Home / Volley / Global Football / Dear Editor: What’s next for T&T football? Start with dismantling current Pro League structure

Dear Editor: What’s next for T&T football? Start with dismantling current Pro League structure

“[…] If we put our emotions aside and objectively look at the sustainability of the Pro League without government subvention, we would recognise that the league has failed and failed miserably. 

“A proper conversation must be had going forward and hard decisions may have to be taken as the current structure does little or nothing for football in Trinidad and Tobago…”

The following Letter to the Editor on the way forward for Trinidad and Tobago football—after unsuccessful World Cup qualifying and Gold Cup campaigns—was submitted to Wired868 by Louis Carrington:

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team players (from left) Ryan Telfer, Alvin Jones, Noah Powder, Duane Muckette, Neveal Hackshaw and Triston Hodge line up before kick off against El Salvador at the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup in the Toyota Stadium, Frisco.
(via TTFA Media)

After a failed World Cup campaign where Trinidad and Tobago failed to beat The Bahamas, drew with Puerto Rico and won against Guyana and eventual group winners St Kitts and Nevis, a change in the technical staff was made with the appointment of Angus Eve as head coach. 

His tenure stated just prior to the Concacaf Gold Cup qualifying round, which they successfully navigated by emphatically beating Montserrat and getting past French Guiana on penalty kicks. The results of the games in the main draw were two draws with Mexico and Guatemala and a loss to El Salvador. 

Credit Angus Eve and his staff as there was a marked difference in the team in respect of team spirit and camaraderie. The team displayed generally good organisation in gaining a point from Mexico, the traditional Concacaf powerhouse.

In the two subsequent games, the low level of the technical ability of our individual players became very apparent and therefore made it almost impossible to make a consistently significant impact transitioning from defence to attack.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago forward Marcus Joseph (foreground) tries to hold off Guatemala defender Jose Pinto during 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup action at the Toyota Stadium, Frisco on 18 June 2021.
(via TTFA Media)

Most apparent were the fitness level and the team’s lack of a midfielder who was capable of dominating by dictating the pace of the game—speeding it up or slowing it down as necessary—while maintaining possession and playing that incisive defence splitting pass.

While I give credit to Angus Eve and the technical staff for what they achieved in the short timeframe, it must also be said that at least two members of the team who saw playing time in the tournament clearly demonstrated they were out of their depth at the international level. 

If the current technical staff is retained they may do well to revisit and acknowledge that these players, without significant improvement, have no place in a national team going forward. 

So, World Cup qualifiers and Gold Cup over—what next for Trinidad and Tobago football? 

In analysing what’s next, it is necessary to look critically at the administration of football, the structural organisation, the development of football and realistic timelines that would benefit local football. What has the normalisation committee done since being installed by Fifa, in respect of the future of football in Trinidad and Tobago?

Photo: Fifa-appointed normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad.

The committee’s mandates, according to Fifa, were: 

  • To address the outstanding debt by establishing a debt servicing plan that is implementable by the TTFA.
  • To review and amend the TTFA’s statutes (and other regulations where necessary) and to ensure compliance with FIFA’s statutes and requirements before duly submitting them for approval to the Fifa Congress.
  • To run the daily affairs of the TTFA. 
  • To organise and conduct elections of a new TTFA Executive Committee for a four year mandate

Sadly, the normalisation committee has been silent. If any of this is being done no one knows, as there was never an official meeting nor any communication where the plans to achieve these mandates were made known to the stakeholders and the public at large. 

If I were to grade the normalisation committee performance at this time, it would definitely be a failing grade.

To address the structural organisation of football in Trinidad, and Tobago, I would need to refer to a previous letter to the editor in which I made two important observations. Firstly, the inability of the Pro League to sustain itself and secondly the quality of players that are being produced in Trinidad and Tobago and their future. 

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago full back Ross Russell Jr (background) challenges French Guiana winger Arnold Abelinti in the air during 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup qualifying action at the Drv Pnk Stadium, Miami.
(via TTFA Media)

The writer acknowledges that these are very sensitive subjects, but if we put our emotions aside and objectively look at the sustainability of the Pro League without government subvention, we would recognise that the league has failed and failed miserably. 

A proper conversation must be had going forward and hard decisions may have to be taken as the current structure does little or nothing for football in Trinidad and Tobago. 

Further, if we look at where our overseas players currently ply their trade, we would admit that these countries generally do not possess a significant and successful history with high standards and quality players. 

Where and how do we propose to improve the quality of our players without changes in the structural organisation and a development plan that is devoid of the myopic, visionless people who seek purely their own interest? 

This must be addressed with urgency. The developmental aspect of football in Trinidad and Tobago needs to be critically assessed. 

Photo: Defence Force attacker Reon Moore (left) dribbles past AC PoS defender Jokiah Leacock during Pro League action at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 14 February 2020.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/Wired868)

Over the years, after many failed attempts at qualification in various tournaments at varying levels, there is always talk of what went wrong and the making of changes. Yet little, if anything, has changed in respect of the developmental aspect of the game. 

I listened attentively to Wayne Sheppard, who has had the opportunity to work at various levels in local football, as he espoused certain views in a podcast on what is required developmentally.

After watching the technical deficiencies in basic skills that are fundamental to success of some of the national team’s members, I am in agreement with his analysis of the status of the game in Trinidad and Tobago and his recommended plan for development in principle. 

A proper development plan with World Cup qualifiers 2030 or 2034 as the timeline for success should be our goal at this time. The government’s subvention for teams in the Pro League is in excess of TT$5,000,000 per year. This could be better utilised, in my view, in the development of the game. 

Photo: Central FC attacker Sean Bonval (left) slips the ball through the legs of W Connection defender Kurt Frederick during Pro League action at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 3 January 2020.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

Yes, I can hear many persons claiming that pro football and the government involvement through the provision of the subvention can be viewed in the context of crime prevention.

One can also ask in response, how many social programs can the country sustain and for how long—bearing in mind that the initial intent of social programs was never to be sources of permanent employment. 

Professional football is a business and must be seen as such with proper business planning, marketing, etc. Failing this, one has to question its intent, viability, sustainability and its return on investment.

If we continue to shy away from these realities then the future of Trinidad and Tobago’s football will remain grim. The stakeholders and the country in general deserve to know what is next for football in Trinidad and Tobago, how is it going to be achieved and in what time frame.  

What better time than now to start the revival?    

Photo: Trendsetter Hawks ‘A’ player Joshua Jackson (centre) brushes aside a QPCC opponent during RBYL U-11 action at the Queen’s Park Savannah on 25 May 2019.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

 

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3 comments

  1. Great article but it left uncertainties as to the way forward in getting T&T football back up and running.
    A conversation needs to be started with local private consortiums with a view to see football as a business. Government has to stop their subventions to a pro league and put it into national sporting bodies. The TTFA on the other hand, needs to pull itself out of the debts it created onto themselves and have sustainable solutions towards growth.

  2. great article …. need to come up with some solutions though….wired can hopefully start a discussion and get views from the public …lots of people on the outside have views and suggestions but will only get involved if they trust the people at the helm and this is financially i am speaking about. there is no yardstick presently for the govt to judge what they are getting back from their investment …. again thats where we need the help …we keep saying we need foreign coaches i don’t believe that what we need is foreign scouts or foreign scouts to teach our local scouts what to look for in the developmental stage of players at certain ages ….why is it a scout could spot ronaldo at 16 or messi at 11 and know that they will be great players …. we need to know what to look for ..this will be the transition

  3. Just picked up on two points but generally good information but your conclusions warrant a debate. Point one you inferred One players who admitted out of depth should be pulled — well I believe the proffered option they should be identifed and given training to upgrade . I have see players at the start of a season move from bench warmer to starter . In particular the colleges league has not been allowing players to develop 12 weeks of football( too short)

    Point 2 pull subventions and scrap professional league – This made no sense to me what we need is a revamped league . And improve club management skill to the level of clubs attaining financial self sufficiency within seven years . Brent Sancho once spoke about a mechanism for this several years ago . Again this whole concept needs to be thrashed out .