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Griffith: What’s Thompson talking about? Soca Warriors can train despite Fifa ban

“[…] The Fifa suspension is not to disband any national team or prevent them from training but to prevent them from participating in Fifa-sanctioned tournaments or Fifa-approved international friendly matches.

“Any manager should know this, and it is of even greater concern if he did but still made these uncalled-for statements…”

The following Letter to the Editor, which criticises Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team football manager Basil Thompson for stating that the Soca Warriors should not train until the Fifa suspension is lifted, was submitted to Wired868 by Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith:

Photo: Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith (left) poses with Soca Warriors head coach Terry Fenwick at the re-opening of the Police Barracks ground in St James.
(via TTPS)

I have noted the recent comments made by the manager of the Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team, Major Basil Thompson, claiming that the football team cannot take the field (meaning that they should not even train). Clearly this shows the need for proper training and a selection process when our national sporting bodies select managers.

The post of a national sport team manager has too often been one of a flawed selection process, rather than a proper system to select those versed in the field, to ensure that all administrative, logistic and financial needs and concerns are dealt with, and to ensure that the team’s coach and players would not be bothered by off the field issues. 

Instead, what happens would be some who were previous players then try to get involved in coaching the team, which is not their role and function, whilst others do little or nothing other than providing a cooler with water and ice—as they are not trained or prepared to understand what needs to be done.

Colin Borde is one of the very few examples of a successful manager, as he shows proactivity and finds ways to make things happen so the players, when they take the field, have no off the field concerns that can affect their performance.

Photo: Midfielder Kevon Goddard (centre) tries to advance under pressure from playmaker John-Paul Rochford during National Senior Team train at the Police Barracks in St James on 3 July 2020.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

A major factor that led to the recent success of the Trinbago Knight Riders was that they were better physically and mentally prepared prior to the 2020 CPL T20 than their competitors, which, again, was largely due to having a manager who knows what needs to be done. 

During the last few months, national football teams all over the planet remained ready to train and take part in international friendly matches. So it was indeed good news when the honourable prime minister gave full clearance for our national teams to re-commence training—as he is fully aware that one needs to train and prepare before taking part in competitive tournaments.

One may think that his statement could have been aimed specifically to support the national football team, who are way behind the eight ball in preparation for upcoming international tournaments early next year.

But instead of making the most of this, the national manager focused on stating that they cannot train due to the Fifa suspension.

Photo: Soca Warriors manager Major Basil Thompson (right).

The Fifa suspension does not disband or prevent a national team from training or assembling. In fact, as stated by previous TTFA president William Wallace to the very same prime minister, even if suspended, the national team could play against teams not affiliated with Fifa, such as Vatican City, Nauru and Monaco. 

As comical as that may have been, it shows that a National team does not need to await Fifa’s approval to simply train or assemble.   

The Fifa suspension is not to disband any national team or prevent them from training but to prevent them from participating in Fifa-sanctioned tournaments or Fifa-approved international friendly matches.

Any manager should know this, and it is of even greater concern if he did but still made these uncalled-for statements.

A manager is supposed to be proactive and find ways to make things happen, and not find excuses not to make things happen. But his actions have been in keeping with what was seen in the past, when the national team trained before the Covid shut down; and as manager, his very own Defence Force players were not being allowed to join the training sessions.

Photo: Defence Force attacker Hashim Arcia (centre) runs at W Connection defender Jelani Peters during the Digicel Pro Bowl final at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 27 May 2016.
Defence Force players were temporarily stopped from training during the Covid-19 lockdown.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

The importance of the national training commencing is more critical now than before, as it provides the only opportunity for the locally-based players to be seen and measured by the technical staff, as there has been no local football for several months.

Added to this, it means that those locally-based players would have many cobwebs to remove: from loss of fitness, weight gain, and competitive match sharpness.

The longer it takes to commence national training for locally-based players, it lessens the chance for these same players to be given an opportunity for national selection, which reduces the pool of players for the same national coach, who is then forced to focus virtually on foreign-based players, which cannot be good.

This is not a time for division or having factions that can affect T&T football, as we have gone through this for decades; and due to the double hit below the belt with Covid restrictions followed by a Fifa suspension, this has been our darkest hour in football. 

Photo: Soca Warriors coach Terry Fenwick (centre) demonstrates to his players during training at the Police Barracks, St James on 3 July 2020.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

The light at the end of the tunnel has started. The Fifa ban should inevitably be lifted, hopefully sooner rather than later. Failure to prepare and plan, and making excuses not to do so, can give the impression of some just not wanting us to succeed.

This will be a short but difficult period for our football,  especially when we do not have a de facto administrative body which can assist in funding for the national team to train. During this period, support from the private sector would be necessary and encouraged.

The honourable prime minister has provided a window to get our football back on track by approving them to commence training.

We must not allow anyone or any group to shut that window, which can hamper our progress—even if not to succeed, but at least to dream.

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6 comments

  1. Found this interesting article on ESPN. I’m putting in the link which you can copy and paste. Have a good read.

    https://www.espn.com/soccer/blog-fifa/story/4231109/swiss-bank-set-to-pay-$79m-in-fifa-corruption-settlements

    TTFA pales in comparison.

  2. The Minister of Sports said no government funds if they are suspended. Fifa says no Fifa Funds if they are suspended. $70millions of debt according to Mr. Hadad and no income. Clearly, they are a huge credit-risk for any supplier of the resources needed for training.

    A word from Fifa / Hadad giving some idea of the timelines would be helpful information on when to start training, which is what I believe the manager is trying to elicit. Sounds prudent to me. If Fifa does not intend to lift the ban in time for Gold Cup, what would be the point of starting to train today to add to the debt?

    Why everything have to sound so quarrelsome though?

  3. Man who has an opinion on everything does not like it when someone has an opinion of him.

  4. Earl Best

    Whenever I find myself agreeing with Devant Maharaj, Kamla Persad-Bissessar or Gary Griffith, I take a step back and start over from scratch, so mistrustful am I of whatever is said by these three people who are consistently in the public eye–and in the public’s ear.

    So I read this (by my estimate) 900-word letter twice, very slowly the second time, before deciding that I agree with the essential point it makes: the FIFA ban in no way prevents the national teams from training.

    But the second reading also confirmed my suspicion that no one with a modicum of skill in marshalling his ideas needs more than a couple of paragraphs to make ALL the relevant points Griffith makes herein.

    So here is a reminder of a long discovered truth: Motor Mouth uses words the way the UNC used taxpayers’ money between 2010 and 2015..

    • Cruel parting shot (no pun) but I agree otherwise with what you have said. Perhaps it may be a military thing too (and this is not the first time) but that is delving into the realm of speculation. However, while it may be shortsighted to stop training, I think Major Thompson is more concerned with payments to trainers and the attendant legal ramifications for a cash strapped organization.

      Leave you with a parting shot and I hope I don’t miss, should the state underwrite the costs of continued training of national footballers in the interim. Enjoy the can of worms.

      • Earl Best

        Well, if we’re going to talk interim arrangements, maybe we can ask David John-Williams for a loan….
        I mean, while we’re waiting for all, ahem, ownership issues to be settled…