A year or two before former Prime Minister Patrick Manning passed away, I wrote an article stating—among many other things—that Manning no longer held any relevance for politics in Trinidad and Tobago.
Of course multiple queries followed from readers. I did not explain myself then as I found the statement self-explanatory, but I will do so now.
Manning had just returned to “sweet Trinbago” to be met with much pomp and celebration after his treatment for cancer at a Cuban hospital. The irony of that seemed to escape many citizens of our country, especially the flag waving PNM supporters.
The leader of one of the region’s wealthiest countries, seeking medical care in one of the region’s poorest. How could Manning still be relevant when Trinidad and Tobago’s failed and failing health infrastructure seemed to come secondary to the whims of his spiritual advisor/high priestess?
Ditto for current Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s submission and subservience to the Syrian-Lebanese “business” community. And ditto for former Prime Minister and living cautionary tale for sobriety, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who appointed and presided over the most corrupt and rapacious Cabinet ministers in living memory.
What the ‘ras’ does this have to do with the recently expired Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup or football in general? Well, hear meh out.
Everyone—whether they be rank amateur or elite professional—in whatever profession or endeavour they pursue, must have an innate desire to accomplish and to achieve. Their level of accomplishment or achievement would depend on the variables of integrity, intelligence, level of expertise, experience, etc.
So someone with low integrity, average intelligence and insipid character—did I just describe our entire political class?—might be content in allowing sweet T&T to be turned over the years into a virtual Narco state, controlled by the boastful and myopic one percent, who drive around in fancy cars, ignorantly slurping down Johnny Black, while our mostly black young men fight and die over scraps. Allegedly.
Transition—note the football analogy—this same thought to the coaches and players at the just concluded World Cup.
Contrary to what most fans believe, these are not the best 32 footballing countries on the planet. They are simply the best 32 teams from their respective regions, which is a big—no, humongous!—difference.
Long story short, as expected, the group games were littered with lopsided, low level games, with some fantastic goals. This provided the panel of experts engaged in TV coverage with an interesting dilemma: how to explain thoroughly mediocre matches punctuated by moments of brilliance?
Wait a bit, it would get even worse. As the World Cup entered the knockout stage, the majority of African, Arab and assorted Third World countries took their leave—like token Blacks invited to a Donald Trump White House Dinner. Unwitting accomplices to their own footballing demise, oblivious to the obvious truth that they can come dressed for the party, but they won’t be sitting down to eat anytime soon.
Arrogant UEFA President, Aleksander Čeferin, stuck the knife in deeper by exclaiming that “the gap is widening between Europe and the rest of the World.”
Yet the absurdly corrupt football officials of the Third World—much like our own absurdly corrupt political class—could not give two firetrucks, as long as their personal interests are served.
Germany, who looked stale and uninspired, were the exception that proved the rule among the European teams. My belief is that football, like any artistic endeavour, must strive for the pinnacle of aesthetic beauty, or else it stagnates and ceases to be art; it becomes just an endeavour.
Now that the euphoria has died down, ask yourself what team—other than Belgium in spurts, and Croatia in even less spurts—left you with a sense of longing; a melancholy that one could feel from a Brazil 1982 team, a Spain 2010 team or even a Germany 2014 edition. Not a single one!
Even the eventual winners, France, had television presenters and experts performing verbal gymnastics to provide a positive spin.
“France showed us how you can dominate the game without the ball,” said Bein sport football presenter Andy Gray.
What the France?!
Yes, France showed how you can win a game while being outplayed. But where’s the beauty in that? Where’s the sublime inspiration that resides in each and everyone of us to seek perfection?
Let’s be clear here: this is a France populated with bigger stars and household names than all of Croatia’s registered players even; this was not a Panamanian team that was just happy to be there.
In three months’ time, we will all be struggling to remember who won this World Cup. Well, maybe six months.
Who do I blame? I blame the leaders, who are the coaches. If you as a politician, teacher, coach, father or mother, are not striving to leave a legacy that inspires, then you are no longer relevant; you stagnate, you are corruptible—not necessarily in a financial sense but in a moral and ethical one.
And therein lies the danger of mediocre leadership; that Didier Deschamps can take an excellent group of individual players and fail to see the possibilities of their capacities in striving for an aesthetic which can inspire generations to come—beyond the fact that so many of his players were African or Arab. To do so would have served a higher purpose than just winning of a trophy.
Tele Santana and Johan Cruyff will continue to inspire generations of coaches and players for years to come. Can we say the same for Deschamps?
Likewise, Brother Malcolm the X man will continue to serve as a reference well into the future. But what can we say about “sweet” Trinidad and Tobago’s past and current political class? Contempt, disdain or, at best, crickets!
I purposely avoided the parameters established for me by Wired868 editor Lasana Liburd in writing this article. What more can I say about VAR that hasn’t been said ad nauseam?
As for tactical trends and formations, I have never placed an overriding emphasis on those either. For me, it’s more about the philosophy rather than the formation.
So, a team can line up on paper as 5-4-1—which seems primarily to be a defensive set up—but if the philosophy of the coach is to establish a high line and press in the opponents’ half, then 5-4-1 becomes an offensive set-up, contrary to how it sounds.
As far as I am concerned, the biggest danger to football in the developing world has been unleashed on us by a political masterstroke from Infantino and his United States backers and influencers.
An expansion of the World Cup to 48 teams gives the developing world the illusion of football development and inclusion. But it will be the same.
Come ‘house n***er’ and vote for Europe or the USA’s preferred candidate, take some more development money to go along with our established power structure and program; all and sundry knows that money will be corruptly used by said ‘house n***er’.
Then play a few games in the group stages, pack your bags and leave town before the real party starts.
And if you realise that this same model could apply to the PNM, UNC or any of the political parties inhabiting “sweet” T&T, you’re now thinking in philosophical terms.
And that’s all I can ask!