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Unified Coaches' interim president Jefferson George slams TTFA's move.
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THE DECISION taken by the TT Football Association (TTFA) normalisation committee to deny the national Under-14 team a chance to compete in the Caribbean Football Union’s (CFU) Under-14 (Boys & Girls) tournament will put a further stranglehold on the nation’s youth development.

So says Jefferson George, interim president of the Unified Coaches of T&T, who believes the normalisation committee’s “pandemic excuse”, has prevented the youngsters from capitalising on a rare opportunity to return to competition.

A statement issued by George on Friday rued this missed opportunity and took to task the committee’s decision-making process.

“The Association observed with concern a recent newspaper report, which announced that the TTFA declined an invitation to participate in a CFU Under-14 football competition.

“The report further quoted the TTFA’s general secretary Amiel Mohammed as saying that the covid19 pandemic and uncertainty surrounding the re-opening of T&T’s border was to blame for the decision,” the statement read.

The tournament is scheduled to kick off in Dominican Republic on Sunday and runs for the next eight days.

George expressed “deep disappointment” with the normalisation committee’s decision and questioned their plan for the future of T&T football, particularly at the youth level.

“The first obvious question therefore is how long will the pandemic be an excuse for postponing our youth development?

“The challenges of today are not unique to T&T but are being experienced in varying degrees by all nations whose players will be participating in this tournament, and any youth tournament worldwide,” George wrote.

He said since the pandemic hit in mid-March last year, T&T continues to miss out on these opportunities to better our standard of play because of a lack of planning and preparation by those tasked to do so.

What further adds to this travesty, he said, is that these youths are already starved of local and community competition.

“This current crop of players (Under-14) has played none, and through the negligence of the normalisation committee has missed out on an excellent opportunity to do so,” he added.

George said that some countries’ pandemic experience had and continue to be much worse than T&T’s.

“But proper planning and the awareness of the importance of such tournaments to a player's development have seen them prioritise their participation. Why couldn't we do the same?” he questioned.

For the past 18 months, no youth football teams have been allowed to travel to competition owing to the pandemic and T&T’s previously closed borders, which reopened on July 17.

He also queried the normalisation committee’s plans to restart football in general and more specifically youth football, which he says is a necessary tool in the development cycle of our young players.

George however, commended the CFU on an “excellent initiative” of hosting the tournament. He believes tournaments such as these are necessary to improve football regionally.

“One just has look as far as Russell Latapy, Dwight Yorke, Shaka Hislop and a few our footballing legends who succeeded at international level to see the number of regional and international games they would have played by age 15.

“The UFCTT is therefore encouraging the TTFA led by the normalisation committee to prioritise youth development and take advantage of every opportunity to expose our players to international matches,” he concluded.

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“[…] The challenges of today are not unique to Trinidad and Tobago but [are] being experienced in varying degrees by all nations whose players will be participating in this tournament, and any youth tournament worldwide.

“Some country’s pandemic experience has been much worse than our current situation. But proper planning and the awareness of the importance of such tournaments to a player’s development has seen them prioritise their participation.

“Why couldn’t we do the same?”

The following press statement from Unified Football Coaches of Trinidad and Tobago (UFCTT) interim president Jefferson George was issued in response to the failure of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA)—run by a Robert Hadad-led Fifa-appointed normalisation committee—to accept an invitation to participate in the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Boys and Girls Under-15 Challenge Series from 22-29 August in the Dominican Republic:

The Unified Football Coaches of Trinidad and Tobago would like to express deep disappointment, in the development opportunity denied to the under-14 footballers of our country.

The association observed with concern a recent newspaper report, which announced that the Trinidad Tobago Football Association (TTFA) declined an invitation to participate in a CFU Under-14 football competition. The report further quoted the TTFA’s acting general secretary Amiel Mohammed as saying that the Covid-19 pandemic and uncertainty surrounding the re-opening of Trinidad and Tobago’s border was to blame for the decision.

Eighteen months marks not only the length of time that the normalisation committee has been at the helm of Trinidad and Tobago’s football, but also covers the period that the nation has been in the grips of this pandemic.

The first obvious question therefore is how long will the pandemic be an excuse for postponing our youth development?

The challenges of today are not unique to T&T but is being experienced in varying degrees by all nations whose players will be participating in this tournament, and any youth tournament worldwide.

Some country’s pandemic experience has been much worse than our current situation. But proper planning and the awareness of the importance of such tournaments to a player’s development has seen them prioritise their participation. Why couldn’t we do the same?

Secondly, with the knowledge that the TTFA has no control of the borders or the pandemic, what is the plan to restart football in general and more specifically youth football—a necessary tool in the development cycle of our young players?

The UFCTT would like to commend the Caribbean Football Union on the excellent initiative of hosting the tournament. We believe it is exactly what is needed to improve football regionally.

Unfortunately, T&T continues to miss out on these opportunities to better our standard of play because of a lack of planning and preparation by those tasked to do so.

One just has to look as far as Russell Latapy, Dwight Yorke, Shaka Hislop and a few of our footballing legends who succeeded at international level to see the number of regional and international games they would have played by age 15.

This current crop of players has played none, and through the negligence of the normalisation committee has missed out on an excellent opportunity to do so. What further adds to this travesty is that these youth are already starved of local and community competition.

‘There are four things that come not back’ [and] neglected opportunities is one that will impact this generation of T&T footballers.

The UFCTT is therefore encouraging the TTFA, led by the normalisation committee, to prioritise youth development and take advantage of every opportunity to expose our players to international matches.

Editor’s Note: The participating nations in the CFU Under-15 Challenge Series are Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, US Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, Puerto Rico, Curaçao, Haiti, Aruba, Grenada and hosts Dominican Republic.

Haiti, like Trinidad and Tobago, are under a normalisation committee while their country is in a heightened state of turmoil due to the recent assassination of president Jovenel Moise, a fatal earthquake, Tropical Storm Grace, and Covid-19. They sent both a boys and girls team to the CFU tournament.