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From ‘kaisoca’ to ‘shittykyahkyah soccer’; Best muses on TTFA elections and Nov 19

At 11pm last night, I turned my TV off. Honduras 4, T&T 0. I had had enough. Despite the importance of the game, we had fielded nothing like our best team. The travel papers of some of the key players were not in order. But, it seems, we had only discovered that at the eleventh hour.

I have had enough. Enough of the uninspiring on-the-field performances. Enough of the off-the field bungling. More than enough of Dennis ‘Tallest’ Lawrence and the administration that supports him. With each new game, ‘Hopeless’ and ‘Clueless’ are looking more and more apt.

So much gets done only at the eleventh hour.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team assistant coach Stuart Charles-Février (second from left) has a word with head coach Dennis Lawrence (centre) during training at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 15 April 2018.
(Copyright Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

It was only at the eleventh hour, for instance, that there was a FIFA-required one-day adjustment in the date of the 11 November fixture against Anguilla. Hurriedly arranged to save some people’s face, all it in fact did was leave T&T football red-faced. Again.

A second eleventh-hour announcement concerned the formal opening of the House of Football, prematurely christened by a friend of mine the Red, White and Black Elephant. Surely, whether or not it will be a white elephant depends on which slate triumphs in next week’s elections.

Who in his right mind, pray tell, is going to give good money to an administration that continues to pile unnecessary massive debt onto the massive debts it says it inherited?

Maybe that’s the wrong question; maybe we should ask which organisations will continue to throw good money after bad. After all, the guests of honour at the gala opening are current FIFA president Gianni Infantino and current T&T prime minister Keith Rowley.

Irrelevant? Ha!

A third eleventh-hour announcement came from TTFA president David John-Williams. Few in the know doubted that he intended to join the 24 November election hostilities but even fewer expected him to make the formal announcement no earlier than he constitutionally had to.

After all, how does a president explain away the embarrassment of ‘shittykyahkyah soccer’?

Photo: TTFA president David John-Williams (centre), media officer Shaun Fuentes (left) and new Soca Warriors coach Dennis Lawrence at the TTFA headquarters on 30 January 2017.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/TTFA)

At the final whistle, the Wired868 report on the 10 November game ended, Lawrence had presided over the biggest Trinidad and Tobago triumph of all time. And, for whatever it is worth, local sport fans now know that the Warriors are 15 goals better than FIFA’s worst football nation.

Pray tell, what are the chances that some national coach will one day come along and not win a single one of 15 consecutive matches?

What, pray tell, are the chances that some national coach will one day come along and beat some side by more than 15 goals? Maybe if Watson Duke gets his way and Tobago secedes, a compliant president can arrange a match at the opportune moment against number 210 on the FIFA list. But, failing that…

Until then, at least the records for both the longest winless streak and the biggest margin of victory will belong to Dennis William Lawrence. And it is DJW, who appointed Lawrence in January 2017, who must answer when the question is asked about why almost three years later, ‘Tallest’ remains the national coach.

Truth be told, though, we haven’t really been lucky with national footballers promoted to national coach.

Photo: The Port of Spain National Stadium on 19 November 1989 during World Cup qualifying action between Trinidad and Tobago and the United States.

As a player, Everald ‘Gally’ Cummings was very, very good, indisputably among the best. But his T&T side could only score five times against Haiti in the December qualifying tournament, not often enough to deny the home side a 2-1 win. And a place in the 1974 World Cup Finals in West Germany. Behind it all was the hand of the all-powerful Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier, who, the story goes, had bought the on-the-field officials.

However, as coach of the 1989 Strike Squad, Gally took his side to within a kn of qualification for Rome 1990. But no further. Behind it all was the hand of the soon-to-be-all-powerful Jack Austin Warner, whom, the story goes, off-the-field officials had bought.

Gally’s Strike Squad did, however, produce a national team coach, Russell Latapy. Remember how, in the Soca Warriors’ last hurrah in Germany in June 2006, the 37-year-old ‘Latas’ would finally come off the bench to remind us all of what kaisoca could do? But, alas, he flattered to deceive, eventually proving nowhere near as successful as his 1989 boss.

Another Strike Squad graduate has made his as-yet-unfulfilled national coaching ambitions public. When, in Bahrain in November 2005, the 35-year-old November-born Dwight Yorke’s accurate corner arrowed into the box, the tallest T&T defender rose above all to head home.

In the best of all possible football worlds, the player who scores the goal that puts his country into the World Cup Finals for the first time goes on to become the national coach.

Photo: Stern John (second from right) celebrates with goal scorer Dennis Lawrence (centre), Kenwyne Jones (far right), Aurtis Whitley (second from left) and Cyd Gray after going ahead against Bahrain in a famous 2006 World Cup playoff contest on 16 November 2005.
(Copyright AFP 2014)

But other things say we don’t live in the best of all possible football worlds. At that World Cup appearance, it’s the strong-minded world-renowned coach from Europe who handles the team rather than the player who had begun to learn his trade kicking ball barefoot in Belmont.

A dyed-in-the-wool official who sold out his country doesn’t die in a cell, even after having allegedly claimed for himself thousands of donated dollars destined for earthquake-devastated Haiti.

In a recent Wired868 story, Jamaal Shabazz is reported as holding up Warner’s dictatorial administrative style as something to be admired, perhaps even emulated and replicated.

Myopically, Shabazz seems to be seeking to make a hero of a zero who clearly merits only complete contempt, condemnation even, for his role in the events of November 19, 1989. As well as in the 2006 controversy to which UNC Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar attempted to bring closure in 2014 by using taxpayers’ money to give the Soca Warriors their just deserts.

No amount of burnishing in any number of books will ever make the villain of that 1989 sell-out into the hero of the successful 2006 campaign.

Photo: Former Chaguanas West MP and ex-FIFA vice president Jack Warner leaves the Hall of Justice after a hearing in 2017.
(Copyright Analisa Caruth/Wired868)

It is why, although the Patrick Manning Administration awarded the entire team a Chaconia medal (gold), sweetening the pot with generous monetary rewards, Warner got scarcely a mention. And not one black cent.

Money was not his heart’s desire. What he craved was public recognition, acclaim as a national hero.

PM Manning and the PNM broke Warner’s heart.

I wish we too will next week wreck the dreams of John-Williams, the Warner wannabe who wants to win a second term…

Unless, of course, he wises up and withdraws…

…at the eleventh hour.

About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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