Tuesday (November 16) marked the five-year anniversary of T&T’s qualification for the 2006 World Cup Finals. In looking back at the achievement, retired English-based goalkeeper turned ESPN analyst Shaka Hislop says the memories of the Germany experience will forever be a highlight of his career.
However, he wants to see more urgency from the authorities to get the country’s football back to a respectable point on the world map as it should be. “The entire World Cup experience will remain with me for the rest of my life.
I can now go to footballers heaven with a smile on my face,” Hislop said. “From the first whistle of qualifying to the final whistle versus Paraguay, I regard as part of the experience, part of the story. There were ups and downs, smiles and tears. In the end we buried the ghosts of 73 and 89 (November 19th 1989) in particular, as I had shed tears as a fan on that day.”
However, the man whose heroic exploits played a big part T&Ts’ 0–0 draw with Sweden in Dortmund, thinks that T&T failed the maximise on the success of the 2005/2006 campaign, which was evident in the team’s failure to advance to the 2010 finals in South Africa.
He did issue a word of congratulations to the current senior team on their three wins in the Digicel Caribbean Cup and has high hopes for the finals in Martinique later this month which should propel them to being firm contenders in Concacaf for the race to Brazil 2014.
“I think our football stalling as it has since 2006 is an opportunity lost. We should have moved forward with the momentum of our performances and the goodwill generated. “It’ll take a Herculean effort by everyone involved in the national game to get us back to anywhere near where we were four years ago,” Hislop said.
With T&T’s slip in the world rankings, now being outside of the top 100 teams, the former Reading FC custodian says it’s becoming increasingly difficult to feature in the English Leagues or other parts of Europe.
Unlike his playing time, where T&T had over a dozen recognised players in the English Leagues grabbing headlines on a weekly basis, the majority of the players now are either in the conference Leagues or on the fringe of first team selection. “Our football can only be marketed as our performances dictate. We continue to plummet in the Fifa World Rankings.
We’re currently at 106, one spot above Barbados, 22 places below Bahrain. That’s how far we’ve fallen. “Until we return to where we once were, (25th in January 2001) we won’t see as many players being recruited by European clubs as at that time. Until then local players should look no further than the US, MLS and USL, and Latin America to further their careers,” Hislop advised.
And what about the role of the Football Players Association of T&T (FPATT) which has been mostly silent over the past couple years, Hislop says it’s a work in progress. “FPATT has stagnated for a number of reasons. I still firmly believe that the game needs player representation simply to keep pace with the rest of the world. “Without it we’ll continue falling even further behind. It’ll happen though, of that I am certain. I’m hoping that it’ll be sooner rather than later,” Hislop ended.