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Look Loy: Dominican Rep & Panama have left T&T behind, despite inferior infrastructure; and here’s why…

“[…] I say, without fear of contradiction, that neither Dominican Republic, Guatemala nor Panama can match the football infrastructure available to Trinidad and Tobago’s football. 

“Undoubtedly, their football federations have their internal politics too, but where they leave us streets behind is in the areas of ambition and vision, long term planning and focus, and investment. It is not excessive to say that the only Concacaf country that has failed to improve is Trinidad and Tobago…”

The following Letter to the Editor on the Dominican Republic’s qualification for the Indonesia 2023 Fifa Under-20 World Cup was submitted by former TTFA technical committee chairman and Fifa development officer Keith Look Loy:

Photo: Dominican Republic player Angel Montes De Oca (number 8) celebrates his goal against Jamaica during the quarterfinals of the Concacaf U-20 Championships at the Olimpico Metropolitano stadium in San Pedro Sula, Honduras on 29 June 2022.
(Copyright Miguel Gutierrez/ Straffon Images/ Concacaf)

Last evening, I watched with mixed emotions—amazement, anger, sadness and frustration—as Dominican Republic and Guatemala qualified for the 2023 Fifa Under-20 World Cup to be hosted by Indonesia.

Guatemala? A good team from a middling footballing country in Concacaf. They had qualified for the Fifa Under-20 tournament once before in 2011. They played well in Honduras and earned their victory on penalties against powerhouse Mexico last night. I could accept, even admire that. 

KFC Munch Pack

But the Dominican Republic? Who have never previously achieved anything in Concacaf competitions?! 

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago attacker Kevin Molino (left) tries to escape from Dominican Republic midfielder Rafael Flores during 2017 Caribbean Cup qualifying action at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 5 October 2016.
Molino scored a hattrick as T&T won 4-0.
(Courtesy Nicholas Bhajan/ Wired868)

Yes, they had to beat another Caribbean team—Jamaica, who drew 1-1 with Costa Rica in group play—in the quarterfinal to qualify for Indonesia; but Dominican Republic?

Those of us old enough will remember when Jack Warner brought in a coach from Dominican Republic to assist German head coach Joachim Figge with the senior men’s team in1996. The national uproar was instantaneous and loud. 

An avalanche of public opinion was unanimous that we had nothing to learn from a coach from “a baseball country” that had no history or pedigree in the game. The poor guy’s tenure was short lived—Jack replaced him in a matter of mere weeks. 

Photo: Dominican Republic captain and forward Daphne Heyaime (centre) is closed down by Trinidad and Tobago flanker Kedie Johnson (right) and Karyn Forbes during friendly international action in San Cristobal on 26 November 2021.
(via TTFA Media)

On a personal level, I well remember my many visits to the Dominican Republic Football Federation as Fifa development officer during the 1990s. Their football was underdeveloped, even by Caribbean standards, and I spent innumerable hours in countless meetings with their officers and board in their drive towards self-improvement and development. 

The focus was always strategic planning, infrastructure development, competitions, and national teams. Thirty years later, the “baseball country” is a permanent contender for honours in the Caribbean Club Championship, regular participants in Concacaf Champions League, and now has qualified for a Fifa tournament. 

Incidentally, I could say exactly the same regarding Panama, a “baseball and boxing country” that I had the same type of relationship with back then. There was a time, not long ago, when a match against Panama was seen as “easy three points” for Trinidad and Tobago. 

Photo: Panama midfielder Armando Cooper (left) prods the opening goal past Trinidad and Tobago midfielder and captain Khaleem Hyland during Gold Cup action at the Allianz Field in Minnesota on 18 June 2019.
(Courtesy TTFA Media)

Today? Not so much. In 30 years, I have seen the strides made by these ambitious “non-football” countries while we in T&T continue to “spin top in mud”. 

I say, without fear of contradiction, that neither Dominican Republic, Guatemala nor Panama can match the football infrastructure available to Trinidad and Tobago’s football. Undoubtedly, their football federations have their internal politics too, but where they leave us streets behind is in the areas of ambition and vision, long term planning and focus, and investment. 

It is not excessive to say that the only Concacaf country that has failed to improve is Trinidad and Tobago. Indeed, we have gone back backwards in recent years. And now we see threats in every shadow—from Curaçao (who recently traveled to Honduras and won 2:1 in Nations League play) to Suriname and even The Bahamas. 

Photo: St Kitts and Nevis players celebrate a goal while Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Darianne Henry looks on during Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship action at San Cristobal on 27 February 2022.
St Kitts and Nevis won by a record 7-2.
(via Concacaf)

As these countries march forward, we continue talking, criticising, and “spinning top in mud” with no plans. 

What are the prospects for our Association and football? 

Immediately bleak, by my estimation. Vision, leadership and finance remain the key problems at all levels. The Fifa-appointed Normalisation Committee has never laid out a plan for the development of the game during its two years at the helm.

Hell, they haven’t even met with the membership to discuss anything remotely related to actual football. 

Photo: Fifa-appointed normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad (right) with Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team and U-20 Team head coach Angus Eve in March 2022.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

The membership is dead, certainly voiceless. The overwhelming majority of clubs at all levels are broke and in no position to play serious football as we enter the second half of the year. When last we hear about “Pro” League, Super League and regional leagues? Yet I live in hope that something will happen to break the downward spiral.

And lest I forget—congratulations to Dominican Republic.

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4 comments

  1. I am making this point as a casual observer with little knowledge (some may consider it simple, even crude) about the inner workings of football and other sports in general. My observation is, where administrators work genuinely in the interest of the sport i.e. putting the necessary infrastructure and systems in place and not try to ‘hog’ the spotlight from the athletes, success is generally had. Who are the administrators at the helm in Jamaican athletics, Mexican, Costa Rican, U.S. , Guatemala or Dom Rep soccer? Here is all about men in bow ties and ill-fitting suits who see their roles as opportunities to enrich themselves and take centre stage. When this changes we will reap success.

  2. Look Loy have more belly than a calabash to comment about the state of our football, when he is part of the reason our football went down hill, these guys should be ashamed to even think about football on the hold, he good yes

    • Lasana Liburd

      Look Loy’s history in football gives him the chance to provide inside and context on the regional game. Hopefully most readers will be mature enough to appreciate that, whatever their personal views might be.

    • Was it Look Loy who decided that normalization was needed for our sport? Was he the one clamoring for normalization when it was introduced?