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“This is as far as I could carry it!” Shabazz quits as T&T women’s football coach

Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team coach Jamaal Shabazz handed in his resignation to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) today, just 13 months after he replaced Italian Carolina Morace at the helm of the local women’s programme.

Shabazz served as head coach for the Women’s National Under-17, Under-20 and Senior Teams during that period. But, just a week after returning from the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Colombia—where the Women Soca Warriors finished fourth but managed one draw and three losses from their four outings—the veteran coach has decided to call it a day.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team coach Jamaal Shabazz (centre) considers his option during international friendly action against Panama at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 22 March 2018.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

“It is with a great sense of humility and satisfaction I would like to inform you of my resignation as head coach of the Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Team,” stated Shabazz, in an email to TTFA general secretary Justin Latapy-George. “After careful consideration of all the factors surrounding what is required for this team to go forward, it is in the best interest of the team and the country, that I step aside and allow for someone who can bring more to the table at this point. “

Shabazz, the co-founder and head coach of Pro League team Morvant Caledonia United, told Wired868 that he did not feel he had any more to give to the national women’s programme. The Women’s team enter the Caribbean Cup finals from 25 August in Jamaica, with technical director Anton Corneal likely to step in as caretaker.

Corneal worked with the team before and is believed to be a popular choice among the players.

“I think overall I got what I could have gotten out of the team and I don’t feel I could get any more,” said Shabazz. “This is as far as I could carry it; this is the furthest I could carry this crew.”

Shabazz’s shock resignation follows word of unrest within the squad, which TTFA president David John-Williams attempted to quell yesterday with alleged ham-fisted measures.

In May, former Women Warriors captain Maylee Attin-Johnson said publicly that she would not play under Shabazz as she did not think the coaching staff had the capability to help the team push for a spot at the France 2019 Women’s World Cup.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder and captain Maylee Attin-Johnson (right) advances with the ball under pressure Ecuador star Gianina Lattanzio during the first leg of the 2015 FIFA Play Off in Quito.
(Copyright AFP 2014/Rodrigo Buendia)

Noticeably, star forward Kennya “Yaya” Cordner and veteran winger Ahkeela Mollon also declined opportunities to join the setup.

Shabazz continued regardless but, in Colombia, there were signs that the doubt had spread to the players who were under his charge. In four games, Trinidad and Tobago drew 2-2 with Nicaragua but lost to Mexico, Costa Rica and Venezuela—to miss out on a bronze medal.

Wired868 understands that John-Williams met the Women’s Senior Team yesterday and read the players the riot act. The senior players were allegedly told, according to multiple sources, that if they were unwilling to play for Shabazz, John-Williams would bring in the Under-20 squad to represent the country in the World Cup qualifying campaign instead.

The TTFA constitution does not permit its president to select the coach or players; and it is uncertain if John-Williams could have carried out his threat. But Wired868 understands that the players subsequently agreed to play under their current boss.

John-Williams did not respond to requests from Wired868 to explain his comment to the national women players.

Shabazz said he knew about John-Williams’ meeting with the players, although he distanced himself from the latter’s alleged threat.

Photo: Morvant Caledonia United coach Jamaal Shabazz (left) and TTFA president and W Connection owner David John-Williams chat during a Pro League contest between their two teams at the Hasely Crawford Stadium training ground on 20 January 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

“I don’t know anything about that threat [and] I don’t think I should be connected to that statement,” said Shabazz. “All I can say is I sat down, I weighed all the factors and I made my decision. I can’t speak to those comments.

“… The last year was a tremendous learning experience. I can’t see myself coaching women’s football again but I can see myself sharing my experience and what I have learnt in the women’s game over the years.

“There are some things you come to learn in dealing with women that is so unique—like language and the way you communicate with players, which is different to the men’s game.”

Shabazz said he is happy to share his knowledge of scouting and developing players while he also stressed the need for stronger women’s leagues. He suggested that the NAAATT has been hoovering up the best young female athletes due to its superior organisation with the under-12 age groups. Women’s football, he said, gets what is left behind by the other sports.

He credited the TTFA’s current National Elite Youth Development Programme and suggested that the current Boys Under-14 Team could be the most gifted bunch the country has had in 30 years.

Photo: Attacking midfielder Abdul-Quddoos Hypolite (right) in action during the NLCB Elite Youth Programme zonal competition.
(Courtesy TTFA Media)

The Women’s Under-15 Team, which was forced to forfeit the 2018 Concacaf Championship due to the TTFA’s failure to get them visas, is also a promising bunch, according to Shabazz. But their impact on the national senior team will not be felt for years to come.

“Our player pool is much to small and not competitive enough right now,” said Shabazz. “We need to focus on widening the pool, which hopefully—with the elite programme—will start to happen. I will also put my interests into helping to develop a stronger league that will better serve the interests of the women’s game.”

In his 13 months at the helm, Shabazz helped the senior women’s team past the first round of Caribbean qualifying matches as well as a semifinal CAC Games finish. But his Under-17 Team was eliminated in the Caribbean qualifying rounds while, at Under-20 level, he team lost all three matches—despite home advantage—in January’s Concacaf series.

“Well, given the material I had to work with, I think I did the best I could,” said Shabazz. “I will always measure my work with the material I had to work with; and I think the pool is too small. We are still relying on players we developed in 2000.

“Where is the next generation of players?”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago women’s coach Jamaal Shabazz (right) instructs attacker Aaliyah Prince during National Under-20 Team practice at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 9 January 2018.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

Ironically, Shabazz’s crop of 2000—or at least a few key players from that generation—lost faith in his ability to take the team to the next level. He refused to name any players whose actions or statements might have prompted his retirement; however, he said the new coach could not afford to blacklist players if they were to have any chance of getting to the France World Cup.

“I think you need all hands on deck [to have a shot at getting to France],” said Shabazz, “because you need the situation to be as competitive as possible.”

He said he will turn his attentions now to the Pro League and, possibly, the Ministry of National Security and new Commissioner of Police, Gary Griffith—a former top flight hockey player and TTFA security advisor.

“I am going and apply for a job at the Ministry of National Security,” said Shabazz, who was a former insurrectionist during the Jamaat al Muslimeen’s attempt coup in 1990. “Yes, I have my club in the Pro League; but look at the crime situation. We have a new police commissioner and I don’t know if he will need some help in Morvant/Laventille. I feel there must be some sort of job in there for me; so we will see.

“But the work continues. I have never seen a bird unemployed…”

Photo: Morvant Caledonia United co-founder and head coach Jamaal Shabazz (left) and then assistant coach Rajesh Latchoo enjoy a good day at the office during the 2013/14 Pro League season.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

(Letter of Resignation)

Mr Justin Latapy-George

General Secretary

TTFA

Ato Boldon Stadium

Couva

Dear Brother

It is with a great sense of humility and satisfaction I would like to inform you of my resignation as Head Coach of the Trinidad & Tobago Women’s National Team.

After careful consideration of all the factors surrounding what is required for this team to go forward, it is in the best interest of the team and the country, that I step aside and allow for someone who can bring more to the table at this point.

A major part of my life has been given to develop the women’s game as a Coach. Now I think Allah has a different role for me to play in the development of the game locally and regionally.

I will remain a staunch supporter of this team in particular and women’s football in general.

I thank the players, staff, fans and all who helped in my efforts and look forward to a new challenge.

Respectfully

Jamaal Shabazz

Humble Servant of Trinidad & Tobago Football

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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