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The starting elevens for the Legends and T&T All-Stars teams, pose for a group photo at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo on Friday, May 10th 2024.

IT had been a long time since the Hasely Crawford Stadium had been turned into a red sea. On Friday it came close to that.

It took Kaka, Rivaldo, Cafu, Edmilson, Dwight Yorke, Russell Latapy and their colleagues from the Legends and T&T All-Stars teams to bring the people out to watch football.

By all accounts, a good time was had by all. The fans got ten goals to watch and saw Kaka and Anthony Wolfe score share six of those ten between them.

It was striking to me that so many people would still be interested in paying good money to see players well into retirement and past their athletic best kick the football around.

Jamaal Shabazz, currently the national coach of Guyana had a reasonable theory about the turnout.

“It easy to say that people came out to see the Brazilians,” he said but added, “I think it (also) shows how much the people of Trinidad and Tobago appreciate the likes of Russell Latapy and Dwight Yorke, and those guys of that era.”

Most definitely, there would have been an element of nostalgia surrounding the charity match. People still remember the football the 1989 “Strike Squad” played. And 2006 was less than 20 years ago, when Strike Squad graduates Latapy and Yorke went to Germany as part of the first T&T team to have qualified for a World Cup Finals. Since then, there has not been a national side that has achieved anything as significant as that squad fashioned by Dutchman Leo Beenhakker, so Friday’s affair was a chance for the public to relive their most recent best memories, so to speak. That, in itself, says something.

Why, in the 18 years since Yorke led a team that also included Carlos Edwards, Kenwyne Jones, Shaka Hislop, Densill Theobald and Aurtis Whitley to a World Cup, have T&T not produced a crop of players of similar calibre?

That is a question the new Trinidad and Tobago Football Association president Kieron Edwards and his executive must get a definitive answer to, and find solutions for.

Youngsters, like my nephew, who were seeing those stars of yesteryear for the first time, need to form attachments to players of their era. The pre-teens who play the game now, need more than “oldies” like Yorke and Latapy to inspire them. They need to see “live” examples of how a professional footballer today should play the game and carry his or her self.

As Shabazz said: “New stars much emerge. I will like to see that support transferred to the Trinidad and Tobago national team presently, at all different levels, whether it be women, youth or senior men. I will like to see a culture of support every time a Trinidad and Tobago team takes the field.”

What events like Friday can do, is fire the imagination of Generation Now. But the football fraternity must find creative ways to use the rich history of T&T football to encourage greater awareness among the current generation of what went before and what they should be aspiring to.

The TTFA now has a Home of Football. In this age of advanced technology, could not video footage be acquired from the period 1989 to 2006, just to be conservative, and used as a kind of museum exhibit that people can visit? Could arrangements not be made so that something similar can happen at the Ato Boldon, Hasely Crawford, Manny Ramjohn, Larry Gomes and Dwight Yorke Stadiums? And why stop at football? Is it not possible for some of the feats of Ato Boldon, Richard Thompson, Jereem Richards and the medal-winning 4x100 and 4x400 relay squads of the last 18 years to be displayed at these venues also?

Such an innovation will not guarantee future stars, but it will at least ensure that the past is not forgotten and that those playing in the present have targets to aim at, set by ones like themselves.

SOURCE: T&T Express