Fri, Jun

Underprepared T&T U-20 men worries Wallace.

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.