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“The boys were not mentally prepared!”; football insider opens up on miserable T&T U-15 showing

Trinidad and Tobago National Under-15 Team head coach Russell Latapy has not addressed the public since his team returned last week from a shambolic showing at the CONCACAF Under-15 Championship in Florida.

The young Soca Warriors scored once and conceded 21 goals in four matches, their results including a 8-1 hammering from a Jamaica team that had failed to score in their three previous outings.

Latapy, according to the TTFA Media, has not scheduled a media conference for the foreseeable future either. However, Wired868 spoke to a football insider who was close enough to the action to offer some insights.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Under-15 playmaker Josiah Edwards (right) tries to escape from Republic Bank XI defender Nathan Guy (centre) while his teammate Keron Manswell looks on during action at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 15 April 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

Wired868: First off, were there any issues or problems for the team on tour? Did coaches receive their stipends from the TTFA and so on?

Football insider (FI): There were no issues. For the most part, the TTFA has been very accommodating. [TTFA general secretary Justin] Latapy-George [who is also the younger brother of the head coach] has been instrumental in ensuring that we got the things we needed… We even went up [to Florida] earlier than the other teams to acclimatise. There were only two or three others [from the 39 competing nations] there. We requested that and it cost the TTFA money but they made that happen. [The technical staff was paid all stipends owed] before the tour.

Wired868: Were there disciplinary issues? I understand there was an altercation between Under-15 attacker Tyrese Pierre and assistant coach Duane Richardson during the pre-tournament tour in the Cayman Islands? And an issue with defender Cephas St Rose during the loss to Jamaica?

FI: There was an issue during the warm-up before the second match in the Cayman Islands. But to my mind it was a miscommunication between the assistant coach and the player. [Contrary to rumours], he didn’t choke the player…

We were preparing for the match and the player had a bib resting on his head. The coach tried to take it off and it might have yanked his head and the player felt the coach had done it roughly. This escalated. It was minutes away from the start of the match but, after the match, it was dealt with. The player was of the impression that the assistant coach was always picking on him but [the technical staff] had no evidence or prior reports of that.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Under-15 Team coach Russell Latapy (left) likes what he sees during an exhibition match at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 15 April 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

As it turned out, the player’s mother was there in the Cayman Islands and [Latapy and the team manager] had a meeting with her, which was recorded with her consent. Duane apologised and everyone got the impression that she accepted the apology and we could move on. However, when the team returned to Trinidad, we were told that the parent had filed a report to the TTFA.

(Pierre was not selected on the National Under-15 squad for the CONCACAF competition).

Cephas was arguing with teammates on the field but I can’t say there was anything more than that. It was a stressful situation for the boys but he had generally been a player who we looked at as a leader. It was a hard tour and a wake-up call to everyone—staff included—in terms of what we need to do to succeed at that level. I think the players were frustrated too because sometimes they felt that more was demanded of them than they can do. I don’t know about any more issues other than that.

Wired868: So there were no further disciplinary issues?

FI: In the Cayman Islands, there were some disciplinary matters but it was mostly a matter of players being late for meals or some wanting to do their own thing like go to shop and eat as they liked and so on. Remember they were all representing their country for the first time and they were unaccustomed to the rules. So we would tell them what to avoid eating and then hear that players went ahead and did their thing.

But that was it really and we ironed most of those issues out there and they were not repeated in Florida.

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)

Wired868: So what led to the bad results in Florida?

FI: I am not a coach and I will try to stay away from discussing that aspect of things. But in my humble opinion, we need to play against better opposition. We went to the Cayman Islands [for an invitational tournament against top academy teams] but that is not enough and you see that USA went to Europe and played against European Under-15 teams…

We also need to widen our pool of players and find a way to get potential players from USA, Canada and Europe into the mix. And that is a management thing…

The reality is these boys are accustomed to playing in Trinidad and being the best in Trinidad but then you go away and realise you are up against it. How do you deal with it mentally and emotionally? The boys were not mentally prepared for it and I think we need to look into bringing a psychologist on board.

Other teams had nutritionists and psychologists and all of that and they were better prepared for competition than we were.

Photo: West Chester University sport psychologist Dr Margaret Ottley has worked with several Trinidad and Tobago teams in various sports.

Wired868: Granted Trinidad and Tobago’s preparation did not match the USA’s but how do you explain our result against Jamaica, who do not have superior resources to us?

FI: One of things that Haiti and Jamaica have over us is that desire to succeed. I don’t know if our boys have that ability to dig deep. We need psychological help. These boys are the best in the country but we are not mentally ready. I would say they were not mentally and emotionally ready to play in front of screaming fans and media. (The largest crowd on any given day was about 500 spectators when they faced the USA).

I don’t want to blame the boys. They performed to the best of their ability and the coach did the best he could do. In their minds, they are getting better in increments but it is only when they see the competition [that they realise how far short they were]. I saw Mexico play and their Under-15 Team [which was the eventual CONCACAF champion] might give some of our senior Pro League teams problems. They had great discipline, structure and tactical awareness. It showed me we have a lot to do to put things in place. The TTFA has been supportive but now we need to widen the player pool and get a psychologist involved.

Wired868: Is it true that the technical staff went out on the night before the Jamaica match and returned in the wee hours of the morning?

FI: That is not true at all. The staff did go out to Applebees with [former national player] Ricky Aleong but that was literally three minutes away from our quarters. And the players and staff had different accommodation too. The staff was back by 11pm. But you know how Trinis love to find negative things to talk about…

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 Team head coach Russell Latapy (second from right) has a laugh with his technical staff before practice in Couva in September 2016.
Latapy is the current head coach of the National Under-15 Team.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Wired868: We just lost 8-1 to Jamaica. Does the National Under-15 staff not feel that the public has a right to be upset by those results?

FI: I know Trinidad and Tobago fans are upset because we now have a history of bad performances but these things don’t happen overnight. This is a wake-up call to recognise how far off we are. There was some networking between the Caribbean nations there and we all saw how we struggled. Now, we want to organise friendly matches and tours amongst ourselves in the Caribbean so we can help each other out…

Jamaican athletes have more of a killer instinct than ours do and we probably need to do more in terms of that. People should realise that, at senior level, some of the advantages balance themselves off because we have players outside who are benefiting from playing at a high level. At youth stage, our players are competing with boys who are at proper academies like Saprissa and MLS Academies and we lack that. You can’t compare Jabloteh or W Connection to those academies which train right through the year. The Pro League and SSFL are not developmental leagues; they are competitions.

Wired868: Was there a bright spot in terms of our performances in Florida?

FI: I would say Jaiye Sheppard was a notch above the rest. (Sheppard is a 15-year-old Scarborough Secondary left-winger who already plays adult football with Phoenix FC).

[Fatima College midfielder] Zachary Welch and [QRC defender] Darian Bradshaw held their own too and gave it their all. But Sheppard stood out. He is mature and business-like and technically strong. He looks like he grew up playing against older players and he fights to the end and doesn’t give up.

I think he is one for the future.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Under-15 Team (back row, left to right) Darian Bradshaw, Justin Araujo-Wilson, Adriel George, Jean-Heim Mc Fee, Marc Wharfe, Cephas St Rose.
(Front row, left to right) Randy Antoine, Josiah Edwards, Jaiye Sheppard, Jabari Lee and Kernel La Fon.

(Trinidad and Tobago National Under-15 Team)

Goalkeepers: 1.Jahiem Wickham (St Anthony’s College/Trendsetter Hawks), 18.Kernel La Fon (Matura Secondary/North East Stars);

Defenders: 4.Antonio Chee Ting (Trinity College East/San Juan Jabloteh), 3.Darian Bradshaw (Queen’s Royal College/St Ann’s Rangers), 12.Rhowen Stewart-Williams (St Benedict’s College/Club Sando), 2.Randy Antoine (Arima North Secondary/San Juan Jabloteh), 5.Cephas St Rose (Independiente Sabaneta FC—Colombia), 16.Marc Wharfe (Maple Leaf International School/Skhy FC);

Midfielders: 9.Ezekiel Kesar (Naparima College/Point Fortin Civic), 13.Zachary Welch (Fatima College), 6.Jabari Lee (Pleasantville East/W Connection), 15.Adriel George (Bishops High School Tobago/St Clair Coaching School);

Attacking midfielders: 11.Jaiye Sheppard (Scarborough Secondary/Phoenix FC), 10.Josiah Edwards (Brazil Secondary/San Juan Jabloteh), 7.Jean-Heim Mc Fee (St James Secondary/St Ann’s Rangers), 8.Josiah Allen (Shiva Boys Hindu College);

Forwards: 17.Justin Araujo-Wilson (Fatima College/Skhy FC), 14.Aamal Julien (Point Fortin East Secondary/Point Fortin Civic).

Technical staff: Russell Latapy (Head Coach), Aaron Pollard (Manager), Duane Richardson (Assistant Coach), Otis Hislop (Physiotherapist), Rawle Webster (Trainer), Devin Elcock (Equipment Manager), Kevin Graham (Goalkeeper Coach).

AboutLasana 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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92 comments

  1. “In the Cayman Islands, there were some disciplinary matters but it was mostly a matter of players being late for meals or some wanting to do their own thing like go to shop and eat as they liked and so on.”

    Allyuh sure is ah UNDER-15 team we talking about here??

  2. Does TTFA have a data base of coaches? Their C.v’s, current level of activities, levels at which they are most successful? This is how for example some foreign track and field associations work.

  3. Mr.Latapy is not a youth coach. This team needs La La Horquetta Xf aka Hoghead. Coach of the year at TTPro league 3 years straight. Smdh. Mr Liburd u need to do a post on him and his community based club.

  4. TTFA “Development Program” will be to seek out a foreign contract for young Shephard and send him to India or Thailand or Kazakhstan or somewhere so. Making sure they collect their agent fees of course.

  5. Are we also chosen the best, are we passing the stigmatism to prepare a better team.

  6. Is Latapy even ‘trained’ to be coaching young players?

  7. Brent Bennett are the baller from Arima compre ?

  8. Then there is our culture of corruption, lack of duty, cynicism, etc etc

  9. Well said Lee Assing , that’s why I said if we were use culture as a stimulus for our success we in big trouble. Simple example I had a fall out with some players on tour when they handed the driver a CD to play dancehall music as opposed to soca or calypso or rhapso . I can assure you that 95% of players in trinidad fall in that category of that lack of cultural patriotism

  10. Poverty has proven to be the best breeding grounds for world class footballers, regardless of color, race, or creed. Brazil of 80s and before, Post-War Germany, etc. Trinidad has enjoyed proseperity in recent times. This accounts for our fete culture. And this accounts for the increasingly waning drive to succeed from young people. It is true that poverty alone will not produce talent. But poverty mixed with opportunity and infrastructure so kids with the drive to succeed can match with coaches and comparable players to form a competitive and nurturing environment. It is true poverty is not the only breeding grounds. But when discussing the differences between Haiti, Jamaica versus TnT, I believe it provides a plausible, if only partial, explanation. USA is finding success now due to resources and sheer volume of players. Smaller, though developed, countries like Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, etc., have structure, pathways, and developmental know-how that enables them to develop players from their relatively small player pools. In short, it seems (though I am no expert) TnT has an under-developed player development structure comparable to Jamaica, Haiti, etc, but without the poverty/desperation and its corresponding hunger to succeed that these same countries possess. All that being said, developing talent is a multi-faceted and complex process that involves various levels- from the top to the bottom. Finding one silver bullet is a farcical and futile endeavor.

  11. Travis Mulraine who got lynched in the U.S. within recent times? I have a brain and don’t necessarily go with what most people think. Racism does exist in the US but that is nothing new. Do I feel unsafe, absolutely not.

  12. Team from 2016 participated in the CONCACAF Champions league and reached the last 8 , and there were quite a few players representing Jamaica , Mexico etc who the Jablo players recognised from the tournament

  13. Oh and Jabloteh ‘s champion 14

  14. Brent Bennett for the sake of not arguing I will take your point of it ‘maybe’ not being relevant to the U 15 debacle , I wonder how a Blackman living in US with all the lynching of black people and the recent incidents could let those words come out his mouth. But anyway to each his own. Peace my brother

  15. Boy every excuse would be made for this humiliation. We just not getting right

  16. Allyuh losing meh with the slavery references and all that nonsense from way back when. Sorry that is not relative to today and you won’t be able to do convince me otherwise. Maybe kids simply don’t have the fire because things have become easier? Distractions? Other interests?

  17. I agree with Sean Powder . There are two issues . Slavery in Trinidad lasted 50 yrs maximum so that resentment that the Haitians and Jamaicans possess for the white man we don’t have it in fact we worship the white man . I’ve had my personal experience with Fenwick and the house negroez at Jabloteh and Central.( Story for another time) but also when a white coach comes money miraculously appears before that it’s straw to turn into gold. The players also respond differently because they see the white man gets what he wants from the federation. On to the tactical/ technical /psychological aspect. First of all let me say those players are not I repeat are not the best players at U 15 level that we have to offer. I was a privy to the process from the zonal screenings and it was a comedy and a tragedy all in one . The north zone apparently re intent on bringing back classism in football , for reference check the present north zone U 13 team. Don’t get me wrong there are players from the upper class with loads of talent but it was scandalous what took place and what is taking place in the north zone . So latas started off by shooting himself on the leg. Then you have people trying out up to the week before the tournament , that type of indecisiveness doesn’t augur well. Maybe he realized what I said about the talent level of his players to put a positive spin on things. I would leave it there .

  18. Psychology is key but I suggest the coaches are the first recipients of counseling before the players. Something is fundamentally wrong with the management/coaching principles in which we are asking the players to play.

    • Like Ato Boldon said on my post about athletics … the coaches in Trinidad are not very good. Terence William Fenwick you are correct when you say that its the coaches who need the psychological training. They need to learn how to communicate at different age levels. Good communication skills are key to successful coaching. That is something we are lacking at all levels. Coaches need to be able to clearly communicate expectations, goals, standards, and feelings to their athletes. And it involves not only the content of a message but also its emotional impact, or the effect the message has on the person receiving it. Coach the Coaches.

    • Tony Maxwell Hatt 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽 the coaches are the issue, we have a wide group of talent here in TTO , I’ve watched coaches in action here and we coach like how we did 25 years ago the game is evolving and we are stuck in Stone Age , just how we coached and treat seniors is how we coach youth and junior football and trying to get the same result .

    • I have seen football sessions at all the stadiums at all levels and listened and watched the coaches..the language used to communicate is so backward…and threatening…i often wonder what these coaches want to accomplish. Definitely not my style.

  19. In order to be the best you have to beat the best,basing your triumphs at home is a fools paradise and it’s a stigma that;s been attached to our football for years. Time to change the thinking.

  20. All those issues are coach controllable ,these issues put out by “Football insider” are excuses
    Game or match discipline,training discipline are in the realm of the coaching plan and therefore have to e dealt with by the coach .
    BTW I am unfamiliar with the assistant coach ,has he coached youth teams in SSFL or other leagues here or away ?

  21. Over 50 years ago C l R James ecored those sentiments the importance of sports in ones life i was once told by fomer professor at u wi campus in Trinidad that our once coach and fifa technical guy Alvin corneal was a director for football for the campus and never did anything to uplift football at u w i and he showed me an example of mona campus Jamaica where a fomer Jamaican sprinter Grace Jackson was a director for track and field and hpw she uplift that discipline for the campus even brining puma on bord .we bost of Alvin fifa keith lookout the fifa technical director and development officer so as the saying goes we have the technology

  22. Grateful for this alarm though, even if it is ignored, or improperly handled

  23. As I keep mulling, I realize, the larger problem here is that we don’t know how to Build Each Other Up here. Not as adults, certainly not for children

    That’s the bottom line

  24. You know we always talking about that “killer instinct” that Trinis never seem to have?
    That’s in large part because we don’t see sport as a legit way out our circumstances. And that has nothing to do with sports psychology that’s a national culture of putting sports and athletes into a position where it’s seen as a bad idea to pursue.
    Can we truthfully tell our kids that football is a real pathway out the ghetto? Or poverty? Or maybe it’s just for a tertiary education but not profession? What about a borderline illiterate or kid with learning disabilities. What do we as a society tell that kid? Not to study your book and doh study football?
    These are the seeds we sow.

    • The killer instinct and willingness to sacrifice is not solely absence in sport it permeates all of our society. We have a “hard luck” culture of mediocrity.

    • This. Is. Not. About. Just. Sports or Football!!!

      I humbly submit

    • My brother , the reality is that the pro league is a hungry league in terms of financial resources , I believe it is the lowest paying league in the world . Players cannot even afford a proper pair of boots and have enough money to go to the grocery and take care of his bills

    • Then you have players who really don’t care to uplift their lives , being able to wear some brands , have a Bess phone and being able to party whenever is cool for them that is what they strive for. So sad . And the most tragic thing is that the more talented players fall in this category

    • Bro, you ain’t lying. But who didn’t already know this going in? Men must know at least by the first bounced pay cheque that things not full 100?

    • You see we have a money. Driven culture and that extrinsic sort of motivation is by and large what drives most people coming from a tough economic background.

    • If the dollars ain’t making sense then it’s only so much a coach can extract out of most players , of course there are exceptions to the rules

    • That might be true for a fellah making a choice between a low-paying contract on a team he loves vs a big money deal for a league that don’t make sense competitively.
      That doh make no kindah sense to a player who cannot rate or feed his family on his salary when it does some. But then it never comes? How can a player rationalize that? Play and hope for a deal with a foreign team? How realistic is that for 90% of the players in TTPro?

    • Very realistic in this day and age you have all the social media platforms and all sorts of technology where s player doesn’t even need an agent. Sadly ambition is in short supply in sweet T&T .

    • That. Ambition. Wow!!!
      Ambition and Excellence.
      No home in these lands.
      Massacred gone with the Marauder Columbus.

  25. Your caption question, Lasana Liburd used to be such a common training. We prepare our children from birth. The older you grow, the larger the sea, the better the sea and you will meet and engage your betters. You learn, grow, evolve. I mean, Life is essentially that journey, except in Trinidad. It works the opposite

    You may be the best at your house
    In school you regular shemgular.
    It does not break you. You still worthy. The response is to assess, work harder, or redirect yourself
    Resilience and skills to cope and transcend those bridges.

    Why we think we so quick to break, kill, chop and shoot? This same mental emotional weakness, in a country and sea of never ending trauma

  26. Is this team going to continue to train together or is it back to school football until need again? I really like the points the person made about the youth pro league and the ssfl.

  27. So. I read this post. How it is presented
    The language. And some initial thoughts.

    All around me this dispensation and year, things in Trinidad are disintegrating falling apart, on areas I wrote and chided about for years , since 2003, that earned me well enough haters. But the proof rises to the surface.

    Two, I immediately think about the concept of being big fish in fishbowls

    I see the use of the word “elite” above.

    Like how we say Trinis are exceptionally smart. Saying that since 1980s? Before? It They These are lies and myths. We are not elite. We are by far not that smart.

    And if we created strong individuals most of them have died off.

    We get fed so much bullshit we break under challenge. Its why people hate you for calling them out on their BS, why these boys are broken getting their asses handed to them. But all that in the gayelle you in. Part of the game. How would you ever get better and evolve. But that ain’t the Trini mandate.

    And I agree with Fenwick. The boys not the problem, the grown children older are, the coaching, or lack thereof, no parents/parenting — a lost art far less for practice.. So in that absence, gap and chasm, we need to and begin the talk of psychology.

    What not trained and inculcated becomes a needed intervention. That is not flash in pan eh. But, long range investment and ongoing.

    And then to have those psychology people truly skilled and not just degreed. Read recently of guidance counselors in school doing rank shit, surprising teachers. You know that bad when is teachers wondering what you on.

    So yes, this ain’t about the boys. This is about Trinidad, and the water these fishes grew in. Their education, in class and on field, the gapes… and all the dereliction incompetence it shows.

    Pure innocents.
    Babies being led astray to replicate our continued brokenness

    This was the work I saw needed for the national team. Far less for children.

  28. Simple because there development is mostly centered around physical and technical . , where as the manor concepts are less in tearms of cognitive development physical physogical technical and technical and tatical however the auestion is are our local coaches equipped for such development the answer is no speaking from experience go around and view some coaching session as i mentioned before not even some of our local pro league muchless for our youths we going to build a fifa technical development fercilitie lets hope we can aslo develop the coaches education in the four major components as we ll

  29. I think we might learn a lot about how serious the TTFA is about youth football based on their response to our performance in this CONCACAF competition.

  30. Scotty Ranking

    Sadly, this is an indictment on T&T as a society. Successes will come but they will be few and far between because we don’t have a culture of youth investment and long-term planning. AS a result when we go to tournaments such as these we will routinely have our behinds handed to us.
    Sadly, I was once of those who thought that DJW would bring a change to the operations of the local footballing scene with his ascension to TTFA President. It seems as though the change we received was more of an exchange, with King David effectively being indistinguishable from Tim Keekeekee!!!!

  31. Is like we does keep hitting de snooze button every time de alarm go off. Exactly how many wake up calls do we need?

  32. Our country is producing weak people in general. Our culture does not demand higher standards.

  33. Administration staff and coaches are to be held responsible you took me to task on certain coaches i mentioned in certain zones as part of our elite development programme balls and cones coaching wich is the main area of there development as i mentioned before the morden trends and concepts has to be imbedded at a tender age .

  34. ..No. Over to TTFA and the TTFA heads of technical development. These are old issues being hinted at here: 1. Player development (both at club and national level). 2. National youth player selection. 3. National coach selection and development. 4. National youth team development programme. 5. National technical planning and administration. And the solutions are not esoteric in nature. These issues and proposed solutions have been discussed ad infinitum. What we need is the political will – from the top – to create broad consensus around an approach and a platform of actions..

  35. Those kids took a shellacking jed. Deeyam

  36. Interesting observations. Ah wonder why we don’t have the dog in us like the Yardies or Hatians?

    • It’s not like everyone in trini is better off than people in JA or Haiti. Shoot, some of us suffering more than them. Nonetheless i get your point

    • ..I am not taking about the MONEY that flowed during these oil booms. I refer to the ATTITUDES that the oil money generated that have forever spoiled our national work ethic – dare I call it that – and psyche, which affect everything we do..

    • In all 3 countries its primarily African’s descendants playing football, however when in Haiti and Jamaica I experience a pride, arrogance and seriousness about excellence derived traced back to the Haitian revolution and the Maroon culture in Jamaica. This is not to say we didn’t have our historical struggles and multiple leaders however the pride in Captain Cudjoe, Marcus Garvery, Bob Marley, Toussaint Louverture, Francois Capois is different and though many Jamaicans and Haitians could not tell you about them the streak of independence and drive for excellence remains. It’s no coincidence that a Jamaican slave named Boukman traveled to Haiti to be influential in the Haitian revolution. We are missing some of that, apologies for the length but I see every group in T&T maintaining their identity(CULTURE) as a foundation for development; all but ONE!

    • This aspect of getting them mentally ready is part of the coach’s job.

    • Very true Sheldon.
      I have a friend that did the German FA license. He said the course is administered at a university and covered in depth classes in psychology.

  37. Lack of mental preparation isn’t the main culprit behind a goal difference of 20.

  38. Abject failure as a coach is Latapy. Everything is an excuse. Put the blame for the demise of football where it lies. Straight in the lap of DJW and his cronies he continues to hire.

  39. Earl Best

    Just pathetic! I am turning my attention to the other Under-15s who take on England from Friday in the Second Test.

  40. If not now ..when..If not them..Who? I return to my observation that there re 17 yr old elites athletes proliferating sport…17-15=2..Will they be mentally prepared in 2 years I ask?