Work has just begun
Lincoln Phillips, Trinidad & Tobago's technical director of football yesterday congratulated W Connection and CL Financial San Juan Jabloteh football clubs for reaching the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League. But he said their work had only now begun.
Phillips, the former outstanding T&T national team goalkeeper, applauded W Connection's 2-1 victory on Wednesday at Giants Stadium which saw them eliminate MLS club New York Red Bulls 4-3 on aggregate, and also Jabloteh's 3-2 aggregate win over Panama champions FC San Francisco at the Manny Ramjohn Stadium on Thursday.
The victories were a continuation of good results by T&T club teams after Joe Public twice defeated the MLS Club New England Revolution (2-1 & 4-0 away) in 2008, and also edged eventual champions Atlante 1-0 in Mexico. In 2007, W Connection defeated Mexican giants Pachuca 2-1 at home and drew 3-3 with Toluca (2003).
"This gives us the opportunity to compare our football league with the football league in the United States and other places," Phillips said. "But when you do well, you have to work much harder than you did before. The goal now is not to just qualify, but to reach the second and third round of the competition."
Phillips said the achievement is a great milestone for local football and congratulated the Digicel Pro League for constantly improving the standard of their teams and their football.
"This is a good milestone for us. If we were being beaten by five and six goals people would be saying that the Pro League is no good. But the fact that we can compete and beat these teams show that there is development" he said. "But, we must remember that not because we beat them means our league is better than theirs as some people are saying."
Phillips added: "When we do well, Caribbean people tend to relax. And once you relax, you slip down the greasy pole."
He said further, that both Connection and Jabloteh must see their qualification for the last 16 of the tournament as a big first step in a long journey. He added that the battle now is to improve to the point where qualification becomes regular, and where they can successfully compete with the best clubs in the region.
"We must now not only try to qualify for these tournaments, but move further along and first try to beat the top teams from Central and South American and also the good teams from Europe and other places.," Phillips said.
Phillips also urged the Pro League to continue developing young players and coaches, noting that all the top football-playing countries in the world have solid professional leagues.
"The professional league is the fruits of our labour. Show me a good professional league and you will also see a good national team,"Phillips said.