Sun, Oct


Oiver CampsThe Soca Warriors Online (SWO) would like to welcome our readers to an exclusive interview with TTFF president Mr. Oliver Camps.

The SWO have been in existence for over a decade, and for the first time since its inception we have the privilege of interacting with T&T's longest ever serving president.

Though I have never met the man in person, Mr. Camps seems like a modest gentleman, humble and sincere, but for some reason I have the gut feeling from his expressions and responses in this video interview that the spark has blown out or the game has moved on and left him in the past grasping at straws.

Maybe at one time he probably carried the burning desire to lead T&T from the front office and to be honest, he did have some great success, but the past is the past and now we must focus on 2014 and beyond.

At the moment, T&T football is like a good marriage gone bad, mistrust, dishonesty, lost of passion, with misguided and insubordinate lovers for the game. If this broken relationship continues with all parties involved doing the same things or walking the same path of the failed past then how can we expect different?

With all due respect to him and his service to T&T, I believe that the time has come for Mr. Camps to finally hang up his jacket, dismantle his staff and reinstall a new board that will lead T&T back to its glory days. I also recommend that this revamped football administration should be self sustaining and should not wait for Mr. Austin Jack Warner to come in and wave his magic wand to try and put things back in order as he has enough on his plate with many roles to fulfill.

Should Mr. Camps decide to step down it would definitely be a noble act and would show that he really does have the country at heart. There's an old saying that people will most often remember the last thing they did in their career as opposed to the accomplishments achieved during the journey.

I’m not singling out or picking on Mr. Camps as it could be his supporting cast that's not functioning to some extent, but in my estimation there is a bad spoke in the wheel of the TTFF bicycle that needs straightening.

We need motivators, people with fresh ideas who are eager, honest and willing to work and cooperate with other associations. We also need lovers of the sport and country if we are to see any positive changes from the home front. Building a house starts with a strong foundation, something that is missing in today's T&T Federation.

But can it be fixed? I believe so!!

Below is a written transcription of a few questions Mr. Camps was asked in a video interview through the assistance of TTFF's media officer Shaun Fuentes. We are totally grateful for the time and effort made by both for participating in this interview and we hope that their continued service will bring about positive change to T&T football in the near future.

1. I would like to say Prosperous New Year to you and all of T&T's football entities. To start this off, every year we as fans go through the heartache of reflecting on T&T football and we can’t help but highlight the controversies that surrounds the teams, but we still hope and pray that God brings some changes for the better. Mr. Camps a new year is upon us and what we can look forward to as far as T&T football is concerned. Will we see a more experienced and knowledgeable coach leading T&T? Can you give us some brief insight into your intentions for T&T football in 2011?
OC: First of all let me make it very clear there is a lot of talk going around about changing this coach and do this and that. Let me stop it at once. We have a process and until that process it completed we are not going to be involved in saying anything about the national coach situation.

The technical committee has to report to us and all the different area managers have to send in a report to the executive committee. The executive committee will be taking some time in February to get together and determine where we go from here, so every day when you see in the newspapers that this coach is fired and somebody else will be put there this is not coming from the executive committee, and we have to wait on that executive committee’s decision first before anything is done. I cannot prevent some leaks… That is why I have to depend on the different committees we have to deal with the matter. Latapy will know the status of his position the right way and not learn about it in the newspapers.

If you look back at the TTFF during the course of my presidency we were able to host 2 World Cups and FIFA has been very satisfied with it. We have qualified junior teams and one senior team so it’s not a bad record.

Is just that it’s a little difficult to sustain and last year things were really down and we really needed people to come on-board to support and bring it back to where it was. When you really look at it we had a bad year, but before that we couldn't make any complaints about it as it was very good.

The junior team was doing very well, the women teams did very well, so we have to look at it from both angles and don't just look at the failure alone we also had success. During my term in office we have hosted 2 world cups successfully and qualified the juniors and senior men's team. I am proud of those accomplishments.

2. Mr. Camps, in August 2010 you said in an interview with the Trinidad Newsday that you would gladly step down as TTFF President should someone challenged you for the job. My question to you is, why is it that no one ever knows in advance when the TTFF election is held; so that such a challenge could be made by someone with no ties to the TTFF, like Raymond Tim Kee, Keith Look Loy, Edgar Vidale, Richard Braithwaite or Rudolph Thomas?
OC: That is how football operates and all the people in the football fraternity know when these elections are held. They are all notified so that all the people that are involved in developing and running of T&T football are fully aware so that there is no way anyone could think it’s a hidden thing… it is not. We don't publish it in the newspapers, but we notify every association and all the other organizations that are involved in football.

I am very proud to have been found to be competent enough to have served as the federation head for many years and I have made it very clear that if everyone else wanted to take my position they are free to do so once they have been nominated.

Unfortunately whoever wanted to take my position was not nominated for whatever reason and I was nominated again and I've been elected to serve for the next four years.  I am pleased to have accepted it and will continue to give my best as I've done in the past.

Also, I will not be able to interfere with too many things, but I am suppose to be involved in most of them. I would like to see our technical department beef up and we must concentrate on the youth development program that we had.

We also have to be very careful of our selection in the future …of coaches particularly, and I do not want to make any statement of who will be there for T&T at this time.

I operate as a team and we have an executive committee meeting coming up soon. That is where we will get reports from all various committees which will determine where we go and how we move forward, but basically as I said we need to concentrate on developing programs.

3. Why can't we all be on the same page in order to help improve T&T football for the better? For example, why are there always conflicts and misunderstandings when it comes to planning a proper calendar for T&T football (including the Pro League which also affects the support teams get)?
OC: Unfortunately we have too many people pulling and tugging as far as the running of football in the country is concerned and quite a number of them do things obviously to make confusion and we have been fighting with this for quite some time, but we have appointed committees to deal with these things.

Very often we find that the committees have not dealt with the particular situation and it causes a setback in our program and some people feel very happy that they can sit down and see us struggling instead of trying to make an input to make corrective measures.

This is what happens in football, not only in T&T, but all over the world where you find groups pulling and tugging. The federation has to continue its operation and this is what we have done, sometimes you have to go over it and sometimes you go under it but we definitely did not fight it like we should have.

4. As was posted on the SWO forum: Do you agree with some of these sentiments? “Our football is run by people from a past generation. Fresh thinking is needed. Players and supporters are stakeholders and should be given respect and a voice. I’m not saying the old boys have nothing to offer, but they should be led by someone with energy, fresh ideas and knowledge of the game in the 21st century. Don't waste time appointing coaches you won't last. A proper structure is needed to make way for success.”
OC: Certainly I agree 100%, we should have some more young people getting involved in the operations aspect of football and not only in playing football. This is lacking at the moment and we are trying to see whether we can groom some young people and I am sure that in this new period we are going to put a real effort into it and see if we can get some young blood in office.

5. To my knowledge since I've been following T&T football we have been inconsistent in the way we treat our players, plan our games and the way we handle our coaches. It seems that there is always a money issue, a quick fix to the team and schedule, and the firing of coaches, hence the reason for 13 different coaches passing through our system in 10-years. My question is, how can we continue to build a stable structure? It's like trying to build a house on sand, now I am not pointing fingers but merely asking why there are such poor organization, planning, accounting and communication.
OC: This is a factor and this is what we are going to do this time, I quite agree with you that all these stop gap measures are not good. We have to look for long-term program and this is what we are trying to do at the present time. The issue is to get the right young people involved. A lot of the younger ones may not want to make that kind of sacrifice and you may not know, but most of the officials, if not all work free gratis. Until there is some sourced funding that can take care of that we have to continue to do this because we have been unable to get from our government the kind of funding that is required to do this and sponsors are not easy to come by.

6. Shaun Fuentes asked, “If 99% of the burden is placed on Jack Warner …a man who wears many hats, do you think that the marketing team of the TTFF should be strengthen so that it could function more efficiently and depend less on Mr. Warner?
OC: Yes, this is what we plan, to try and develop a committee that will get sponsors onboard, because we cannot depend on the income from the football matches itself as that alone is not going to work. We've seen it, we've tried it and it cannot support the teams and staff.

Furthermore, we are trying to change our public image and develop trust from sponsors, but of course the public is looking at it in one way and once they see the same administration still in power, they are going to say it’s the same thing continuing. But I'll tell you something, if some of us (in the TTFF) walk away you will find a very, very, different story to write about today.

7. I remember back in 2005 Technical Director Lincoln Phillips planned a successful training camp for players based in North America, but since then we haven't had any. Will we see anymore camps like this emerge in the near future? Bear in mind we have over 100 players based in North America and I know they all may not be the next Dwight Yorke or Russell Latapy, but I am sure in a pool of 100, getting three or four top players to add to our senior team will be deemed successful.
A: Not asked.

8. On the lighter side, T&T seemed to be having success at the under 17 and under 20 levels recently and I would like to personally congratulate you and your Federation for such achievements.  How can we continue to build on such experiences? Our under 20 team that went to Egypt and South Korea (two World Cups) should have been graduated to senior players today, what's next for them and how can we build on their success?
OC: We have done a very good job in the youth developing program and we should continue doing so.

9. We have no Gold Cup to look forward to next year. Top teams don't favor playing us in friendlies and there aren’t many tournaments we can participate in either. What's in store for us as far as playing games in 2011 goes? And will the fans know in advance (without changing the schedule) so we can come out and fully support the team?
OC: Question not answered.

10. Mr Camps, what was the experience like in Germany 2006? What did you love about it the most, give us your view?
OC: I cannot tell you how happy I was, it was a great feeling and I felt on-top of the world for T&T and more so that we held our own in the tournament.

We did not look bad and we came out looking good, I felt very proud as the president (of the TTFF) and as a Trinibagonian. This is where I am hoping to get back to and all of our officials must try and focus on getting back to that level as well.

11. I heard you played football for Harvard FC. Can you tell us about your time as a footballer, like did you play for your school, other clubs apart from Harvard, and what position did you play while on the field? Can you also tell us how you became president of T&T Football Federation and in what year? Who persuaded you to run for this post and was it what you expected?
OC: It wasn't a love for football, it was a love for sports, I loved playing sport in general, I played in the Secondary’s and in the Colts League and I enjoy my stay at St Mary’s (College) playing my football too.

When I left there I played for Dodges and as I said I liked sport so I didn't concentrate on any particular position, so if they needed a keeper I would get in the goal.

But my favorite position was center half, right and left also. Following my time at Dodges however, I went to Harvard after they saw me play in the Northern League and I played very well and they liked what they saw in me and asked me to join them.

Before that I was at Woodbrook Center where I played cricket, football, lawn tennis, table tennis and even basketball, I enjoyed playing sport, not necessarily for the win, but I just loved to play. In football I started in midfield, but I ended up playing goalkeeper in my later years.

As for my presidency, it started off at a cycling club I formed called Whiz Wheelers and I was the Secretary of the club as well. That is where I learnt to do club work in the administration department and there is where I met the people from Harvard and they asked me to join them. But before Harvard I joined Queens Park, and played cricket for their junior team and then finally I decided to join Harvard.

The presidency came when Harvard wanted to train a junior person for management purposes and I was selected to be on the management committee and I developed into a good management person and eventually after some years I became Secretary and then I was asked to represent the club and the TTFF (then it was known as the TTFA) and I was sent there as a representative for the club and at the TTFA and then that is where I became involved in the management aspect.

I was also manager of one of the Port of Spain Football League teams and from there on I graduated in managing the national football team and was the manager of the team that went to Haiti in 1973. Ever since then I stayed on to be T&T’s longest serving manger to date.

12. Who are your favorite T&T players of all times?
OC: Some of the best players I ever saw were in Haiti with the T&T team. They were Gally Cummings, Steve David, Selris Figaro, but I really don't want to call names as I might leave out a few good ones that I can’t remember off hand.

That entire 1973 team was excellent. Winston Phillips had a throw that was impossible for teams to defend. It was like taking corner kicks. The experience in Haiti was nice, I was like a father to that team, I was so involved in trying to get the guys back to normal after the lost.

In 1989, we were to blame because we lost, but in Haiti it was different as we should have won the match, but we weren’t allowed to do so. In 1989 it was a different feeling. If I could have gone back to year, there were so many things that happened that I would have done differently. Some decisions were not right, but I really don't want to say what or who was wrong, it was a combination of things.

My favorite T&T player was, well I love my local players, there are a few of them, but Steve David was really good, Gally, etc… but from the more newer generation of players I like Latapy, he was great, he was not easy to manage (laugh), but he was great on the field. There were so many great players, but I really don't want to pick out anyone in particular because I don't want to offend anyone.

13. Will we continue to build on the success of our under 17 women’s team and will coach Even Pellerud be kept on as coach and TD of the entire women’s program? I personally believe our women’s team needs a better coach as Jamal Shabaaz has not been able to take them up the next level and we are tired of the same excuses for over a decade since his appointment.
OC: When I became president, after the first term I made a pledge that will ensure that women’s football be develop to the highest level. And during the years that went by I wanted to ensure that we had a coaches association as well. Those were the two things I must accomplish and see happen before I leave office.

Women’s football(in T&T) has grown and I am proud of that today and I am seeing some good signs of the coaches association coming to past and I will continue to develop the youth programs in T&T.

14. We as fans would love to buy T&T football merchandise online and support the team, such as bandannas, supporters shirts, flags, tickets, etc. Will we ever see an official online store soon especially for the foreign based supporters?
OC: We need to focus of merchandising. We have a good brand name in 'Soca Warriors' and I am going to make sure it’s in place to have Soca Warrior products and memorabilia available. We definitely need to develop our marketing skills and so on.

15. Finally, in your humble opinion, what measures do you think need to be put in place for us to return to a world cup? Do you feel T&T qualifying for Brazil 2014 will become a reality?
OC: To qualifying for Brazil, the first thing we need is a better arrangement from the government.  We cannot get away from it, we need funding to do anything that we want to do as far as football goes.

The income from football itself is not enough to develop all the areas we want. We have to beef up our administration; the game needs finances, because we have to pay people to do their jobs. In the past we have been getting people to offer their services. We have to be able to pay people to get these things done now.

We also have to develop our marketing areas to get sponsors to come onboard and of course get the assistance of the government, FIFA and CONCACAF. I feel certain we will get this done soon.

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Oliver Camps Part 1

Oliver Camps Part 2