With Shaun Fuentes (TTFF Media).
It is said that fans and supporters are the living and breathing representation - the heart and soul - of sports, in this case football - and the lifeblood of a sporting organization. And there's one man, now living in the United States who is possibly one of the most passionate about Trinidad and Tobago’s football.
Not only is he a man who calls himself a fan, but he’s one who puts in a lot of time and effort towards trying to contribute to increasing the awareness of the local game.
He is Inshan “Flex” Mohammed, the main man behind the socawarriors.net website, the biggest T&T sporting supporters website and one of the more interactive ones in the CONCACAF region, easily compared to that of BigSoccer.com.
The fans always have a say, sometimes worth listening to, worth a laugh or not even that much… and “Flex” on the weekend voiced his opinion on the state of T&T football on behalf of the supporters’ group which is based in the United States.
“To be honest, you really cannot paint the current situation in a different color. We as fans expect three things, respect from the Federation and players, passionate and spirited performances from the players and good organization as far as planning games and so on,” Mohammed said from his home in New York.
“It’s never too late to make a change and I believe the TTFF will have to take further loses before we can see improvement. The TTFF will have to really do things in a more professional manner as well for things to really turn around. The fans are not just hurt because of our senior team’s poor performance, we are not happy with the way things are being run in the administration. I am not going to dwell on that too much however, because everyone must play a part and we all need to work hand in hand. When positive change is made though, it should come from the top and there will be a trickledown effect.”
“You have to build not only a team on the field, but one off as well, and that team (the TTFF) should be dedicated, selfless, organized, fresh with ideas, willing to go the extra mile and love the game and country. The Soca Warriors Online became successful because we are a family and despite occasional negative comments you might find on the forum, we all share one thing in common. We all love T&T football and only want the best for our team,” added the La Romain-born supporter.
“Flex” believes that club football must revert to being community based in order to have better support. He would also like to see the TTFF have a more organized calendar as it relates to international events, so that fans can have a year round idea on what is happening.
“I believe a certain structure is needed to help build a stronger fan base, but then there is the politics that surround T&T football that play a big part in deterring the fans. All in all though, based on what I have observed over the years, T&T fans really lack passion and mainly attend games to lime.
“It’s the only way the game can gather more support than it is at the moment,” he said. He also hopes to offer his support to the TTFF as a North American-based scout for players eligible of representing T&T.
1.What point in your life did you say that you wanted to be a committed fan of Trinidad and Tobago’ s football? What caused it? Any particular incident? Moment? Did being away from home contribute more to it?
Inshan Mohammed: That’s easy, November 19th 1989. My first love for any sport was basketball, then I started going to a few SSFL games, particularly St Benedict’s and Presentation College matches as both teams had many exciting players to watch (Ivan Sampson, Nigel Neverson, Romano Paul, Anthony Sherwood, Wesley Webb, etc).
I fell in love with the game from then on and it was no turning back. Basketball suddenly became a thing of the past for me. By the way, Signal Hill boasted the likes of Dwight Yorke and Colvin Hutchinson and they were a sight to see. Skinner Park was sold-out in every game played there.
Living abroad also helped fuel the passion I have for T&T football. I just couldn’t wait to get the T&T newspapers here in New York to read about our football. At that time news on Jerren Nixon, Dwight Yorke and Arnold Dwarika intrigued me the most. Those updates weren’t frequent though and I had to wait for days to get the T&T newspapers as they were shipped to NY once a week.
I also had no internet access, but when I finally got my new computer I was able to surf the net to get more information on our footballers. After a while that too wasn't enough and my passion grew insatiably, so I decided to build my own T&T football website and here we are today. Credit should also be given to my colleague Nigel Myers who also played a significant role in the development and success of Soca Warriors Online.
2. What is your proudest moment in T&T football?
Inshan Mohammed: T&T’s appearance at the 2006 World Cup in Germany was special and will never be forgotten. The Strike Squad era was also a period in our football I regard with the utmost pride. I was still based at home with my wonderful parents in La Romain and those games and experiences were priceless. The support from everyone in T&T was unbelievable. I've never experience something like that before. I remember having a Jamaican neighbor over who had a Trini wife and kids that were born in England. They came to live in Trinidad and after the loss against USA they were all crying. It was a memory that will stay with me forever.
3. Which of your contributions made you say" yes, I felt good to have done something here."
Inshan Mohammed: The Soca Warriors Online (SWO). The supporters are awesome and they make me feel great about my contribution to T&T football. The SWO is more of a T&T football encyclopedia, a website established to keep people around the world abreast of what’s going on in our football.
I feel proud playing whatever part I can to help my beloved national teams and country. When you live in a foreign country and you meet other nationalities who laugh at you because you have a national team, but not much to show for it; and they have websites to help support their teams, then you ask yourself why can’t we do the same or better. That experience also encouraged me to go out there and do what was necessary to represent my people and country.
4. What would you do if you had the opportunity to contribute more other than being a passionate fan via socawarriors.net.
Inshan Mohammed: I would like to be an official scout for all T&T national teams here in North America. Through the years, SWO has been functioning as an unofficial scout with our extensive database and tracking of T&T prospects based in the U.S. It would be great if our efforts were recognized. In fact, anything to help improve the game in a positive and constructive way in T&T I am willing to lend a hand. I would also love the opportunity to voice my ideas to the “powers that be” regarding the restructuring and enhancement of the leagues in T&T.
5. Do you think T&T is a passionate footballing country? Or are we just one that jumps in when it's convenient? What can be done to succeed in spite of the lack of real passion from the majority of T&T.
Inshan Mohammed: No, T&T is not a passionate footballing country in my opinion. It seems that many of our supporters jump on the “wagon” only when we are successful. I believe a certain structure is needed to help build a stronger fan base, but then there is the politics that surround T&T football that play a big part in deterring the fans. All in all though, based on what I have observed over the years, T&T fans really don’t have the passion and mainly attend games to lime.
I experienced games in Jamaica, USA, England and Spain and when you hear the fans chanting nonstop it’s a whole different vibe. I believe if we get a yearly calendar of T&T football and stick to it, get the teams to interact with communities; have an online store were one can buy T&T merchandise; not just shirts, but tickets for game and other supporting items as well it can go a long way in garnering more support from the fans. Playing better oppositions will also help this cause. We have international breaks and those dates can be utilized better. If the scheduling of international matches is properly organized everything will fall into place, trust me.
6. Who are among your all time favourite T&T players?
Inshan Mohammed: In the goalkeeper position its Kelvin Jack- when up to the task, I have never seen a better shot-stopper. In defence, Clayton Morris, Marvin Faustin, Richard Theodore and Dennis Lawrence. In midfield, Arnold Dwarika, Carlos Edwards, Russell Latapy, Reynold Carrington, Dwight Yorke, Terry St Louis, Clint Marcelle and David Nakhid and my favorite forwards would be Stern John, Leonson Lewis and Jerren Nixon. I believe we never got the best of Dwight Yorke as a "forward" despite being our best and most successful export. Though he did came back and play a vital part in midfield for T&T that helped us reach Germany.
7. What about your favourite world player and team?
Inshan Mohammed: My favorite world footballers of all-time are Zinedine Zidane, Lionel Messi, Michael Essien, Steven Gerrard, Franck Ribery, Cesc Fabregas, Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez, Didier Drogba and Diego Maradona. As for teams, France, Holland, Chelsea, Arsenal and Barcelona.
8. What direction should professional football head in T&T? And what about the SSFL?
Inshan Mohammed: Well, there is too much to mention, but to start, we are currently not going in the right direction, however, it’s not too late. Again, I think we need a calendar and one we have to stick by, as well sell season tickets and club merchandise. I am impressed with the approach North East Stars is taking though with its philanthropic ventures and overall savvy management. They are destine for success and its only a matter of time.. As I mentioned before, T&T leagues need to be restructured.
I believe football should go back to their communities; teams must adopt a home field and change their names to accommodate their communities. A demotion and promotion system should be implemented and we should eliminate some of the smaller leagues and have four main ones, divisions 2 and 1, the Super League and a Premier League. Inviting foreign teams for preseason friendlies is another good idea and we can also organize an annual all-star game at the end of the season against our national team.
Media involvement and commercial endorsements will play a big part in maintaining this endeavor. The same strategy can be applied to the SSFL to help attract fans. We need all-star games, half time shows, double headers like the T&T pro league currently organizes on Friday and Saturday. Players and fans should also receive free promotional items and other incentives to come out.
9. You mentioned it once to me before but do you still long to return to live in TT in order to have the opportunity to have a more hands on approach to helping the game locally or are you comfortable with the way you can contribute at the moment.
Inshan Mohammed: I would love to return home and help T&T football in any way I can, but unfortunately, I don’t have the finances to do so and I am also established here in New York. It will therefore be difficult for me to just drop everything and return, but home will always be home. Yes, I am comfortable with the manner in which I can contribute to T&T football at this moment, but you never know what the future holds. If the opportunity arises and it’s within my reach, I may just grab it.
10. Without being overly harsh, as a fan, do you think only winning results will do it or what do you think the Federation would have to do to get the fans on its side win lose or draw?
Inshan Mohammed: To be honest, you really cannot paint the current situation in a different color. We as fans expect three things, respect from the Federation and players, passionate and spirited performances from the players and good organization as far as planning games and so on.
It’s never too late to make a change and I believe the TTFF will have to take further loses before we can see improvement. The TTFF will have to really do things in a more professional manner as well for things to really turn around. The fans are not just hurt because of our senior team’s poor performance, we are not happy with the way things are being run in the administration. I am not going to dwell on that too much however, because everyone must play a part and we all need to work hand in hand. When positive change is made though it should come from the top and there will be a trickledown effect.
You have to build not only a team on the field, but one off as well, and that team (the TTFF) should be dedicated, selfless, organized, fresh with ideas, willing to go the extra mile and love the game and country. The Soca Warriors Online became successful because we are a family and despite occasional negative comments you might find on the forum, we all share one thing in common. We all love T&T football and only want the best for our team.