How often within the last three years have we heard the ritual of firing the coach of our national Football team? The former Dutch world Cup player of 1978 Argentina’s tournament Whim Reisegen was fired without even demonstrating whether or not he was capable of doing a good job.
He may well have shown dissent in his “off the field” behaviour, causing the TTFF to send him packing. In came Francisco Maturana, the former national coach of Columbia at two world cup finals in 1990 (Italy) and 1994 (USA), followed by a stint with Ecuador for the France world Cup in 1998.
The Colombian was hardly even given a chance to fulfil his dream, when he decided that a resignation was the best option at the time when senior players Russell Latapy and Dwight Yorke seemed to be flexing their muscles to underscore his ability to do the job.
The TTFF fell for the ploy and decided to paint a wonderful picture of Russell Latapy and Dwight Yorke as solid devotees of T&T Football and would have been ideal for the team as they were actually players with the group, which had absolute respect for the two stars.
No one could have convinced them otherwise. They saw Russell as a master player coach with Falkirk of Scotland, despite their bottom of the table position of the championship division.
Latapy better known as “The Little Magician” was hailed by those who loved to see him in action as a player as the right man for the job, despite the fact that he had never coached a national team in his life, neither had he been head coach of any professional club.
The answer at the time seemed to be the magic wand in his hands and his baby faced innocence which caught the imagination of even those who were unaware of what are the requirements of a national coach vis a vis football knowledge, ability to communicate with players and to develop a formula for a successful team performance. Long before the Martinique finals, the decision makers were already aiming their dismissal threats at the former star, despite the fact that three impressive victories preceded his team’s trip to Martinique.
Apparently, their predictions of the results in Martinique seemed clear to the hierarchy, so much so, not one single official from the executive committee accompanied the team for the week-long tournament. I suspect the reason may have been the lack of funds, the assumption made following the remarks from the president that the Federation was short of dollars.
Now that the burning pain of defeat has been laid at our doorstep, and the qualitative fabric of which our game had demonstrated over the years, has eventually arrived at rock bottom, the dismissal bells have begun to ring once more. Somehow, I felt that the first hurdle to cross would have been some form of analysis of the reasons why the team did not get the results which it promised.
There is a basic fundamental requirement which always followed failure and that is assessment, regardless of whether it’s a football match, a deficiency in building anything, or an explanation for failure. This has not been spoken about, although the authorities may well be thinking about that route to find the real reasons. But, wait a minute, how could anyone sit together to assess performances when none of the technocrats were present to witness same?
I could understand the supporters complaining about losing to Grenada and Cuba as emotionally devastating to them, remembering of course the days when every top class club team in this country will have whipped the shirts of these countries.
That no longer is the case and the issue has to be deeper than what meets the eye. Maybe we could recall Panama, Guyana, Belize all demanded respect from this group of players within the past month. Why then, did the results in Fort Du France stun the stakeholders?
And before any form of dialogue with the coaching staff, the focus has shifted towards a series of names to replace the Coach, bypassing any other reason for failure and casting a smokescreen in order to convince us all that they have identified the solitary problem.
The unconfirmed name calling of Jean Tigana, (the outstanding midfielder of the 1982 Spain world Cup, Rudd Gullit, (Holland’s 1990 top player) plus a few other contenders, are intended to change the conversation and sing praises for the expected presence of these former greats to our twin island state in a capacity of coach. Both gentlemen have coached professional clubs in the English premier league at some time in the past.
Tigana did very well in his stint for Fulham, while Gullit played and coached at Chelsea, but abruptly walked away from the job. Please allow me to explain the significance between the job of coaching a professional club as opposed to a national team.
The first point is that a coach of a professional club can walk with a big cheque book and purchase players from all over the world in order to get his results. Even in those situations, many of them fail. If you doubt me, ask the coaches of Manchester city over the past two years.
The duty of a national coach is to utilise the existing players of the country in order to mould the ideal team, regardless of their ability or lack of it, without knowledge of their attitudes, their understanding of the game, and most of all the societal behaviour of the citizens of a country of which they know so little.
Ironically enough, while the mentioned contenders have given glimpses of their coaching ability, it was with club teams in a domestic league. National team coaching is far more challenging and would need a completely different approach, for which neither has a track record.
I humbly suggest that the present dilemma be studied carefully at all levels. Consistent selections of the last three coaches have brought unsatisfactory results, which could mean poor choices by the decision makers.
Maybe there is need for them to pay closer attention to all nominees for the post of national coach and if necessary, go in search of the appropriate person who may fit the requirements for the job in T&T. In the midst of all the disappointments with our football, the bottom is a good place to restart to build and the foundation applied must be based on astute planning and proper management.