Sat, May

STILL GOT IT: Russell Latapy, otherwise known as the “Little Magician” manipulates the ball while explaining fundamentals of the game for the young players of the Queen’s Park Cricket Club. The former Soca Warriors captain partnered with ex-national custodian Clayton Ince and ex-Liverpool player Stan Collymore in the Flow Legends Outreach Programme Football Clinic at the St Mary’s Grounds, Serpentine Road, yesterday. —Photo: Stephen Doobay

The job that keeps on giving.

Russell Latapy, no doubt he was a T&T football legend on the field. Capable of ripping through any defences on his day for both club and country. He was the smallest player on the field with the biggest boot and a football IQ that would win over any pundit.

His vision was like no other and could thread a pass through the eyes of a needle. The player was so good he inherited the name "the little magician" an alias he rightfully lived up too in his playing days. However, some still prefer to use the name "Latas".

Now that he has hanged up his boot for the badge, the diminutive maestro is once more weaving his magic, this time he seemed to have found an admirer on the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) administration board. For your information, Latapy's brother Justin Latapy-George is also employed by the TTFA as General Secretary. A sporting association that's being run like a family business.

Russell, despite not being able to foster his magic and experience with both the Under-17 and Under-15 Men's National teams, seem to have found a new home in T&T football once more and is enjoying his role without agonise.

Former T&T senior team head coach Stephen Hart didn't find such luxury and was sent packing after just 15 games under the current administration. Current T&T senior team head coach Dennis Lawrence is already up to 10 games since replacing Hart with 2 wins, 1 draw, 7 losses and a failed 2018 World Cup campaign to get to Russia, he too is still at large.

While Carolina Morace and her staff were given a more austere lesson. The Italian and her staff had to walk out after a few months in charge of T&T women's team programme and two international friendly games because of non-payment.

Meanwhile, history always find a way to repeat itself. In 2009 Latapy had a brief stint as interim-head coach/player of T&T's senior team, replacing Colombian Francisco Maturana before becoming a permanent fixture a year later.

The former T&T player refused any friendly games after being offered by then TTFF advisor Jack Warner in preparations for T&T's 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying game against Costa Rica (The Tricolor). Instead he wanted to just train the players and get them fit and ready for the Central Americans.

T&T did manage to score 2-goals but ran out of breath letting the Costa Ricans breeze pass them 3-2 as T&T lungs had collapsed after minute 65. The Tricolor took every advantage and trampled over them at the Dwight Yorke Stadium. Current senior team head coach Dennis Lawrence was on the field that day.

Latapy, was given the position of being permanent head coach in 2010 and continued where he left off. He had some relatively decent games in-charge but bowed out as head coach just after one year.

The straw that broke the camel's back was being eliminated from the 2010 Digicel Cup in the group stage in a 1-0 loss to rank underdogs Grenada. The resulted meant T&T were also eliminated from the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup which obviously did not go down well with his employers. 

Today, the pattern continues. Russell Latapy took charge of the T&T Under-17 Men's team back in August 2016 and has had little to brag about. He was given the responsibility to lead his team through the Caribbean Football Union Final round of qualification in route to the FIFA Under 17 World Cup finals in India.

A month on the job, Latapy refused any friendly games from the TTFA and wanted to just train his new team. Heading into an all important Caribbean Football Union (CFU) U-17 Men’s Qualifiers at home without a single international friendly.

His team got its first tutorial when the Haitians blew them down 2-0 in the tournament's opener. They did got a lifeline with a come from behind 3-2 victory over Bermuda next.

But then Jamaica appeared, the twin island-republic was sent packing out of the tournament as they fell 3-2 to the young Reggae Boys and their 2017 World Cup dreams were put to bed. It was the first time in Trinidad and Tobago’s history an Under-17 Men's team had failed to get among the Caribbean’s top five countries.

Let it be noted that Latapy did have very little time and no one could really have expected much in just a couple of months.

For his troubles, Latapy was quickly given another assignment, and in April 2017 he took charge of T&T's Under 15 Men's team. Again, with an eyesight to qualify for the 2019 FIFA Under 15 Men’s World Cup.

Latapy were a bit fortunate this time around. He had more time to prepare his team and were given more preparatory games than his previous charge.

His first game where against a Republic Bank Invitational XI on April 15th, 2017, at the Ato Boldon Stadium to marked the opening of the 2017 Republic Bank-sponsored National Youth League. Latapy's men strode to an entertaining 3-1 win against the Republic Bank Invitational XI all-stars.

Two months later, in May, they pulled off a surprising 2-2 tie to Manchester City in the 2017 Cayman Airways U-15 Invitational Youth Football Cup opener. A tournament which Manchester City had won the previous year.

They then suffered a 3-1 defeat to a Houston Dynamo Academy team, drew DC United 1-1 before closing off the tournament with an emphatic 6-0 victory over the Cayman Islands National U-15.

Three months later, in August, the U-15s flew off to Florida to participate in the CONCACAF 2017 Under-15 Championship in Florida.

Before the tournament started, T&T came up against the Tampa Bay United U-17 team in a friendly match in which they drew 1-1.

But then the chips started falling as Latapy's men got a sound beating when they fell 4-0 to Costa Rica in the tournament opener. They then got hammered 6-0 by the United States. A further 3-0 loss to Canada and if that wasn't enough, a whopping 8-1 pounding by Jamaica to finish last in CONCACAF tournament.

Like Latapy's Under 17 team, Jamaica again proved to be a menace and now the U-15 team could very well kiss their 2019 FIFA Under 15 Men’s World Cup dreams goodbye.

Lets see what the TTFA would conjure up next for the little magician.

Rounding up Latapy stats as youth coach.

T&T's Under-17s

T&T 0 v Haiti 2
T&T 3 v Bermuda 2
T&T 2 v Jamaica 3

P  W  D  L  G  A  Dif
3  1  0  2  5  7  -2

T&T's Under-15s

T&T 3 v Republic Bank Invitational XI 1
T&T 2 v Manchester City 2
T&T 1 v Houston Dynamo Academy 3
T&T 1 v DC United 1
T&T 6 v Cayman Islands 0
T&T 0 v Costa Rica 4
T&T 0 v USA 6
T&T 0 v Canada 3
T&T 1 v Jamaica 8

P  W  D  L  G  A  Dif
9  2  2  5  14  28  -14

Overall (2 teams combined)

P  W  D  L  G  A  Dif
12  3  2  7  19  35  -16