The Soca Warriors Online (SWO) would like to welcome our readers to an exclusive interview with Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) Technical Adviser Mr. Keith Look Loy.
Read his views on the past, future and current state of football in Trinidad and Tobago.
Below are the responses to 22 questions Keith Look Loy was asked:
1. Now you are the current President of FC Santa Rosa and in April 2010 it was stated in a Newsday edition that FC Santa Rosa is going global. It further states that "This is being done through popular football website (simplyfutbol.com) which conducts the promotion of Latin American football. Such a promotion will allow the club to not only highlight the positives of the club as well as that of local football, but will also create an avenue where players can earn trials and contracts with clubs in Latin America and eventually the wider football community internationally". My question to you is, did anything ever materialized from this? Furthermore, what are your future plans for the club as it was once mentioned that you would considered playing in the T&T Pro League.
KLL: FC Santa Rosa was founded on 19 September 1992 as Santa Rosa Soccer School. I created it on the suggestion of my wife in order to ensure my two young sons (10 and 5 at the time) had a proper environment within which to learn the game. We began with 21 Arima boys - sons of neighbours and friends mainly - and have continued to grow since that time. Over the course of the 19 years of our existence Santa Rosa Soccer School "morphed" into 1st FC Santa Rosa (2000) and further into FC Santa Rosa (2011).
We remain in philosophy and practice an Arima club for Arima people. We have seen many of our members enter and graduate from tertiary education both in Trinidad and Tobago and in the United States. Our members have won many InterCols over the years and we have also seen members graduate into the ranks of international and professional football. The captain of the current national Under 17 team, Duane Muckette, is a member of the club's Under 17 team.
He joined us at age six. The scorer of Trinidad and Tobago's equalizing goal against the host team at the 2009 FIFA Under 20 World Cup in Egypt, Jean Luc Rochford, joined us at age five, and represented the club through age group football before joining Joe Public FC. he is now back on our books and on loan to Caledonia AIA. We are seeking an international contract for him. In December 2010 we hosted a series of trial matches for Sporting Kansas City (SKC) of Major League Soccer. That MLS club retains an interest in signing two players seen at those trial matches but we have not been able to agree on an appropriate deal. Other professional clubs in the USA and Europe have expressed an interest in contracting young Muckette but the club and the family have agreed a career path for him that will require them to wait a few more years before anything materializes.
He is, after all, fifteen years old. The point of all of this is that the club is producing players of quality. We currently campaign in the TTFF Super League youth competition and have been champions at different levels during each of its three years of existence. We have applied for entry into the TT Pro League. We are awaiting the final disposition of our application by the league's board of directors.
2. For a football club to survive obliviously it has to be run like a business and sometimes they have to sell some of their best players to make ends meet. Daneil Cyrus comes to mind, he was a standout for Mason Hall and El Dorado Secondary in the SSFL and both the U-17 and U-20 respectively as well. In the later part of his U-20 career and early part of his senior team exploits he joined FC Santa Rosa. Now, I am assuming he was not connected to a professional club prior to Santa Rosa, despite reports saying he was a Stokley Vale player at a tender age. My question to you is; Cyrus was recently offered a contract with MLS club Sporting Kansas City and it was turned down for the mere fact that the club was not willing to pay a transfer fee for the player. If this is true do you think you acted in the player’s best interest and do you feel this could come back one day and haunt the player? Wasn't there a way to negotiate a deal more reasonable so all parties involved could benefit?
KLL: Daneil Cyrus is an international player, with two FIFA World Cups under his belt. He is also a member of the Trinidad and Tobago senior men's national team at the age of 22. There is no way any club, in any part of the world, in any league, would allow a richer club, from a stronger league, to have that player on a free transfer. Let me state very clearly that Cyrus was fully in agreement with the decision to decline the SKC contract offer as the personal terms offered him were also not satisfactory. Since that time, SKC have sought to return to the negotiating table and we hope to do the business within the immediate future. it all depends on SKC.
3. Apart from Jevaughn Vance, Isaiah Mejias, Theon James and Duane Muckette, who are some of the top players at Santa Rosa? Do you feel these players should be playing at a higher level if they are to be more marketable?
KLL: Mejias and James are not part of Santa Rosa. Our best hopes for the future are to be found in our younger age groups. Aaron Auguste (Super League Under 15 Golden Boot 2010), Xae-Pierre de Fou (Super League MVP 2010), John Paul Rochford, Romario Williams and Isaiah Lee (all Under 13), are examples of young players with real potential for international and professional football coming through the Santa Rosa ranks. In our men's team, which averages 21 years of age, we have Jasimar Ashers, Jean Paul Aqui and Ethan Robinson (who have all won titles with the club) and new signing Hayden de Verteuil. These are young players aged between 18 and 21 who are progressing well.
4. What titles do you currently hold at the TTFF? If I remember clearly you were sometimes referred to in the local press as the Technical Committee Chairman, Technical Advisor, Fifa Technical Committee member and most recently Technical Director. Do you feel one man could handle all these positions successfully and how did you obtain these titles? Was there some voting process?
KLL: I am the TTFF's technical adviser and chairman of the Technical Committee. I am also a member of FIFA's Football Committee. I multi-task well. Time management is never an issue for me. I have been involved in national football since I was 15, starting, naturally, as a player. I have been a coach for 25 years - at SSFL, club and international level. I have won titles with Malick Comprehensive, Joe Public FC, and of course, Santa Rosa. My professional qualifications include certification from the Brasilian Football Academy, the El Salvador Coaches Federation, the NSCAA (United States soccer coaches association), the English FA and UEFA. I have served on the Technical Study Group of CONCACAF and FIFA tournaments. I also serve as an instructor in FIFA courses. Between 2000 and 2005, as FIFA Development Officer, I was responsible for FIFA’s development programme in Central America and the Caribbean. I think I have a little experience in technical matters.
5. Now that Jack Warner seems to have distance himself from T&T football, it seems you are the man turning the wheels at the TTFF. What are your main short term and long term plans for T&T football from an overall perspective.
KLL: I don't know that Jack Warner has "distanced" himself from local football, nor am I "the man turning the wheels". I have responsibility for technical matters. In that regard, there are several priorities that we have been successfully addressing: A) Coach education - in 2011 we have instituted a programme of coaching courses, under the umbrella of the TTFF Academy and with the support of the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB). This includes the training of a panel of local instructors who implement the programme. We began with our C licence and will introduce the B licence in 2012; B) Player development - we have established a network of player development centres across the country (one in each regional association), which includes Under 13, Under 15 and Under 17 players. These centres are properly staffed and equipped, and a standardized syllabus is applied by technical staff across the country. We have also made significant progress in the women's programme.
For the first time we have an ongoing Under 13 and Under 15 player development programme for girls, which supports the ongoing national teams' programme (Under 17, Under 20 and senior). C) Youth competitions - we have created a national youth league (TTFF Super League referred to above), which in 2011 has entered its third season of competition. This league supports clubs financially and provides some equipment as well. In 2011 we intend to introduce a national competition for the various age group champions of the six regional associations. This will provide an additional layer of national competition for young players, soecifically, those not invloved in the Super League. The idea is, therefore, immediately and over the medium to long term, to provide competitions for young players, where talent could be spotted; to select that talent into a structured player development programme that supports national teams; and to ensure that talent is provided coaches who are well educated and professional.
6. Otto Pfister is now the new head coach for T&T and is being paid top dollars while other parts of our football is suffering. Do you think that this money could have been better utilized? Now don't get me wrong, we need a top coach, however what’s the sense of having a top coach who doesn't have the tools to carry out his duties as he needs to; as money and sometimes politics prevent measures to be met in order to be successful.
KLL: If you want success you must invest. We are making investments for future returns, as described above, but we also live in the real world of international competition and World Cup qualification with its immediate demands. In this regard, Trinidad and Tobago has experienced the ultimate success of qualifying for a world tournament on four occasions - Portugal 1991 (Under 20), Germany 2006, South Korea 2007(Under 17), and Egypt 2009 (Under 20). Local and foreign coaches share the credit for these achievements equally - Bertille St. Clair, Leo Beenhakker, Anton Corneal and Zoran Vranes, respectively.
We understand this, and the role that long term investment has played in securing these qualifications, but in the immediate context we cannot have it both ways. We either want to ensure that we have a Brasil 2014 qualification project that has a real chance of success (and which begins in September 2011), requiring as it does a well-experienced foreign coach and the use of as many fully professional players as we could provide him - or we want to invest in a development project under the tutelage of a local head coach. Opting for the former, therefore, I was asked to provide the TTFF with a coach, which I have done. The decision was taken to contract Pfister’s services and his resume cannot be challenged. He is an Under 20 World Cup winner, he has been to the senior World Cup several times, he has coached some of the biggest names in world football, and experienced success on several continents. Now we have to give him the tools to work with and, yes, this is the challenge facing the TTFF.
7.In my view, former Technical Director Mr. Lincoln Phillips did a great job in his role as Technical Director, even with the limited resources he had to work with. He has tons of experience and good knowledge of the game as well and was paid by the government and not the TTFF. Why did the TTFF refused to renew his contract and what is your view on LP as Technical Director, in other words, were you happy with his performance?
KLL: I cannot comment on the contractual and financial relationship between Lincoln Phillips and the TTFF. My role is technical and I am not involved in contractual and financial matters. I will say this: I have known Lincoln since I was 18 years old. He offered me a scholarship to Howard University when I was captain of Trinidad and Tobago’s Under 19 national team and I readily accepted it. I completed two degrees at Howard University, which remains close to my heart, and I am the man I am today as a consequence of my accepting this scholarship. I owe Lincoln for that. I will also say, however, that my TTFF responsibilities have expanded over the last two years, or so, as a result of a tremendous void in the technical sphere.
8. What is the criteria for holding a coaching position in Trinidad & Tobago? We’ve seen that the hiring of Russell Latapy and his assistant Ross Russell was a complete failure, though it may not have been Russell’s fault all entirely. Now we see Anton Corneal, Jefferson George and Hutson Charles as Pfister's assistants. Shouldn't these men (including Latapy) start at Junior level and work their way up the ladder instead of throwing them into the hot seat; or maybe start out coaching a local club and then fit them into a senior team role according to their success? Having local coaches work alongside an experienced international coach is important, but choosing the local coaches is another story. Lincoln Phillips, Terry Fenwick and Everald Cummings may have been better choices. W Connection's Stuart Charles comes to mind as well.
KLL: TTFF national team coaches are selected on the basis of two objective criteria, 1) professional formation and certification, and 2) record of achievement. There is also a subjective criterion that is best articulated in the form of a question: Will this person be a cultural, and personality fit? Anton Corneal and Hutson Charles could hardly be described as inexperienced. Both hold coaching certificates from the English FA and KNVB. Anton holds a diploma from the German Sports School. Anton has qualified a national team for a world tournament (2007 Under 17). Hutson was his assistant.
They both also have been to the Under 20 world tournament (2009). Anton also went to Germany 2006 as an assistant to Beenhakker. With due respect, no other coach in Trinidad and Tobago can declare such a combination of assets and experience. All of that said. Jefferson George is the future of goalkeeper coaching in this country. He has international experience, has been trained by the KNVB and is bright and ambitious - two qualities that I look for in young people. I assure you I have absolutely no interest in seeking the assistance of foreign coaches ad infinitum. It was necessary to attach young coaches of potential to Pfister as an investment in the future – and this is what he wanted. Indeed, he has repeatedly assured me of his complete satisfaction with his staff. In conjunction with the appointment of young local coaches to our junior national teams, these senior team appointments will allow us to stand our own feet in the future.
9. Our youth teams have been doing relatively poor in the past 5 sets of qualifiers. Speaking of which, do you think that Zoran Vranes is past his best or does he needs more support?
KLL: I dispute that assessment. In the past five years we have played in three youth world tournaments: South Korea (2007), Egypt (2009), and Trinidad and Tobago (2010). Forgive me, but we usually talk as if it is accepted that Trinidad and Tobago is a world power. The bald truth is that we are not even a consistent CONCACAF power. In global terms, we have the population, player pool and resources, of a small city. We lack a developed football culture – even in comparison to Central America. No-one cares to make a meaningful investment in football – certainly not the private sector. But we expect success every time we take the field. That is guaranteed to no-one. Ask Jamaica, Honduras, and Canada – and lately even Costa Rica, and the USA, which failed to qualify for Colombia 2011 (Under 20). I won’t name others further afield.
Zoran Vranes was good enough two years ago (in 2009). His team lost to Italy 2:1 and drew with Paraguay 0:0. He didn’t suddenly move “past his best”. There was nothing in that team’s preparation that would have led anyone to believe they would crash and burn in Guatemala. Remember, they spent almost four weeks on tour in Colombia and Honduras prior to arriving at the tournament venue. They won several matches on this trip. But there is no guarantee for success and this time around it didn’t work. Frankly, the fact is that his players, most of them, never lived up to their billing. In the wake of the disaster, team captain, Sheldon Bateau, honestly stated that the team “never performed”. As is the way of football, however, Vranes has paid the price of failure and he has been replaced by Angus Eve.
10. One of the members on the SWO was quoted as saying: "T&T have had no games this year and the first looks like it’s going to be in August, so we're kind of 8 months behind in preparation for 2014. Let’s not worry at this point about blame. Let’s draw a line and move forward."
"The Pro League teams will soon begin preseason, so why not organize 4 or 5 matches against them? Pfister will have a double advantage as he can see the locals play the locals. Sometimes a guy will perform much better for his team than in the national set up for various reasons including familiarity with teammates and his club coach knowing his strengths and weaknesses intimately. At least this will aid team building and Pfister will get to see a lot of players." What are your thoughts regarding these comments.
KLL: It is always useful to play international matches. It was not possible to do so in early June as we could not find an opponent that met Pfister’s approval at such short notice. We are seeking an appropriate opponent for 10 August. Moreover, the coach has indicated that he is not in the business of playing “improvised” matches – against Barbados, pro league teams, etc – at a moment’s notice. He intends to turn out his very best team against the very best opponent available at any point in time. The screening of local players is well underway. Pfister has advised of his satisfaction with several of them, and he will continue looking at locals in their natural setting – in club training sessions. To those locals selected will be added the foreign based and the foreign-born.
11. For years now we continue to lose hundreds of decent players in the North American college system. We also continue to hear false promises like hosting training camps in the US and so on from the TTFF. While it might be expensive to bring players back to T&T, a camp in North America twice a year could be worthwhile. Can this become a reality so that tabs can be kept on our players who play in the US college system?
KLL: This is a much-discussed concept and we have done it with success in the women’s programme. It has to be applied on the men’s side, I agree. The issue, as ever, is funding. With adequate funding we could implement any number of good ideas but there are always priorities. That said, in recent years we have accommodated local trials for both male and female overseasbased and foreign-born players, and several have been included in national teams.
12. I propose that we have a 4 tier league structure in T&T and allow for a promotion and relegation system, ex. 1) T&T Pro League (Pro League), 2) National Super League (NSL), 3) T&T Elite Football League (EFL), 4) National Zonal League (NZL). There are too many small leagues that negatively affect the major leagues in T&T. It’s time to pool our resources and work together. Of course we may need the financial assistance of the T&T government to help promoted teams during their first year in the top flight. What are your thoughts on this?
KLL: Of course, there is already a relationship between the regional league and the TTFF Super League. The issue is to connect the TT Pro League to the rest of football and this is political. In early 2010, the TTFF hosted a seminar on Club Development and Administration, to which all regional associations, affiliated leagues and Super League clubs were invited to participate. This included the TT Pro League. The product of the four day activity was “The Port of Spain Declaration”, which included an analysis of the current football status quo and a call for certain measures to be adopted in order to move the game forward. One of the many critical measures identified is the creation of a four-tiered league, including “minor leagues” (division four), regional leagues (division three), Super League (division two) and TT Pro League (division one). The TT Pro League did not sign the document and has never delivered on its promise to “get back” to the TTFF on this matter.
13. In your opinion, what do you feel can be done to preserve and improve the SSFL in Trinidad and Tobago?
KLL: No serious football country gives the prominence to schools’ football that we do in Trinidad and Tobago. In a professional football environment schools football is a recreational, extra-curricular, activity and serious player development takes place within the clubs. To the contrary, in Trinidad and Tobago youth club competition ceases in July to allow the schools to play their three-month season which, including their pre-season, accounts for four months for the players in programmes of varying quality. Then comes the off-season and Carnival! I can just imagine Pep Guardiola saying to the young talent at La Masia (FC Barcelona’s training academy) in August – “Go ahead and play with your school. We will see you in March next year” (smile and possibly wave)… The Mexican team that just beat the stuffing out of our Under 20s in Guatemala (5:0) comprised first division professionals. We sent how many schoolboys? As long as we give pride of place to the SSFL – it is the country’s biggest and most popular league – and continue to avoid the hard political decision to promote club youth football ahead of schools’ football, we will continue to undermine the country’s ability to produce top level youth teams.
14. The majority of our current under 23 team has had two World Cups under their belts (U-17 in Korea & U-20 in Egypt), so we as fans are expecting nothing but continued success in the future. How are we preparing them for the upcoming Olympic and PanAmerican games ? Running around the Savannah is good exercise, but can this alone really help?
KLL: I don’t know to what you refer. This team was training twice weekly for months. With qualification for London 2012 to begin in July the frequency has been increased. The staff has long been requested, and has delivered, an international programme. The TTFF will attempt to satisfy the team’s requirements. Of course, Angus Eve is now the team’s head coach. He is supported by Clint Marcelle and Derek King – (investments in the future of local coaching). I recently saw them play and they look good.
15. We are 2 years behind any CONCACAF top footballing country in preparations for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Even smaller teams such as Guatemala, Haiti, El Salvador, Jamaica and the improving Panama are miles ahead of us. To my understanding, the "Road to Rio" starts in November of this year. Do you feel we are on course for Brazil and what do you think is needed to get us there?
KLL: I don’t know that we are “2 years behind”. Preparation is not measured only in months, and time (and effort) spent are no guarantee of success. Beenhakker inherited a disorganized and demoralized team and turned it around in a matter of weeks. Yes, he had access to a generation of players based in the English leagues. Pfister also has some of that, and we are seeking foreignborn players to supplement their talents. We could hardly argue with this approach. It has given us Chris Birchall.
16. As far as foreign imports go, why do we always look for a quick fix when we should try and spend the time, money and energy improving the local players. Don't get me wrong, we do have some very good foreign born players, but there is also some uncommitted ones like Bobby Zamora, Justin and Gavin Hoyte to name a few. If you remember clearly back in 2001 in a World Cup qualifier after T&T got drummed by Costa Rica in Costa Rica (3-0), Ian Cox suddenly disappeared. My question is, what sort of commitment we can expect from some of the foreign born players Mr Otto Pfister went searching for? I know having a deep pool of players is very important, but should we have a Plan B, or are we just going to sit and hope some of these players come and save the day for T&T?
KLL: That initiative is well underway. We have spoken to several such players, including the brothers Hoytes, Jlloyd Samuel, Tony Warner, Jake Thomson, Andre Boucaud, and other “possibles” to participate in June training, with an eye towards 10 August. Zamora, as ever, wishes to play for England, and I respect that.
17. Do you feel the Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs Mr. Anil Roberts is doing a good job for sports in T&T? It seems to the public that he is more involved in promoting concerts and parties.
KLL: I have no comment. I will not comment on political issues.
18. What are your proudest and worst moments in football?
KLL: To be fair, it’s a tie: 1) Leading the national Under 19 team (as it was called then) for the first time at the Queen’s Park Oval in August 1971, and 2) winning the NCAA Division One title with Howard University in 1974, under Lincoln Phillips. That was a great team, filled with West Indians and Africans. As the only Black University playing at that level, we believed we shouldered a tremendous responsibility to non-white people in what was a very hostile environment. We acquitted ourselves with pride. My worst moment was losing to Jamaica 0:1 at home in the Caribbean Championship of 1971. As captain, I felt as if I had betrayed my country and people. (We did go on to win the title, however).
19. Who are your favorite players (both internationally and locally)?
KLL: There are many local players I really admired, Leroy DeLeon (I am old enough to have seen him play, and even to have played a little with him in the USA), Dwight Yorke, Arnold Dwarika (of course, I coached him at Malick in 1990/1991 and he was so often unplayable, but he never really materialized his talent), being among them. My favourite, though, was Russell Latapy, the most creative and refined player we have ever produced. Actually, I once penned an article about him in a weekly column I used to write in the Sunday Mirror. Frankly, I have no particularly favourite foreign player. It all depends on the era.
20. I noticed that you've played for St. Mary's College in 1968 and played alongside some recognizable names as Russell Tesheira, Ian Bain and Hannibal Najjar to name a few. How was the experience playing ball with some top T&T players? Which T&T teams (youth or senior) have you played for and who do you feel could have made the national team in that era but didn't?
KLL: You don’t name Dr. Alvin Henderson, a natural goal scorer who represented Trinidad and Tobago while still a schoolboy – and scored. I also played with him at Howard University in 1972. He is today a member of the TTFF Technical Committee. Trevor Leiba, Luciano Woodley, Keston Nancoo, Anthony Jobes, others, come to mind. I did represent CIC at all levels and at InterCol level between 1968 and 1971. I was captain in 1970 and 1971. Those teams were laden with talent and I won trophies with the teams of ’70 and ’71. The player who should have become an international but never did, for one reason or another, was Neil Williams – a midfielder in the Latapy mould (even if he preceded the “Little Magician”). We played together at Howard University between 1973 and 1975.
21. After the 2006 World Cup, T&T should have been building on such success, but politics took its place and T&T declined to probably its worst in history. My question is, why can't the TTFF operate in a more professional and organized manner? Why can't the TTFF get its act together and eliminate the politics to prevent things like this from happening in the future.
KLL: That question is better posed to other persons. I am responsible for technical matters and I am convinced we are making progress. That said, I agree there is much to be done to improve the operations of the Federation.
22. Do you support a players’ union?
A workers’ representative body is essential in any area of economic life. I was the education officer of the teachers’ union (TTUTA) for four years during the 1980s. I understand the value of such an organization, which would go far beyond bread and butter issues- i.e. money. It must address professional development issues. A players’ organization must prove itself capable of making a serious contribution to the lives of its members and to the game to be taken seriously, however. Frankly, that is still to be seen with the local players’ body, which, to my knowledge, hardly exists.
Soca Warriors Online and the Warrior Nation would like to extend our gratitude to Keith Look Loy for taking the time to do this interview and we wish him all the best in his future endeavors.
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