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Former national defender Brent Sancho says the time has come for this country to properly harness the rough athletic talents it possesses.

And, he is recommending that priority consideration be given to the establishment of a well constituted and funded Sports Academy to achieve this goal.

Sancho, however, is not making the case insolation, citing that football is his first love and despite the fact that he helped the national football team in its historic World Cup Germany 2006 qualification.

In a T&T Guardian interview, the ex-footballer said, on returning home following retirement from international football, he was surprised by the innate talent that pervades on the fields and courts of play.

Forty-eight months on, Sancho continues to be wowed by those yet-to-be developed athletes with whom he comes into contact on local shores.

Convinced that T&T’s sporting capital was still untapped, he is advocating for a public-private sector partnership which he described as crucial, towards cultivating this country’s true sporting excellence.

“An academy for sport in T&T is needed. From all that I have seen in T&T, football is not the only sport that suffers that fate. I think every other sport seems to have a problem when it comes to developing raw talent.

When you see individual brilliance, is because of one individual being able to sustain a certain programme over the course of the years and a lot was done from their financial commitment, preferably from their parents. What you are seeing in T&T is, the ones that have gone through the cracks are the ones that (are) not able to sustain…and I think we can do better, especially for a country so rich, financially,” he said.

Sancho said, “I don’t point the finger so much at the Government. I point more at the private sector. I think they need to do a lot more to invest in our kids and invest in the development of our community, because what you are seeing is young kids that have the ability, that have the talent, that have the drive…have the commitment.

We have to remember that we live in a day and age where they are easily swayed whether it’s the computer, etcetera and you can lose a kid in a split second and that is where we are falling short.”

He used this country’s approach to World Cup qualification to make his case and said for the Soca Warriors World Cup Russia 2018 campaign: “The national team needs to focus on consistency and we need to take a serious approach financially and even mentally. A lot of the things we do, we do for short term gains. We haven’t done anything with a lot of sustainability in it.

I think we need a national programme. Stephen Hart is doing a tremendous job now, but it will be travesty if that support that he’s getting now wanes after a year or two, if he gets poor results. I think we need to be consistent in building our programme.”

He added, “We’ve got to start building from the ground up in T&T. We need to start unearthing more talent, giving more grass-root programmes so we could unearth these talents and develop the talents that we have.

And also, go overseas looking for footballers who have T&T percentage that we could incorporate in the national team. I don’t think it’s a case of going with a bunch of young players. I think it’s a systematic way of slowly waning out some of the older players, keeping them around so they can give the ones that are coming in the experience.”

While the ex-footballer might be a parent of recent vintage, he is fully aware of the dividends to be earned when parents and guardians invest in children–not just dropping them off to training sessions, but staying on to support them.

In countries where athletes showed star quality from early, he said, it was a direct link to the involvement of both parents, when possible, even if they are separated.

“What you see in T&T is not that. You see kids showing up by themselves or with friends. You are not seeing that support. That same parental support that American kids get, they also get it financially from their parents. They invest in their kids. They invest in their kids’ future. Clearly in this country we don’t see it, we see that lack of investment in that child’s future. You see it as a result of the social ills now in T&T,” Sancho said.

“Even though we have lapsed in terms of the parental support in T&T, we can compensate by giving the correct financial support. I think an academy is a must in T&T, where we can bring kids in, house them…the ones that don’t have the parental support where they can be nurtured.”