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Vranes takes over T&T Olympic team; but disappointed with TTFA timeline

Former Central FC head coach Zoran Vranes is set to return to the international arena after agreeing to take charge of the Trinidad and Tobago National Under-23 Team for their Rio 2016 Olympics qualifying campaign.

Photo: Yugoslavia-born coach Zoran Vranes led Central FC to the 2014 First Citizens Cup title but subsequently stepped aside for Terry Fenwick to take over first team duties. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Yugoslavia-born coach Zoran Vranes led Central FC to the 2014 First Citizens Cup title but subsequently stepped aside for Terry Fenwick to take over first team duties.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Vranes expects to be assisted by former Trinidad and Tobago international Reynold Carrington, who recently resigned his post as Point Fortin Civic head coach, ex-St Ann’s Rangers coach Gilbert Bateau and Rangers goalkeeping coach Nigel Neverson.

However, Vranes, who steered Trinidad and Tobago to the Egypt 2009 World Youth Cup, cautioned fans to be realistic about the journey ahead. And the Yugoslavia-born coach admitted he might not have accepted the job if he was aware of the time frame before the squad’s first competitive assignment.

The Under-23 “Soca Warriors” will start their campaign on 22 June 2015 in a Caribbean group in Puerto Rico. But Vranes claimed he was initially told that their Olympic qualifiers would start in August.

“If I knew (earlier) our qualifiers started in June, I would not have accepted,” Vranes told Wired868. “I had information that it was in August. I have a month to prepare the team but I will not say that we have no chance…

“We made plans for August and tomorrow is the first day of training. But I was told today that (the Olympic qualifiers will start in) June. Now, I have to sit down to make new plans.”

Ironically, Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president Raymond Tim Kee is a member of CONCACAF’s Associated Championships Committee which is mandated to: “organise the associated competitions and Olympic Football Tournaments in compliance with the provisions of the regulations applicable to these tournaments.”

Photo: TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee (centre) gestures to an Ecuador player while Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (right) has a word to her grandson before kick off of the FIFA Play Off second leg on 2 December 2014. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee (centre) gestures to an Ecuador player while Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (right) has a word to her grandson before kick off of the FIFA Play Off second leg on 2 December 2014.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Tim Kee’s presumed inside knowledge of the 2016 Olympic qualifying series seems to have been of little assistance to the current Under-23 squad.

Vranes conceded that the Olympic race is a devilishly difficult one, even in the best of circumstances for Trinidad and Tobago. It remains the only global competition that a men’s national team has never qualified for.

“To go to the Olympics is more difficult than to go to the World Cup because only two CONCACAF teams will go,” said Vranes. “Also, the Under-23 guys in Mexico, the United States, Costa Rica and so on are all professionals. We are behind them.

“If we prepare very well, we will compete (and) you never know. Football is football. But it is very tough. That is reality. But I have nice footballers and I will work as hard as I can.”

CONCACAF has just two automatic spots for the 2016 Olympic Games while the third placed team will face a Play Off against South American opposition. Trinidad and Tobago finished second in CONCACAF on just three occasions in our history.

In 1973, a T&T team that included greats like Everald “Gally” Cummings, Steve David and Warren Archibald whipped Mexico 4-0 but finished second to Haiti and just missed the solitary 1974 World Cup place at stake. Trinidad and Tobago got the ball in the back of the net on five occasions, in a controversial 2-1 loss to Haiti, but only one goal was permitted against the host team. FIFA subsequently banned the El Salvador referee Jose Henriquez who officiated in that qualifier.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago attacker Arnold Dwarika (top) drives home his country's opening goal in the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup quarter-final against Costa Rica. (Copyright AFP 2015)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago attacker Arnold Dwarika (top) drives home his country’s opening goal in the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup quarter-final against Costa Rica.
(Copyright AFP 2015)

Trinidad and Tobago was second in CONCACAF again in 1990 as the two island republic, inspired by the likes of Dwight Yorke, Jerren Nixon, Clayton Ince and coach Bertille St Clair, qualified for the 1991 Under-20 World Youth Cup. And the same quartet, with the additions of Russell Latapy, Arnold Dwarika and David Nakhid, helped the Warriors to the 2000 Gold Cup semifinals in which the Warriors were the second highest CONCACAF team behind Canada.

Trinidad and Tobago would need some legendary performances from its new crop of players if they are to have a chance of making Olympic history.

The Olympic squad will hold its first screening session from 8 am tomorrow at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain. The list of invitees includes: the DIRECTV W Connection quartet of Shannon Gomez, Jomal Williams, Akeem Garcia and Alvin Jones and North East Stars midfielder Neveal Hackshaw, who all have a solitary cap for the senior Warriors.

Netherlands-bound winger Levi Garcia, who will move to Eredivisie outfit, AZ, in the summer, was also summoned along with other recent National Under-20 players like Martieon Watson, Brendon Creed, Josiah Trimmingham, Kadeem Corbin, Kevon Goddard, Jabari Mitchell and Aikim Andrews.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago under-20 striker Kadeem Corbin (right) prepares to fire past Haiti goalkeeper Steve Sanon in the 2014 U-20 Caribbean Cup final. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago under-20 striker Kadeem Corbin (right) prepares to fire past Haiti goalkeeper Steve Sanon in the 2014 U-20 Caribbean Cup final.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Vranes first came to Trinidad as national team head coach in 1995 and coached players like Yorke, Latapy, Dwarika, Angus Eve and, more recently, Kevin Molino, Sheldon Bateau and Daneil Cyrus. He admitted that the local game has fallen away considerably in the last two decades and pointed to the sparse crowds at Pro League matches as well as the poor results of the last National Under-17 Team.

“When Joe Public played Army in ’97, you could not get inside with how many people came to see the game,” he said. “Petrotrin, Jabloteh and so on had big crowds. Fourteen years on and Trinidad is not Caribbean leader.

“Our Under-17 Team was fifth in the Caribbean. That never happened.”

However, Vranes believes hard work and proper planning can reverse the trend and get the Warriors moving in the right direction again.

“I came here in 1995 in the position of technical director,” said Vranes. “We won two consecutive Caribbean Cups easily… (and) I took (the under-20 team) to Egypt (2009 Under-20 World Cup).

“I was very disappointed with what I saw (in Trinidad and Tobago now)… It is not that we have no potential but we have to work differently with players. You have to work harder to develop players and (correct) their weaknesses…

“We need to recognise what we need to do to develop them to play higher level games.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago coach Zoran Vranes (second from left in background) trains with the National Football Team during the 2002 World Cup qualifying campaign. From left are: Russell Latapy, Brent Rahim, Dwight Yorke, Lyndon Andrews, Carlos Edwards and Wayne Lawson. (Copyright AFP2015/Juan Barreto)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago coach Zoran Vranes (second from left in background) trains with the National Football Team during the 2002 World Cup qualifying campaign.
From left are: Russell Latapy, Brent Rahim, Dwight Yorke, Lyndon Andrews, Carlos Edwards and Wayne Lawson.
(Copyright AFP2015/Juan Barreto)

Apart from the Trinidad and Tobago international youth and senior teams, Vranes also coached Antigua and Barbuda and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

He led Antigua to their only ever semifinal finish at the 1998 Caribbean Cup when they were edged on a golden goal to the eventual winners, Jamaica, who had just returned from the France 1998 World Cup.

And, in 2005, Vranes’ St Vincent team nearly stunned the Trinidad and Tobago side that went on to create history by qualifying for the Germany 2006 World Cup. An Errol McFarlane double in the last 13 minutes helped the Warriors to see off St Vincent 2-0 in Arnos Vale.

But, at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, the Vincentians led 1-0 and threatened to eliminate Trinidad and Tobago before two items in the last five minutes from Hector Sam and Eve rescued the journey to Germany.

More recently, Vranes steered Central to the 2014 First Citizens Cup as well as the Rawle Fletcher and Akeem Adams Cups for leading the Pro League after the first and second rounds respectively. Oddly, the “Couva Sharks” were on top of the standings and heading to their first domestic league title when Central’s operations director Kevin Harrison replaced Vranes with English coach Terry Fenwick.

Photo: Central FC celebrates its 2014 First Citizens Cup title after a 1-0 final win over North East Stars in Couva. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Central FC celebrates its 2014 First Citizens Cup title after a 1-0 final win over North East Stars in Couva.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Vranes is now in charge of Central’s youth programme and will also assist with their women’s team.

“Maybe I will speak about that one day but not now,” said Vranes. “Maybe they thought Mr Fenwick would do a better job. Of course I am disappointed. Statistics were on my side…

“We were in front of W Connection with better (head to head) and goals (and) we had already (played) our strongest opponents… I am very proud of what I did.”

The Yugoslavia-born coach insisted that he did not view coaching young players as a less important job, though, and he is looking forward to his new posts at Central and with the Olympic team.

“My focus has always been to develop youth teams and youth players from the beginning of my career,” said Vranes, who represented the Yugosavia Under-23 team as a player. “I don’t just look for my personal success. I have passed that already.

“It is more important for me as a coach to build and help young guys to be better.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 captain and right back Shannon Gomez (right) battles for possession against Cuba during the 2014 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 2014 Under-20 Caribbean Cup.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Vranes has his job cut out for him with the Under-23 Team as Trinidad and Tobago tries to reverse its recent trend of anonymity at CONCACAF youth tournaments.

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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72 comments

  1. Demoted …no promoted to National Coach . We do not know salary arrangement with SPORTT.

  2. What do you see as the main reasons kester?

  3. No no no mango you’re wrong, that was not the reason large crowds stopped attending games.

  4. There were still sell out crowds in the late 80s and 90s without the technical schools. It is the turn of the century when things started to go downhill I think.

  5. Yeah and for many years now they are wondering why we haven’t seen other players following the footsteps of our Magician Latapy and the Smiling Assassin Dwight Yorke steeuupps . Them really good yes.

  6. Earl we now have 20 year old students playing

  7. And the other reason is that the school football league got watered down when there was no more technical schools involved in the league where players like Latapy, Sean Walks, Andrew Ali, Marvin Faustin, Clint Marcelle and others who attended that technical school down South and other Technical schools like John D and had the competition on a different level and when that stopped the crowds stopped watching the schools football.

  8. Schools football doesn’t generally get better crowds than pro league. That is another myth. I covered schools football last season.
    The crowds were only bigger when naparima was on the verge of the title.
    There are other reasons for falling crowds. Transport issues, traffic, crime…

  9. My uncle was a Coventry fan. I got tickets for him to watch Manchester United with me. Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first goal for the club that Wednesday night and it was a star studded team.
    He wanted to come but choose to watch his own team try to fight off relegation in the lower league.
    Football fans don’t go to games because of quality football. They hope to see it. But that isn’t it.

  10. That is not going back to basics in my opinion Damian. Of course your goal is to play good football. But for the reasons I gave earlier, I don’t think that is the answer.
    That will just be a reason to whip the league. And it isn’t true.

  11. I think the pro league needs to get back to basics.
    Play good quality football and ppl will come.
    But that might have to include a dj and car show and promo girls etc etc etc

  12. If, in theory, the Chicago Bulls holds 80,000 people. The stands will be full when they are winning. It might dip to 60,000 or 50,000 when they are going through bad periods. But I bet no NBA team plays to a half empty stands even if its being blown out every week.
    More than half the supporters come for something other than great basketball. Otherwise attendances for teams like Sunderland, for instance, would drop to just a few hundred people who might be related or involved with players.

  13. Also clubs raise money from selling or loaning players overseas. There is FIFA funding too although God knows where that is.
    The Gov’t provides loans and other incentives to boost certain industries so it is right that they support the Pro League in some way. The main problem is there seems to be no end in sight for the financial aid. The Pro League is limping along when there should be a plan for it to become financially viable at some point like any other business.

  14. London? Nope Chicago.

    Cannot compare local football to the likes of local football in modern times.

    Traditionally pre and for a short time post WW2 your local team was usually who you supported.
    Especially if they weren’t bad.

    My points were about why the “pro” league won’t be any good in its current structure.

    Secondary schools football gets bigger crowds.

    Trini’s don’t like to take talk, so play yuh bold face walking in a dance with a FC Toepee shirt.

    Maybe there needs to be an integration of secondary schools football into being feeders for the clubs.

    A national academy program etc.
    All planned out then delivered still born.

  15. Damian de Gannes, I see your profile lists your address is London. Do you live there now?
    I lived in Britain for just under three years and I guarantee you that the number one reason most football fans support their clubs has nothing to do with quality of football.
    Test my theory and speak to some Charlton, Fulham or Crystal Palace fans. Or maybe Arsenal fans who remember George Graham or pre-Roman Chelsea fans.
    People support clubs because they feel an affinity with them or they are intrigued with the club’s story. This was much easier in the past when clubs were born from within the community and played there. Now it is more difficult for that and other reasons.
    The challenge is for Pro League clubs to get people to care about what they do on weekends.
    The people all over the world who go to football to see a quality contest are not the ones that clubs rely on. Those are the ones who wear Barca jerseys one year, Inter the next and Bayern Munich on the third.

  16. Yeah you have a point but that madness what they did by taking away our football from our communities is the reason why our football in a mess and yes I understand that most of the fields in our communities are not fit for playing professional football as yet and we all know why the stadiums were built and that was for one reason and that was for the corrupted Jack Warner and the corrupted TTFA to host World Cup youth tournaments to make plenty millions of monies but as I said before unless someone comes up with a real professional marketing strategy as how to get the folks to attend the football in the stadiums eh we will continue to be spining top in mud but they really need to fix up the fields in the communities like what Point FC is doing in Mahaica oval and also Guya in Mayaro and it will be a done deal with respect to the standards being raised like back in the days because footballers loves to play infront of their home crowds especially when our sweet women are in attendance ent. Them really good yes

  17. sort of a chicken and egg thing.
    people won’t go to see the pro games unless there’s a high standard
    we can’t get a high standard because they struggle to run the programs

  18. Damian de Gannes Well the professional league started about 12 yrs ago I think and yes some sponsors have been on board hence the reason why the teams are still existing today and the Ministry of Sport also give the clubs some sort of funds to also run their programs but when Mr. 2 Pull was the Minister of Sports he refused to give any monies to Central FC. and Point FC because of some kind of political reason, well I hope now that Brent Sancho is the Minister of Sport he won’t be doing that same madness and is giving all the teams their well deserved monies to run their programs and I am positively certain that Mr. Live Wire will explain the operations of the pro league and teams in a more professional manner, waiting patiently for his input.

  19. And why the salary must come through the club eh when the corrupted TTFA is getting monies from CONCACAF through the mafia FIFA eh, and even from other sponsors because all they do is always looking for handouts while they go to the bank smiling eh a matter of fact they would like nothing better if the club pays the Coach his salary. steeuupsss Them really good yes

  20. you know all this talk about no salaries etc. in T&T football where does the money come from? certainly not gate receipts.
    So it would have to be almost exclusively from sponsorship.
    With nonexistent tv coverage maybe some highlights on the news are there image rights to these?
    just curious always wondered how local football clubs earned income.