Following on the heels of T&T senior women’s football team's failed campaign at the CONCACAF Women’s Championship, William Wallace, president of the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL), has raised concerns about the national Under-20 men team’s readiness for the upcoming World Cup qualifying tournament in Florida, USA.
In an email to the media yesterday, the former manager of the national men's senior team said: "It is with extreme concern that we as an organisation are observing another debacle that awaits our national U-20 men’s team at a World Cup qualifying tournament hosted by CONCACAF. The recent experience of the senior women’s team is still fresh in our minds."
Under two weeks ago, the local women's team crashed out of the CONCACAF final leg of the Women's World Cup qualifiers, as they were beaten in all three qualifying matches, first going down to Panama 3-0, Mexico 4-1 and then the USA 7-0 at the Sahlen's Stadium in Cary, North Carolina.
"We provided and continue to provide a platform for many of our players who have excelled in national colours in CONCACAF and FIFA competitions. From the 1991 national youth team, captained by Dwight Yorke where several of those players on that team that qualified for the FIFA Youth World Cup came through the SSFL, to the women’s team of 2010 that participated at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup on our shores, the U-17 and U-20 men’s youth teams that participated at the 2007 and 2009 FIFA World Cups, all these teams included players that were part of the SSFL system, not to mention the countless teams that have made it to CONCACAF Final round competitions.
"It can't be business as usual," said Wallace, who added that for several years, the SSFL has been a strong supporter of national teams.
"At this time, the core of the U-20 men’s team is made up of players from the SSFL. It is well known that the mindset of future national senior team players depends heavily on their experiences at the junior ranks. Therefore we are very fearful that what could occur in a couple weeks time in Bradenton, may not be something our players may want to remember and will not augur well for those players who are hoping that this tournament would afford them opportunities to be seen by the many scouts who take a keen interest in this age-group.
"Frankly, this situation may contribute to killing the dreams of many of our players," said Wallace in the release.
The CONCACAF Men’s Under-20 Championship is scheduled to be played from November 1 -21, at the IMG Academy and T&T will face St Vincent and the Grenadines on November 1.
"All of our opponents including the US, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands and Suriname have all been active for the past few weeks and others, for months, feverishly preparing for their upcoming assignments while our team has not had one session together as a unit in over four months.
"This cannot be business as usual. It is our hope that good sense will prevail in the shortest possible time to have this team back in training to give it even the slightest possible chance of advancing beyond the group stage," said Wallace, who has confirmed that the SSFL will support and is willing to engage in dialogue, to explore what options there may be towards assisting with the challenges that are keeping this team off the training pitch.
T&T U-20 footballers starved for funding, training.
By Andrew Gioannetti (Newsday).
Wallace joins in criticism of TTFA national team programmes
TT’s Under-20 men’s team will enter the 2018 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship in Bradenton, Florida, United States in less than two weeks, underprepared and at the mercy of both the TT Football Association (TTFA) and the Ministry of Sport.
Having not engaged in training for nearly a month – in part due to the non-payment of salaries to Under-20 coach Russell Latapy and up to nine months in arrears to other staff members – Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) president William Wallace has joined in the chorus of criticism directed at the TTFA for neglecting the Under-20 national football programme.
In a media release issued yesterday, Wallace wrote: “It is with extreme concern that we as an organisation are observing another debacle that awaits our National Under-20 Men’s team at a World Cup qualifying tournament hosted by CONCACAF. The recent experience of the Women’s team is still fresh in our minds.”
The CONCACAF tournament runs from November 1-21. T&T are in a tough Group A and will likely have to secure a win against the United States to stand a chance of topping the group and advancing to the next stage. Only the top-placed finishers in the group will move on and have a chance to qualify for the 2019 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Poland.
“At this time, the core of the Under-20 men’s team is made up of players from the SSFL. It is well known that the mindset of future national (men’s) team players depends heavily on their experiences at the junior ranks,” Wallace added.
Wallace, who said the SSFL has and continues to provide a platform for young national players to climb up the ranks, said, “We are very fearful that what could occur in a couple weeks’ time in Bradenton may not be something our players may want to remember and will not augur well for those players who are hoping that this tournament would afford them opportunities to be seen by the many scouts who take a keen interest in this age group.
“Frankly this situation may contribute to killing the dreams of many of our players.”
Contacted yesterday, TTFA board member Keith Look Loy confirmed the national Under-20 team programme was practically dormant because of the non-payment of salaries and described the latest national team debacle as “yet another situation where (the administration) is literally sending the lamb to the slaughter.”
Look Loy said several staff members attached to the Under-20 men’s programme have received back pay for up to three months, but added, “depending on the individual, they are still owed between eight and nine months’ back pay. So staff salaries is definitely one of the issues.”
According to Look Loy, the association presented a budget to the Ministry of Sport recently, but the ministry asked it to trim the budget, which Look Loy said it did “sometime late last week.”
He said he was unaware whether the ministry had released funding yet but could confirm that the Under-20 team is still not in training, with the championship drawing nearer.
“This administration is just waiting weeks before each team has to depart for their tournament to beg for money. They did it with the women, they did it with the Under-20 (men). I made a point in the last board meeting that we should not await a month or two before the Under-17s play, we should try to put everything in place for them now.
“Whether they will act on it, we will see.”
He said the Under-17 team is in “an equally derelict” situation.
“They play in March and there is nothing being done to help them.”
Sending off poorly and inadequately prepared national football teams has seemingly become par for the course for the TTFA, which most recently came under fire before the start of the CONCACAF Women’s Championship, a World Cup qualification tournament, after two players took to social media to beg for assistance in hosting a player camp before the tournament.
The TTFA also stood accused of failing to pay the players’ retainer fees, while TTFA president John-Williams appointed Shawn Cooper as coach of the team after an unconstitutional voting process. John-Williams, who took over the reins as association chief in November 2015, made a rare media appearance in a television interview recently and suggested the national team programmes were in a better shape than before his election. However, he gave no justification or examples.