I listen to people talk about all the problems in Trinidad and Tobago’s football, but I am not hearing a lot of them pointing to solutions. A major stumbling block is the refusal by most to deal with issues and not personalities, so we spend a lot of time making judgments based on our likes and dislikes instead of dealing with what is right and what is wrong.
To further compound the issue each group has their cadre of blind followers whose loyalties make them oblivious to objectivity and reason.
This tribalism that prevails in our football is mirrored in the “indian” and “negro” politics that is silently played out by our politicians, whether it’s in the hills of Laventille or the canefields of Caroni.
With every World Cup campaign the potential of the national team temporarily unites the warring tribal chiefs and for a brief period people come out and support the squad; albeit with plastic smiles, daggers and knives in their back pockets. But the false sense of unity is short-lived because the victory does not come and then everyone either blames the national coach or the Football Federation and the infighting continues. And so the cycle goes every four years.
Therefore any national coach, who believes he can qualify Trinidad and Tobago for a World Cup Final without addressing this issue of disunity, should think again.
For the 2002 World Cup campaign we had our best possible squad since 1973 yet we did not qualify. Some blame the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation for the firing of coach Bertille St Clair. Some blame the commitment of the players... they all have their scapegoats for our failures.
But the most sensible thing I have ever heard said to carry T&T’s football forward came in a presentation by Keith Look Loy, in his capacity as FIFA Technical Development Officer, some months ago. I happen to have Look Loy’s presentation on tape and will probably lobby TV6 to show it to the nation and let you be the judge.
In case this does not find favour with TV6, I will have to share with you my friends, enemies and “frenemies” pertinent aspects of Look Loy’s presentation.
At the end of the day I want you to put aside your tribal thoughts and see if this solution suggested by FIFA, and presented by Look Loy, is not the best way forward for this country’s football.
Look Loy explains that the FIFA advice is for a strategic planning session to be held with representatives of all interest groups that make up the football family. This includes coaches, administrators, referees, players’ representatives, sponsors, club owners, government, sports medicine personnel, marketing experts and the media.
All the players—the butcher, the baker and even the candlestick maker—should be represented and they must come with concrete ideas to carry T&T’s football forward.
Now I know that this is asking a lot of us because we are a people so steeped in pettiness that it is almost impossible for each group to decide on who should represent them, much less make a cohesive presentation at such a gathering.
But that is the way forward, not only from a FIFA perspective, but a spiritual one as well.
You see God loves unity, organisation and order; this is evident in his creation, in the alternation of the night into the day and the fact the sun rises in the east and sets in the west demonstrates a clear sense of order. The movements of the planets and the orbit—behind this great plan there must be a planner.
But how are we going to get these heads together for such a meeting? Most certainly we may need to alert Police Commissioner Hilton Guy because he will need to set up a dragnet like he did on Jouvert morning. Because for sure men will be coming with knives, guns, pick-axe handles, vendettas, new hang-ups, old complexes, mixed-up moods and lots of attitudes. They can come with all of these once at the end of the day we come up with a plan to take Trinidad and Tobago’s football forward.
Because it was Express sports writer Lasana Liburd who wrote that Trinidad and Tobago’s football does not belong to Jack Warner or the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation. And he is right because T&T’s football is not the possession of a chosen few. But doesn’t Jack Warner and the Football Federation have a major stake in T&T’s football as well? What right, and on whose divine authority, must they be excluded?
I would give you an example and I challenge any of the critics to debate this with me.
Take the footballers who went on strike and one of the their demands. The one for more money for national team appearances. Let us examine who are they are expecting to cough up this extra money.
Not the Football Federation, because the players know the football federation has no money, just like all the other national sporting associations in this country. All the sporting bodies are a broken lot.
Sport Minister Roger Boynes said he wanted this matter dealt with and settled expeditiously. Why then didn’t his Ministry came up with match fees. Yes, the Sport Ministry could find the funding and say “we putting this towards match fees for players”...that’s an idea.
And why doesn’t the private sector say well we coming up with the match fees and will be paying it directly to the players and not the Football Federation.
This has not happened either, but ask any of the players to guess who they expect to come up with that money? Ask them! If they are honest they will tell you Jack Warner. So you see he has a stake in the thing too and no matter who hates his personality, the issue is Warner is a stakeholder.
But so is the Government, the private sector, the players and even Lasana Liburd, because football is nothing without the media especially guys with this writer’s energy and commitment.
Even Stevie Wonder with a blindfold could see that we need each other and that everyone has a part to play. This is why Look Loy’s presentation is so important and should be aired on national television.
If we have a proper plan in place with an imput from a broad cross-section of all the major interests in the game, then what we come up with would be a national effort. Then we would have a true national team. Then we could talk about World Cup and putting things in place to make a serious challenge for it.
This may sound like an utopian dream, because our people have been stupefied by tribal politics. But ask Look Loy how many so-called Third World football countries have already started this process. Look at the strides countries like South Korea, China, Costa Rica, and even the United States, are making after adopting such a strategic approach.
This does not say that we will never have differences. We’ll always have different views and opinions.We even disagree with ourselves sometimes, this is what makes many a man change his mind. But while we cannot help our differences, how we deal with it will determine the progress we make as a people.
The opportunity is there for us to do something collective that will be a model for our children to follow. Stop looking for a saviour. Let us sit together and plan our nation’s football future. Oh you who believe be not divided among yourselves for you will become weak and your power will depart.
The year 2006 is around the corner. Will we remain weak and divided or will we use this opportunity, if not to qualify, at least to start the process and put the machinery in place to give us our best possible chance in the future?
We must act now or we will continue to be duped by self-proclaimed messiahs who feel that the solutions to our football problems lie with the appointment of a national coach or technical director.
The days of the Superhero are gone and in football the “I” has been replaced by “We” not just in theory but also in practice.
Hence the reason we do not see any superheroes like Batman, Robin, Spiderman, or even Superman, playing for any country in the FIFA World Cup.
Instead, at the FIFA World Cup, we see national teams represent their nations. I say the collective pray in Islam, prayed in congregation, is 75 times greater in blessings than when a man prays alone.