Today the Soca Warriors Online (SWO) would like to highlight the FIFA Goal-Project National Training Centre that is scheduled to begin construction soon and is estimated to be completed in 2015.
The Centre will be built in South Trinidad in the city of Marabella next to the Manny Ramjohn Stadium. FIFA Development officers Gregory Englebrecht and Howard McIntosh visited the site and came away impressed.
McIntosh, who is in charge of development for the South Eastern Caribbean also spoke positively about the Trinidad and Tobago Government’s support for local football and the positive impact that cooperation with the Ministry could have on the local game.
"Now we look forward to seeing that the stakeholders and other partners and everyone in the football family coming together for football in Trinidad and Tobago to rise to the top again,” McIntosh told the TTFA media.
T&T head coach Stephen Hart also chimed in: "I think it’s fantastic. For a country like Trinidad and Tobago who hosted two FIFA youth world cups to not have a home for its national teams is unacceptable."
"This move shows ambition. Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, USA, Mexico and Panama all have homes for their national teams."
"As far as the location goes, I don't see a problem, I have not really given it any thought, honestly though, once you have accommodation, does it really matter?
"I just hope that we show continuity when it becomes a reality. It’s great to invest in the development of players and the game, ended Hart."
The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) meantime, has been busy trying to continue with business as usual operating at a deficit. The Association just got done conducting a FIFA Course on Management and Administration, and began another on refereeing a few days ago. The TTFA is also playing host to the CFU Senior Women's Tournament which is currently in progress with T&T securing a birth in the finals for the first time in 13-year, they will play rivals Jamaica for the trophy. The team spent a few weeks before the tournament in Houston, Texas, on a training camp preparing for battle.
The Women senior team is also benefitting from having an official team doctor, Tonya Welch, a first for the current team.
In-addition, the women’s U-15 team finished third at the 2014 CONCACAF Under-15 Girls Championship, while the senior men's team is gearing up for upcoming competitions and friendlies, with the U-17 and U-20 men's team also being in action.
The U-17s has already booked their place in the final round of qualification after defeating host St Lucia 3-2 to top their group and claim their rightful place in next month's second round phase scheduled to take place in Haiti.
It has to be acknowledged that for all of the adversity and scarce resources, a lot is being done by the TTFA. Talks are being held with the Ministry of Sports (MoS) and a development programme is in the works. While nothing yet has materialized and sponsorship looks dim, the TTFA is still hoping something positive will work out for them soon so they can finally get off the ground.
Back to the Training Centre however, this said to be the first of its kind and promised to be one of the best Training facilities in the Caribbean. The TTFA have been allocated a sum of US$500,000 by FIFA and work for the Centre is set to begin shortly.
There have been questions however, pertaining to the Centre that many SWO members have been curious to have answered and General Secretary Sheldon Phillips, in what is becoming a recurring event by the TTFA, was happy to oblige and give some feedback, while at the same time shedding some light on the new Centre.
Though, hesitant at first because of a hectic stretch of his schedule, Phillips was kind enough in the end to take some the time to respond.
1. Kudos to the TTFA for successfully acquiring the funds for a new National Football Training Centre. However, what is the current status of the Center of Excellence (CoE)? is CONCACAF still suing to get it back? And wouldn't that have been the ideal location and the better option, with the approved FIFA US$500,000 funding going towards something else?
SP: Thanks, once completed, this Centre will become the launching pad of the next golden generation of footballers as it will enable the TTFA to have its players and coaches in an environment completely immersed in football.
The Centre of Excellence (Marvin Lee Stadium) is currently privately operated and the TTFA has no involvement or access to that facility accept in the form of Super League matches where league side, Joe Public, calls the Marvin Lee Stadium home.
From what we understand, CONCACAF is still mulling its options and we have not heard of any firm action taking place.
What we do know is that a training centre for the TTFA and its national teams is sorely needed and instead of waiting for a resolution or a change in status with the COE which may never materialize, we had [to] make plans to forge ahead with our own GOAL-Project and that is why we enlisted the assistance of FIFA and SPORTT to facilitate the building this new training centre.
2. Has anyone thought outside of the box a little - like sports tourism - Austria seems to be big on that in Europe. With a decent training facility that can be leased to foreign clubs looking for a training camp, etc. If the new training centre has top class facilities it could be more self-sufficient and we would not have to continue relying on outside sources for funding.
SP: One of the reasons we included a dormitory facility at the new centre is to fulfill what you described. As more facilities are being built along the Uriah Butler corridor, the infrastructure will be there to properly present T&T as a viable option for youth and senior teams to come for training camps and tournaments. Furthermore, we can also house other NSOs and guests to create another revenue stream for the FA.
3. Why did the TTFA choose Marabella as its location for the Centre? And will the TTFA head office be based there?
SP: The administration office will not be located at the Centre. The facility is planned strictly for the technical staff. Marbella was a site we liked and the Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SPoRTT) highly recommended it for a number of reasons, namely because of the area's high degree of support for football. Every time a match is played at Manny Ramjohn you can expect a good crowd of knowledgeable football supporters. More important the location is off the highway, in a populated area, next to one of the major stadiums and is on level ground with access to existing infrastructure. FIFA believes, when completed it will be the best GOAL-Project in the Western Hemisphere.
4. Can you also tell us in more detail about the Centre? For example, will we see a swimming pool, a cycling and running track, resting/housing rooms, medical office, a Futsal court, small media tower, basketball court, a gym, etc? Remember, it does not have to be big, just options for modern day athletes and media. I know US500,000 isn't that much for the amount we are asking for, however, in my humble opinion, if you are going to do something you might as well do a good job at it. I am sure many will support the idea and come onboard once the blueprint is done and a good proposal is put forth.
SP: We actually have a commitment for three phases with the first phase being $500,000. Once we successfully complete that phase, artificial pitch, bleachers, and lights, the other phases will be approved. No pool or track, strictly football. Though a pool provides good rehabilitative and fitness opportunities, we don't have it in the current plans. There will be two artificial pitches, two natural grass pitches, beach soccer pit, and a Futsal pavilion along with the dormitory. We will also have a set of mini-pitches for the community.
5. Who will be constructing the Centre? We all know about the poor the drainage among other flaws, which continue to affect the four stadia that were built to host the 2001 FIFA Under-17 World Cup. Also, when is the Centre expected to be complete?
SP: FIFA is guiding the tendering process right now. We expect the fields to be done by April 2015.
6. Another option, in your opinion, why didn't the TTFA try to purchase one of the four stadia that were built for the Under 17 Cup and just renovate it accordingly? These stadia are being neglected, and being that they are state-owned, that should in theory make them easier to acquire.
SP: That would be cost prohibitive and wasn't of interest to any of the parties.
7. What about Tobago, we seem to always forget them, how will they benefit from all of this? We got a FIFA loan for Trinidad and Tobago.
SP: Tobago is not forgotten and the president (Raymond Tim Kee) is very clear about Tobago always being part of FA plans. We are discussing locations for mini-pitches and other facilities with DECAS officials. Tobago will not be left out, that I can guarantee.
8. What will the name of the Centre be? For example, Dennis Lawrence’s goal got us to our first ever World Cup, maybe the Dennis Lawrence Training Centre? And the smaller fields after Akeem Adams and Stern John?
SP: Naming rights opportunities should be pursued. Such a licensed right should be rarely passed up. We can certainly look at commemorating our past players but this has to be done wisely.
9. Will some of that money allocated be available for a National team bus, a luxurious one, to accommodate T&T national teams and possibly foreign clubs/teams who may visit. Again, we need to move ahead and IMO we can't be spending money to build more or less the same thing we currently have. We have to do it the right way and for the future.
SP: Well, we don't have a training facility and that is what the funds are earmarked for. As you mentioned, $500,000 would only cover so much. The transport issue is being looked at because all of our youth teams face transportation challenges that impact our ability to have everyone participate on a regular basis. We are working out an arrangement with Toyota to get a 26 passenger cruiser.
10. Lastly, will the Centre be easy accessible… on foot, or by car or bus?
SP: Yes, it's right off the highway and located next to Manny Ramjohn Stadium. We will work with SPoRTT and local authorities on directional signage and any public safety issues that may emerge as far as security goes.
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