“[…] 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:
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.
But the Dominican Republic? Who have never previously achieved anything in Concacaf competitions?!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.