“When we have boys who should be fighting for a place in W Connection or Central’s first team at 17, 18 and 19 choosing to play schools football,” said CONCACAF technical study group member and FC Santa Rosa coach Keith Look Loy, “where they can do what they want and where they keep all their bad habits and still be stars. It is a joke.”
Look Loy, a former national player and coach at youth and senior level, covered the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship in Jamaica alongside Wired868 and offered his insight on the tournament in general and Trinidad and Tobago’s showing in particular.
The following is the second in a three-part interview that touches on the performance of the teenaged “Soca Warriors” but also discusses the merits of the local school and professional game, the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association’s (TTFA) responsibility to football development, exactly what fans should expect in the short and long-term future and a CONCACAF model for success:
Wired868: The Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 team leaves for CONCACAF battle next week. What should fans brace themselves for after their disappointment with the under-prepared Under-20 Team?
Keith Look Loy: This Under-17 team is also unprepared and I won’t say I don’t expect much from them but I am saying if they come home after the group stage it won’t surprise me. No doubt they have talent and I have a player too in that team (FC Santa Rosa midfielder John-Paul Rochford) who is 14 years old. But when we look at the best players in these tournaments, we are sending schoolboys to play and they are sending professional players.
Yes, they may not be all be professional players who are starting in first division teams although some of them are. (The Mexico Under-20 team had two first team players in Liga MX and the United States had a starter who got extensive playing time in the England Championship).
But we are doing the reverse. (Our Pro League is) already at a lower level than the clubs I am talking about and they are electing to leave that and go and play schools football. This is a joke.
Wired868: What role do you see the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) playing in the local game?
(Look Loy is a former national title winning coach with Malick Senior Comprehensive).
Look Loy: There was a time when the colleges’ league, which transformed to become the secondary schools league, played a very important role. I played for St Mary’s College in the 1960s and early 70s. It played a role because there was no organised youth football in Trinidad and Tobago at the time. You couldn’t find the youth football that exists today. A lot of the youth football today remains disorganised but at least it exists. There was nothing then. The only organised youth football was the colleges’ league…
Today, the secondary schools league is an obstacle to the best youth talent in Trinidad and Tobago. The standard is low regardless of what the media might write. You know it and I know it and anyone who goes to the game knows it.
When we have boys who should be fighting for a place in W Connection or Central’s first team at 17, 18 and 19 choosing to play schools football where they can do what they want and where they keep all their bad habits and still be stars. It is a joke. We saw how Levi Garcia looked (in the CONCACAF Under-20 tournament). He was terrible. He had no impact on the tournament at all. He couldn’t even hold a first place team.
He was lucky to have been seen here (in the Caribbean cup) and get a contract because if he had been judged on the CONCACAF tournament in Jamaica he wasn’t getting a contract. Tell me I’m wrong. For a player like that what does it do for your football development to play against schoolboys…
And I know the political pressure (student footballers) are put under by school principals and what not. But a boy doesn’t pass his exam and enter school at form one to play football, he enters as a student. I think it is absolutely incorrect for some principals and coaches to tell students we wouldn’t let you repeat or we wouldn’t give you a form six place unless you represent the school. They don’t have the boy’s best interest at heart. Because that boy should be allowed to come to school and do his school work but play in the environment that does the most for his future prospects as a player.
Wired868: So you think the schoolboys’ league has outlived its benefits?
Look Loy: I will tell you a story. In 1992, I went to Brazil for two months to do a course at the Brazilian football academy and (Sebastião) Lazaroni was one of the instructors in that programme. And one day we were talking outside the formal context of class and I asked him tell me about school football in Brazil and he said what do you mean. And I said football among schools. And he said ‘I don’t understand.’
I said when the schools have a representative team and they play a league against other each other. And he said: ‘Oh, okay. But that is for the boys who don’t have talent. Any boy in school who has talent is in a club.’
If we are serious, we have to get past the emotional attachment we have with school football for developing boys. Let the boys who cannot get in a team play for their schools… For the best talent, playing school football is a waste of time.
Wired868: The stated mission of the SSFL’s Premier Division is to create a more concentrated pool of talent. Do you think that would lift the standard of the schoolboys’ game?
Look Loy: I don’t buy that. It will ensure that there will be promotion and relegation and teams will fight for that. So it will have the best teams in the top division, which is quite apart from the best talent.
There is no guarantee that the good players from Chaguanas when they are demoted will all transfer to St Benedict’s College. (Those players) will be forced to play second division football. But that hypothetical boy doesn’t need to be playing in a second division league with Pleasantville. He should be fighting for a place with Connection or Club Sando or whatever and be in a tougher environment for his football development. That is when Trinidad and Tobago football will go to a top level.
‘Gally’ Cummings and them were not playing for Fatima College beyond 14 or 15 years old. Ask them. They were not playing school football. In the football world, that is for boys who cannot make a good club team.
But we have to ensure that the clubs are structured and provide a proper environment and the TTFA has to introduce requirements for clubs depending on its level to ensure that if a boy says he is not playing for St Mary’s College (and) he is going to play for Maple, there is an environment there that is proper to ensure his football development.
Editor’s Note: Click HERE to read part three of the Wired868 interview with Keith Look Loy on Wednesday in which he discusses the foreseeable future of the “Soca Warriors” and suggests a model worth following to revive the football fortunes of the two island republic.
Click HERE to read Part One of our three-part series when Look Loy opined on the recent performances of the National Under-20 Team.