your services until you are compensated accordingly!! People will not fault you guys for standing up for what’s right!”

  15. Always excuses. TTFF is a huge failure

  16. Ah could wager meh house that Tim Kee and the “former goalkeeper’s son” (we treating him like p*****p now ..we not even calling his name any more) are getting paid though!! Head on a block..and ah know ah safe!! It’s just so frustrating that something that seems so FUNDAMENTAL and OBVIOUS appears to be so bloody difficult for this nit wit administration. Is there any way football fans could hold a mass march or demonstration..protest even? This BS has to stop..and NOW! Enough is enough man!! Coaches and unpaid staff have to stand up for themselves as well ..a person is usually treated the way that they allow themselves to be treated..show some SELF WORTH and COURAGE and withhold your services until you are compensated accordingly!! People will not fault you guys for standing up for what’s right!

  17. We need to understand though that when people say that coaches had it just as bad a decade or so ago. I think that is mostly untrue.
    There are always exceptions. But our football is on really thin ice at the moment.

  18. Carlos Lee, they are trying to create an avenue for expats to contribute in the way you suggested.
    I will give more details in a day or two.

  19. Yeah Randy De Matas I hear that but i not accepting that. So if they want to report and report let’s also find a way to make the change. Lasana I’m sure can help

    • I would have thought there would be enough for the zonal bodies of TTFA executive committee to file a no confidence motion. That is the democratic way.
      Without that, the only other option to me is cutting off sponsorship until the TTFA behaves like a proper, lawful body. And that means letting the Government and other sponsors know we expect better before they are entitled to financial aid.
      Remember though that the TTFA gets a US$250,000 subvention from FIFA every year. That is enough for the bigwigs to pay their own salaries.
      So, even with everything crumbling around them, they can stay in theory and continue to collect hefty salaries. But they can only do that for so long.
      Because they must appear at the major tournaments and that requires funding from somewhere.

  20. Justin boi is over an over again , Only in T&T that could happen

  21. Teams before actually had camps and practice games. Coaches at least got stipends. It is getting progressively worse.

  22. In fact, it is getting worse I think Terrance Joseph

  23. I forgot to include the U17 Group info in my previous comments:

    2014 CONCACAF Men’s U-17 Championship
    World Cup Qualifying
    San Pedro Sula, Honduras

    GROUP A
    Honduras
    Jamaica
    UNCAF 3
    Trinidad &Tobago
    United States of America
    Cuba

    GROUP B
    Canada
    Haiti
    Panama
    Mexico
    St Lucia
    Costa Rica

  24. We not serious…. we going cause we have to participate or we will get banned. I remember training with Bertille for those long months. That stuff was painful but necessary. Preparations for these teams today are pathetic at best. We not doing jack. That team if we remember scrape in thru the back door to qualify for this tournament. Good luck boys.

  25. Nice write up Laz. As said earlier, the U17 qualifications is next – Feb 27 through March 17, in Honduras. TNT will be in what I think is the easier of the two groups (below). Hopefully there’s some learnings we can take from the U20 tournament. The team has less than a month prepare for the big dance. Lasana Liburd can you find out how the preparation is going? Are there any issues with the preparation? What can we do to help? For example, is there an opportunity to “sponsor a player/coach” with things like per diems, etc. What barriers are there and how can the average supporter help?

  26. Same story over and over! And yet no change

  27. Doh have money to give ur son nah

  28. U17 matches coming up…I doubt there will be a different outcome because I doubt anything will change

  29. TTFA now stand for Trinidad and Tobago Fete match Association. Incompetent administrators and no technical department.

  30. With all this information everyday showing ttff management incompetence is there anything that can be done or we just have to be reading these scenarios over and over. What’s the next step there must be something that can be done to fire management. Lasana your thoughts would be greatly appreciated

  31. We can’t sugar coat it. We have to be honest with ourselves.