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NLCB pumps $8 million into TTFA U-13/14 programme, DJW goes back to the future

The Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFA) will revamp its under-13 and under-14 programme in 2017, after announcing a TT$8 million sponsorship deal with the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB) for the National Elite Youth Development Program.

The NLCB money will be paid over a four-year period while the TTFA is also committed to spending TT$2 million on the initiative, which was launched by TTFA president David John-Williams on Friday evening at the Trinidad Hilton in Port of Spain.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams (right) performs a duet with former Calypso Monarch, Cro Cro, at the launch of the National Elite Youth Development Program at the Trinidad Hilton on 14 October 2016. (Copyright TTFA Media)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams (right) performs a duet with former Calypso Monarch, Cro Cro, at the launch of the National Elite Youth Development Program at the Trinidad Hilton on 14 October 2016.
(Copyright TTFA Media)

The objective of the program, according to the TTFA President, is to scout and select the best boys and girls teams in the under-13/14 categories and nurture their talent, so as to create a core of talent for the junior to senior national teams.

Among the key components of the plan are:

  • All football academies and football schools would be obliged to register with the TTFA and be staffed with qualified coaches;
  • The selected boys and girls squad will be kept together for two years with two four-week camps, four to six local friendly matches and one international match per year;
  • The players will be scientifically monitored and assessed and will undergo educational assessment and nutrition education;
  • A ledger will be created for all players involved in the programme and should follow their progress;
  • The staff attached to the respective youth teams will be “exposed to FIFA, UEFA and CONCACAF courses”.

John-Williams claimed that the NLCB investment was “unheard of in the history of the TTFA”.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 Team playmaker Che Benny (left) gets a high five from substitute Brandon Semper during 2017 World Cup qualifying action against Bermuda at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 18 September 2016. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 Team playmaker Che Benny (left) gets a high five from substitute Brandon Semper during 2017 World Cup qualifying action against Bermuda at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 18 September 2016.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

“Two weeks ago when I announced ‘to stand by for a big announcement’, many may have thought that the TTFA may today be announcing a major sponsorship deal relating to its Men’s National Senior Team and World Cup Qualifying Russia 2018,” said the TTFA president. “Whilst getting to Russia is very important to us as a nation, we feel that it is equally important to rebuild the foundation that will ensure that we qualify on a consistent basis to all youth and senior World Cups in the future.

“In broad terms, this National Youth Elite Program will seek to foster the dedication and discipline required to be a successful professional sportsman, and instil a professional approach to football in Trinidad Tobago from a very early age.

“And, at the same time, integrating the program into communities, thus creating a national bond that will allow for the rekindling of the national spirit with a home-grown team.”

Whether or not the NLCB’s financial commitment is historic, the programme itself is not. The TTFA ran national teams starting from the under-12 and under-13 age groups in the 1980s, which preceded the two island republic’s sweeping Caribbean success for the next two decades.

Photo: Ex-Trinidad and Tobago captain Dwight Yorke (right) greets England captain David Beckham during the Germany 2006 World Cup. (Copyright AFP 2015)
Photo: Ex-Trinidad and Tobago captain Dwight Yorke (right) greets England captain David Beckham during the Germany 2006 World Cup.
(Copyright AFP 2015)

The programme became somewhat diluted from the mid-1990s but continued until the local football body was left bankrupt by former special advisor Jack Warner’s hasty and inglorious exit from the game with millions unaccounted.

Former graduates of the National Under-12 to Under-15 Teams include Trinidad and Tobago’s 2006 World Cup captain and former Manchester United star Dwight Yorke, former Porto midfielder and national icon Russell Latapy, one-time England Premier League’s most expensive goalkeeper Shaka Hislop, national record goal scorer and ex-England Premier League striker Stern John, World Cup 2006 goalkeeper Kelvin Jack, former Hibernian midfielder Lyndon Andrews,  and, more recently, 2007 and 2009 World Youth Cup players like Sheldon Bateau, Daneil Cyrus, Aubrey David, Leston Paul and Kevin Molino.

Yorke won his first international cap at just eight years old. Hislop at 10.

CONCACAF also runs an Under-15 Championship, which started in 2013—a full eight years after the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) began its own Youth Cup.

Trinidad and Tobago might now be playing catch up in a youth development drive initiated here over two decades ago. However, the scale of John-Williams’ plan is certainly ambitious.

He suggested, at the Hilton, that the TTFA would continue to seek out sponsorship deals to boost its other teams and programmes.

Photo: TTFA president David John-Williams (right) has a word with Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 Team coach Russell Latapy on the training ground before the CFU competition. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: TTFA president David John-Williams (right) has a word with Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 Team coach Russell Latapy on the training ground before the CFU competition.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Thus far, it is uncertain whether any NLCB money will go towards the TTFA’s current National Under-15, Under-17 and Under-20 squads of both sexes, which are still run by unpaid coaches, rarely has live-in camps let alone play international practice matches and often has issues with parents who cannot afford passage for their children to attend regular training sessions.

John-Williams also did not spell out what the the Under-13 and Under-14 Team players would meet in the older age groups once they graduate. Or whether the programme would work alongside the September-November Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) competitions or against it.

Either way, it is likely to be to a well received boon for youth development from the local football body.

John-Williams waxed lyrical.

“The TTFA will continue in its quest to improve the game locally,” said the TTFA president. “It is our intent in the not too distant future to lend some level of financial support to club football both at the Pro League and Super League levels in the first instance. When this TTFA administration promises it delivers.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams and new FIFA president Gianni Infantino at the TTFA headquarters on 27 January 2016. Infantino was the UEFA general secretary at the time. (Courtesy TTFA Media)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams and new FIFA president Gianni Infantino at the TTFA headquarters on 27 January 2016.
Infantino was the UEFA general secretary at the time.
(Courtesy TTFA Media)

“So keep looking and stay wired to the TTFA for the delivery of good news in football. If you want to call, the number is 868-For-TTFA!”

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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155 comments

  1. Not sure what to make of it having studied this plan.. All his plans while decent enough are not really feasible as the sponsorship deal of £800,000 over 4 years is laughable..

  2. ..The TTFA don’t have any intention to create a strategic development plan for the association or the game. They are all about isolated, arbitrary initiatives..

  3. Lots to be discussed in a development plan… but it needs to fall into a national league structure to receive continuous & required support! I think we need to do the ‘small’ things…do them right and do them well and then expand/adjust.

  4. They need to start in the woman’s belly eh Ian R Briggs hahahaha Them really good yes.

  5. At the end of the day, it’s also about resources and what the TTFA can afford given the resources at its disposal. Interestingly, we are yet to hear from the Technical Director. Maybe, there is a plan for the 5-11 age group which has not yet been publicly released? Hoping we all get more information soon.

  6. http://ftw.usatoday.com/2015/05/ajaxs-u-8-team-wins-championship-adorably-celebrates-like-theyre-big-people …. just a example of u8s at work… actually saw these youth men live and they are all sound technically… and the best player is not even in the clip… bottom line forget 5 we need to start by 2 … 🙂

  7. ^^ immersing yes but you already know the reality of this situation is that kids globally are playing competitive from u7 now and u8 is official travel team age.. We as a tiny nation with a limited pool Have to catch them at 5… and 7 is not too early for some structure in training… AJAX have youth man suiting up in its colours and playing competitive games @ u8 (some of the boys were 6)…. last year my u8’s played almost 30 games over the course of a 11 month time frame (including futsal and tournaments)… how are we, Trinidad with a focus on development starting at 13 and 14 going to beat any country where development started at 5-8? waste of time effort and money…

  8. Ah think 5 – 6 even 7 is maybe a bit to early as it pertains to immersing kids into structured training sessions….at that age, I tend to be more in favor of allot of unorganized play – let them figure out if it’s something they enjoy and are passionate about. You made a comment sometime ago that our players develop much later, and it’s spot on…watching a youth pro league game at the U14 level locally is painful at times compounded by the fact that you see them playing on full size regulation fields…in most instances, they simply cannot manage these dimensions…at the U18 level, it’s significantly better which speaks to the point that was made….

  9. Anthony….. there are 91 Primary schools in d county of Victoria….how many Football Academies are there to fascilitate these boys at this most important age….without academies… boys gravitate to d streets or what we call a savannah swett….a road swett or savannah swett is unsupervised football….so now we hav to ask…at what age is a parent comfortable letting their kid play unsupervised in d streets or in d nearby savannah….we know it doesnt happen between 5 to 11 …… so this age group is at a disadvantage from the onset at every possible angle we could think about….. and this is the most important time of development…when u start development in your teens…u r already playing catch up….alllllllllllllll quality footballing nations develop their players from age 5…..some from age 3…and 4…. and this development is 5 to 6 days a week…… we are already light years behind

  10. The notion down here that “competitive football” begins at U14 is insane to me…additionally, the fact that 10 teams throughout all of Trinidad and TOBAGO are the only ones who have guaranteed games come Sunday is also worrying. There is no serious youth league structure for anyone else outside of those 10 teams. Our kids in the US are way more battle tested at 11 years old than a typical 14 year old player locally…they understand what it means to travel 6 hours by car, “jump out” and are ready to play, they understand what it means to deal with variations in temperature – extreme heat in the summer and extreme cold in the winter. The fact that we are struggling at youth level to beat other Caribbean nations should come as no surprise…

  11. we still think playing this sport starts at 11…lol… if you dont catch them at 5 yuh wasting time….

  12. Agreed…once we get them to fall in love with the Sport….everything else will easily fall in place…. but whatever we do….we hav to develop the 5 to 11 age group properly…

  13. Dexter it has to do firstly with the Ministry of Education getting a policy on sports in the curriculum starting from Primary level .
    At this age we as coaches have to deal firstly with the physiological issues of the children so they must be exposed early on to proper PE programs.
    More research needs to be done on the physiological development of our young men as race and climate are effecting factors, then technical programs can be synced with physical capabilities.

  14. We come now to the question nobody is asking……where are we going to get quality 13 and 14yr old players from…… are we really resigning ourselves to the fact that a NATIONAL Youth development programme in Trinidad and Tobago is going to start developing our kids from U14….so that fascilitates for 11…12…and 13yr old kids….. maybe in the odd case…a large or talented 10yr old…….
    Now i know that alllllllllllllllll the Coaches on this thread know that is wayyyyyy too late to start development to acquire the level that we are aiming for….so Youth Academies now become the KEY to this project’s success….. the age group where children fall through the woodwork is between 5 to 11yrs old…..development of this agr group is the only way we are going to have any quality whatsoever at U14 ……so as a National project… it definitely seems to be a good one…. but if we are hoping for quality U14 kids to jus show up..or fall from d sky…we need to think logical…. If the TTFA cannot develop kids from age 5…then Academies are the only road to SUCCESS….better introductory Development means better quality at ages 5 to 11….this in turn means better quality at U14…..and this is not up for debate or discussion… there are no shortcuts….it has to be this way..

  15. There is a blueprint but the actual details are being worked out! Have to bring uncle Keith Look Loy and Trevor Bridglalsingh on board all that experience and knowledge can’t go to waste!!

  16. Thought that happened before program gets announced..lol

  17. Things still coming together!! Remember we have to do consultation!! Lol

  18. Anyone have more information or details on this program yet? Gordon? Anyone?