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Dear Editor: Modern football isn’t just about talent but coaching; the TTFA’s youth policy problem

“The current TTFA administration and technical staff seem not to understand. Their dependence on a cadre of volunteers who come at a dime a dozen shows flagrant disregard for an effective pathway to success.”

The following Letter to the Editor on Trinidad and Tobago’s struggles in youth football—and, in particular, at the recent CONCACAF Under-15 Championship—was submitted to Wired868 by a United States-based coach, who shared on condition of anonymity:

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Under-15 midfielder Ezekiel Kesar (centre) tries to escape from Republic Bank XI opponents Randy Antoine (left) and Aaron Moruf during action at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 15 April 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

What you’re about to read is a compilation of physical involvement and observations of Trinidad and Tobago football trends spanning 40 years. One can pick any decade from the 1960s to the present; and if one were to close one’s eyes and reflect, you will hear the echoes of the 60s reverberating in 2017.

With every failed youth international outing—including the moderate success of the Alvin Corneal-led 1974 squad—the most common utterances from each technical staff was this: “It was a good learning experience for our boys/girls,” “We need to adopt the professional habits exhibited by our counterparts” and “Our preparation was inadequate but we were just as talented as any other participant…”

And the latest, before Jamaica drubbed us 8-1, “We’re not far off…”

Someone smack me and tell me this is a prank. Really?!

As a kid, do you remember “The Wooden Spoon” award? It never went to the winner. I think—I stand to be corrected—it recognised good behaviour.

Trinidad and Tobago won enough ‘wooden spoons’ to begin their own line of country kitchenware!

Anyway, on a much more serious note, this last debacle in Florida—conceding 21 goals and scoring one—is the catalyst for this letter. You see the modern game is not just about talent, even though talent is a requirement; it’s more about coaching.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago right-back Jerrin Jackie (left) tries to keep up with Jamaica attacker Nicque Daley during Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Under-17 action on 20 September 2016 at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

How information becomes an appendage of a sound philosophy and how it’s dispensed to players should be the point of focus.

I want to say again that the point of focus should be the manner of delivery and the information dispensed. Players will show up in droves whenever a tryout is announced but we must have the coaches to deliver the message. It’s a waste of time and money to attend school—in this case, a tryout—when the teachers cannot elucidate the curriculum. The result is crushing and embarrassing.

The current TTFA Administration and technical staff seem not to understand. Their dependence on a cadre of volunteers who come at a dime a dozen shows flagrant disregard for an effective pathway to success.

With the utmost respect to coach ‘Latas’, his qualifications are not appropriate to youth soccer; a UEFA Pro license is about elite players at the highest levels.

The TTFA in its infinite wisdom continues to ignore local coaches, the likes of Nigel Grovesnor in the North and Michael Grayson in the East and their counterparts like Angus Eve in the South.

Photo: Naparima College coach Angus Eve (right) makes a point while Presentation College (San Fernando) coach Shawn Cooper looks on during the Big Four final at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva on 12 December 2016.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Together with others, they’ve—for years—experienced all the peaks and valleys that come with the ever-changing modes of kids who are 15-22 years of age. Instead, the TTFA chooses to look well beyond their noses, resulting in continuous mismatches.

That happens because we lack a unifying philosophy for our football. The just-appointed Technical Director believes in the Dutch model and, taking no time to tweak it, rather, in my opinion, simply rubber-stamps their programme by switching the KNFVB logo for that of the TTFA’s.

Philosophies are largely congruent with culture; they are fluid and can be tweaked and adjusted to make them your own. We all remember 1989, just how dizzy our entire nation was about the Men’s National Team.

Gally Cummings’ style and rhythm of play was identifiable to our culture; it was a happy marriage and everyone gravitated to it. Gally’s team mirrored our culture.

Conversely, during the final two games of the 2006 campaign, in my opinion, everyone was married to Leo Beenhakker’s success. We’ll be forever grateful to that squad. However, Gally’s style can be duplicated for our youth. Only someone born of the Dutch culture can reproduce the 2006 philosophy.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago’s famous “Strike Squad”that fell at the last hurdle during the 1989/1990 campaign.
(Courtesy TTfootballhistory.com)

Trinbagonians don’t have much in common with the Dutch. Trinbagonians worship the rhythms and styles of our great South American neighbours. Trinbagonians also like almost everything from the USA.

As a result, would it not make more sense to fuse one or both of the aforementioned cultures for our youth?

Simply put, just research the number of Trinbagonian footballers who interface with versus the Dutch versus those who interface with the Americans during vacations, at universities and markets or while joining family members, versus the Dutch. My point is clear.

So let’s re-visit and massage the idea of how to equip the next cadre of coaches.

I asked a dear friend and former player of mine to provide me with an account of Trinidad and Tobago’s performances at the CONCACAF Under-15 Championships in Bradenton.

This friend is a staff coach at the host academy in Bradenton and a former protege of mine who holds an ‘A’ license. What follows is his response:

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 Team coach Russell Latapy (background) looks on at a national training session.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

“I never saw them play in a match. I observed a training session that was very unimpressive. Kids didn’t seem interested. I overheard two of the staff mention some things about something that may have been going on away from the field—maybe parents getting in the way or something like that…

“I didn’t see anything I learned from you.”

My response to him was that generally Trinis don’t see the US as a soccer (football) nation; even though, if Trinidad and Tobago were to beat the US, it would be considered an upset.

What a world of difference from my younger days when a USA victory over Trinidad would have been an upset… Sad!

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  1. Not a bad idea…Lasana ..we have to be able to take differences of opinion and not feel that because we played at some level we know it all or other opinions are dismissive or the persons can be rediculed.I not Brooking that.

  2. .Travis. One should also not confuse who one likes with what one thinks one knows and those who have a keyboard with those who have valid ideas. LOL. I gone yes..

  3. Just popped my head in and start to see where this chat degenerated to. Especially as there are many different opinions with some truth to them rather than one unquestionable truth in my humble opinion.
    My personal belief is that there are certain elements of success that can be replicated among many different industries.
    A baseball manager named Billy Beane used analysis and sabermetrics to create a top team and a system of recruiting that has been copied even by European football clubs, Sir Alex Ferguson lectured on management to Harvard business students…
    Fabio Capello studied rugby and ice hockey. The Germany 2006 World Cup team used tricks from their field hockey side…
    But I will create a separate group as well for football persons who only want to discuss ideas with other football people.
    Even if I feel that loses something.

  4. This is good Sunday entertainment…yessssss

  5. I have coached but i have never said i am a coach.Jesus Christ
    ..what i really dealing with….you surprising me more and more….Please stop it!!!!!!!

  6. Go to Colin or Dexter Skeene or Reynold George.You really lack wit or skill.You have not been around SKHY for the last 14 years.My son is 18 and played U18 Pro League for Defence Force and they came 3rd…is the youngest SKHY player tovhave won Player of the Year at 12.My friend i feel i talking to a robot you know as the thinking coming up SHORTTTTTT.You are free to call as i remain prepared to take you out of your slumber.

  7. Keith Look Loy this joker coach with you? LoL anyway no one is perfect. Tell him to go comment on law or academics and leave football alone.

  8. Oh, and here’s a comment from the God of football himself! Culture has nothing to do with football. That’s why T&T football will remain in the mess that it is in.

  9. Keithos…welcome .All the best in Super League .I started coaching with you and thanks a million.Send me an invite to your league…just joking…send me a schedule.All the best.Congrats

  10. LoL , it’s funny that ALL the teams you mentioned I played for and coached yet the not familiar with that Brooks name. O well maybe it’s in the sheep division

  11. Go to Jablotech,central Fc,W Co bection and ask about my sons coached by myself and SKHY.

  12. …Distinctive national football style no longer exists. All teams attempt to employ what we could generically call “modern strategy and tactics”. Do not confuse football style, culture, strategy and tactics..

  13. Thanks for the offer, but I also made one and the sheep’s like yourself didn’t take it up. So teach your boys and whoever else is impressed by your family’s achievement .

  14. Want lessons???????Don’t be shame,Lion!!!

  15. I also give lessons free in football and academics.My school is the Brooks school of learning…..it is on course.

  16. Ii am prepared to teach you to be a FAILURE.

  17. Congratulations to you and yours , I have just been accused of being envious so my sheep friend , peace be unto you.

  18. Justin Brooks is this sheep’s son.I also have a 12cyear old on the North Zone U13 team who is in Form 2 CIC special class.We are FAILURES.YESSSSSS

  19. Illiteracy is really your game…my son is on a scholarship to do medicine ,lion.My elder brother Gerry Brooks also walked out on a youth team and we both do not cry that Jack did us this or that.We are humble sheep who realisedcthat life offered hope for 16 year old with intellect.We put that intellect to use to dodge the lions .Jack ate you and spat you out. These 2 sheep are still alive and noteworthy citizens of Trinidad and Tobago whilst you have a chip on the lion’s shoulder.My 18 year old nephew also walked out of a youth team and is now UK bound to do law.Ask Brian Williams about Justin Brooks of CIC now on scholarship to do medicine.I am in a select group of failures and i am PROUD of it.

  20. LoLoLoL envious you say, Marcia Tinto . Hmmm

  21. Travis, you sound more like the sheep to me – a noisy one. Lasana’s post is intended to encourage healthy discussion, not subjective comments with no substance, directed at a man of whom you are obviously envious. What a poor role model you are for our young players! Such petty, churlish behaviour!

  22. LoL that very good ian sheep Brooks I will look out for your boys I hope they are not a quitter like you.” I walked out on the U 16 team ” which is the line of many failures like yourself . What you wanted a salary at 16 ? LoL. I was never a world beater because if the greed of people like Jack Warner and others . Anyways I hope to see your 18 yr old soon in the prem , la liga, Bundesliga and seria A . I would say a sheep has produced a lion . LoL

  23. Let me say to you that my 18 year old has the distinction of being wanted by Manchester United for 2 years and he has walked away from that into a scholarship to do medicine.At 12 he did that….WHAT GOALS YOU TALKI NG BOUT!!!!BOY BEHAVE YOURSELF YESSSSS

  24. Google my name and you will not get a few lines.You played without distinction as you have reached nowhere.At 16 i was called to a national youth team and walked out as it offered me nothing absolutely nothing.I set my own goals and i can say with pride that your perceived goals are not even a start point for me nor my children .Your perceived goals are not even the goals of my 12 year old who has a view of himself way beyond that GOAL.I have another 18 year old who has brushed you aside already.Behave yourself with these GOALS.

  25. As Eric Williams used to say, “Let the jackasses bray.”

  26. I can still Google my name and get a few lines of info. You try doing the same. LoL. Still played at the international level. What have you done in life? That’s was one of my goals and I’ve achieved that along with playing pro ball. Now I have other goals which IN SHA ALLAH I will achieve . I contribute to helping youth achieve there goals in and out of football , What have you done to make Trinidad a better place besides buss up ur mouth on wired lol. Sheep. Thanks to Lasana Liburd. Ian Sheep Brooks

  27. Wow people like me with high intellect have Trinidad how it is….you display neither heart nor intelkect as you ramble on without focus ,ideas or seeming ideology.That is the way of the bumbler…I remain no bumbler ….and if i am g oing over the cliff leave me as my cliff is great.Bumbler ,people have a right to question and you can seek to evade or answer.Pray tell what condition i have Trinidad in?

  28. Failing ? You are a wandering sheep who going over the cliff like the rest you are the second person to question my intellect in recent teams lol , that’s not a problem . People like you with high intellect have Trinidad in the condition it in. I rather have a good heart than good intellect.

  29. Marcia ,this is the level of golly one faces from the illiterate all the time.You pkay on a national team ,were beater a world beater or only recognised in your little hamlet or in general terms unrecognised as a footballer but you alone have an opinion and is only self praise and you slso are a nobody in football .A lion who not even roaming a plain but i am glad to be an uncaged sheep.

  30. That personifies your level of general intellect.

  31. Remain a lion in your cage I remain a wandering sheep and you remain caged.

  32. Travis let me say you have made some good points but the reality is that we are fsiling atvyouth level to produce real talent which is a technically good player who is committed,disciplined, hard working,committed focussed and who is prepared to be coached.We promote the selection of players from the Coaches Clubs who simply seek to promote their players with the coaches given a mandate to ensure their promotion at the expense of all others, thus creating frustration and disenchantment in players and a movementvaway from the sport which is seen for the W Connection crew with their coaches and the continued poor results for the country.Nothing for Jablotech,Central,SKHY Club Sando etc.

  33. I can’t believe that someone on this thread actually believes that culture has nothing to do with football. Why is Brazil’s style different from the clinical approach of Germany? Is it because the latter have longer legs? I am not keen on American coaches either but if some element can be added to the local approach, perhaps we would achieve the right mix. But many on football administration in T&T are archaic. Always the same recycled dinosaurs at the technical level with a mediocre foreigner thrown in for good measure. Thanks for sharing, Lasana.

  34. Ian Brooks the lion is not interested with the opinion of the sheep

  35. Let me say i am not overly impressed with US Coaches who seem to be way below European standard but yet above our standard when it comes to teaching technique,physicality,pace and a few other aspects of the game but we can start somewhere.

  36. Finally there are hundreds of Trinidadian coaches living in the US coaching at the youth level all across the US. and no doubt they need to be incorporated in our Network even if it’s to scout players for our respective national teams . They are exposed to best practices , the opportunity to tour some of eueopes elite clubs and no doubt there expertise would aid in improving our fortunes on the field. It is up to the decision makers to come up with a strategy to utilize all stakeholders available and willing to make a positive contribution . There you have it Lasana Liburd. No more until you set up the forum.

  37. Part 2:
    Galky had a group of talented ,experienced players that contained a few players from the 1985 CONCACAF champion team Defence Force. You need Lasana Liburd to dedicate an entire story on this team otherwise you are not worth your salts as a sports journalist or a patriot . They were well organized and played great football. What about the fact that there was a B team from which Leonson Lewis graduated after scoring 11 in the Shell Cup. Today Dennis is trying the same with a local based squad and it’s criticism after criticism. The other team of note the 73 team on which Gally played European coach, and then Bertille’s Gold Cup semi finalists who were loaded with talent ,experience and with 3 friendlies on the eve of the tournament. No coincidence that they did well. No south Americans involved in our brightest footballing moments. We are an indisciplined, corrupted , unpatriotic (until we go away to live ) , cynical people and I can go on with the negative adjectives . So again culture = failure. Hardwork discipline, dedication, ambition , sacrifice ,pride and organization on and off the field is what will bring success. Culture and style is secondary . End of part 2

  38. IMHO the romanticism attached to Gally’s tenure as coach speaks a lot to a minority voice stretching for hope.
    If Gally’s “Kaisoca Soccer” had any true traction we would have seen his disciples in today’s game. But have we?
    We see many Trini players migrate for study and stay abroad and become successful youth coaches. I can name some as personal friends. They will all tell you those systems and structures which they use in the states cannot be replicated successfully in T&T.
    So where’s that leave us? Up and down the east-west corridor where used to have strong sweat on side roads and all the bball courts are now empty. Those sweaters now send their kids to soccer camps and academies in the effort to stamp into them the discipline that their generation was told was needed to breech the next level.
    Discipline in. Raw creativity out.
    We’re still searching for our football identity. But before we get to there we have got to answer the had question of what are our true expectations for these underfed, undertrained and overexposed youth teams we keep setting up for cutass?

    • Let us not forget Gally was cut off at the knees..He mobilised a nation, along with his young charges in a way no has since…Warner decided that Cummins had to much commitment, loyalty and support from both the players and the general public….I recall the days when some local were scoffing at “Kaisoccer’..In those days Coca Cola sponsored football clinics world wide..When the official came and praised Gally’s creativity there was ‘volte face’ immediately.

  39. I’d like to shake his hand …. parental issues is not the sole reason this team failed ..it’s one of many. Latapy is not the right coach for this project …talk dun

  40. Hurry up and set up the professional chat bro and I will comment until then this is my absolutely final comment unless I need to defend my name or club in some way. I will furnish my reply after the Chelsea v Spurs game. IN SHA ALLAH.

  41. If Trinidad plays a Spanish style type of football where the ball is kept on the ground, minimize the long balls, they can play well. The Dutch style is a great style but it is a complex one and it doesn’t apply to everyone.

  42. Umm, where’s the rest of this article??