Sun, Jun

Hart: Physical, mental strength lacking in local footballers.

There is no shortage of talented footballers in this country. The problem, however, is that most lack in the departments of physical and mental strength.

That may explain the shortage of T&T nationals in the top leagues around the world, according to head coach of the men’s senior team, Stephen Hart. 

Hart, speaking with the Guardian said this is something that can be drastically changed when all stakeholders take a modern approach to the game.

In elaborating, Hart admitted: “the majority (of players) are not prepared physically to meet the challenges of international football.”

Most recently, Hart’s team placed runner-up at consecutive Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Caribbean Cups last month, losing in a penalty-shoot out to host nation Jamaica in the final.

There was no shortage of talent in that squad, yet the players seemingly failed to approach the match as a final and barely looked dangerous, even against an average Jamaica side.

There’s a factor expressed time and time again by Hart, which may contribute heavily to this.

Hart says he struggles with the fact that many of his regulars do not play consistently for their clubs outside of the T&T Pro League. 

“This is a worrying factor,” he said. “Many do not play with a team, or league where you have to be competitive to the core; fight for selection in every training session (and) concentrate for 90 minutes, compete in every game for survival, or to win the league...These are essential elements of modern players.”

“We need to ask ourselves why more of our players are not playing in any major leagues around the world, compared to the T&T team of 2006, Costa Rica, USA and Honduras of 2014.

“In my opinion, most are not prepared physically or mentally to meet the demands and rigors of a full season.”

So what are the potential solutions? 

“Staffing needs to be improved upon. Medical, a physical trainer and potentially an IT person. We need proper training equipment, et cetera...heart monitors and GPS monitors are essential for monitoring consistent physical testing for all national team players (and potential players) and recorded data.

“Many need individualised measured physical programmes. They also have to be convinced that this will vastly improve their personal development.”

Hart said training camps are essential.

“The only way to get things right for a football team is on the field of training and games...This allows both for individual and team evaluation.”

Asked if he believed Fifa international match windows for 2015 would be fully utilised, Hart said: “I have to believe​ this to be true. Fifa dates are now double dates. 

“Financially we may not be able to play two games on every outing because travel is extensive and expensive. 

“Then we can play one game on the second date. This will allow us to have preparation time together in camp. We also need a couple of camps, with International games, for local based players (preferably in the off season). Almost every major footballing country has this structure.

“Training Camps are essential; the only way to get things right for a football team is on the field of training and games. This allows for both individual and team evaluation,” he said.

Hart, along with other technical staff members, management and men’s senior team players received their respective arrears of salaries, match fees, stipends and bonuses following the CFU Caribbean Cup. 

The Government also provided funds in advance for the use of salaries up to the 2015 Concacaf Gold Cup, which takes place in the United States in July.

Hart said this came as relief for him and the players.

“Yes (I am relieved). These are professional staff and players and they have the same needs and demands of any working man...This is how they feed their families. We also have to realise that the opposition are doing the same.”

Should it have been done in the full glare of the media in a ceremonial-like manner at the Office of the Prime Minister? 

“​I am happy that an agreement was fulfilled,” Hart responded, adding, “Personally I am a private person...(I am) uncomfortable with publicity (but) the situation was not one that I had any control over."