Fri, Dec


Otto Pfister has no interest in football in this country.

Like Leo Beenhakker, that other celebrated international coaching nomad with whom we are well acquainted, he has been hired to perform a specific job. And, like the supreme professional that he no doubt is, the 73-year-old German will bring all of his vast and varied experience to bear in seeking to qualify Trinidad and Tobago for the 2014 World Cup football finals.

Then, whether he has succeeded or failed in this singular objective, he will pack up and move on to another assignment or, given his advanced age, decide that more than 40 years of traipsing around the so-called Third World is enough and return to his home city of Cologne to reflect on what he has achieved as a coach.

And where will that leave us? At the end of the day, it really does come down to your own perspective and priorities.

If you look at sport – and therefore football – as an avenue for national development and especially the nurturing of a healthy, disciplined, productive youth culture, it appears reasonable to question what will be Pfister's legacy beyond the success or failure of the senior men's national team.

If, however, you hold the view that a successful national side lining up once again alongside the giants of the international game at the sport's premier showpiece will be the catalyst to achieving all of the above-mentioned objectives, then there should be no objection to him exploring every option in pursuit of a goal that, as we can remember only too well, galvanises a nation and elevates a sense of unity and national pride beyond any other endeavour.

Pfister has been hired to get results, full stop. In the same pragmatic manner in which Beenhakker took on the job of getting us to Germany in 2006, he will do whatever is necessary within the rules and without being burdened by such emotive matters as popular sentiment or national sensibilities.

In that context, there will be no real objection to his journey to London this afternoon seeking to persuade a few supposedly well-established, English-based professionals with some sort of ancestral connection to Trinidad and Tobago to wear the national colours in the "Road to Rio" campaign. And there are good reasons for the absence of vociferous dissent, even if that silence is a disgruntled one.

First and foremost, this is still very much a colonial society where, in our 49th year of political independence, a hierarchical status quo based on colour and class, which also values so-called First World foreign over anything local, is deeply embedded in the national psyche.

Steupsing and rolling your eyes at what you consider to be yet another regurgitation of a tired and now invalid argument? Well, apart from watching how the well-to-do and well-connected are already frustrating the progress of the CLICO/HCU Commission of Enquiry, tell me honestly if you believe any local coach, even if he had taken us to the World Cup finals, would have escaped unscathed in the same manner that Beenhakker did in leaving the beloved Russell Latapy on the bench for all but the final 15 minutes of the three games played by T&T in Germany almost five years ago?

Secondly, like scavenging pot-hounds hoping eagerly for a bone to be tossed in their direction, those with any stake at all in the local football firmament will scarcely offer even a whimper of discontent – be he player, coach or official – for fear of jeopardising chances of getting a morsel from the giant iron pot of World Cup-associated largesse.

It takes courage and the willingness to endure sacrifice for real changes to be made in almost any context, qualities which are in desperately short supply around here.

Like Leo before him, Otto will have his way and not a damn dog shall bark an objection. With the benefit of a two-year head-start on the Dutchman (remember Beenhakker replaced Bertille St Clair with seven games left in the final phase of qualifying in 2005), Pfister's chances of success are obviously increased, even if we are already behind almost all the leading CONCACAF contenders in preparation for the 2014 qualifying campaign.

But we have the lingering, acrimonious aftermath of Germany 2006 to constantly remind us that getting to the big stage of itself does not automatically place the game in that country on a sound footing from which there can be continuous progress. The ongoing legal wrangling over bonus payments for "blacklisted" players and the failure to qualify for the last two Gold Cups suggest that, for Trinidad and Tobago at least, playing in a World Cup finals was more of a trap door than a springboard for football.

That Pfister will have a total local crew in support is supposed to be a plus, the assumption being that the natives will benefit from the foreign maestro's expertise and can therefore carry on in similar vein when the visitor departs these shores for good.

As usual, there is much speculation over who are the favourites for the assistant coaching and other positions. If nothing else, you have to hope that selections are based on merit and an eye to the future rather than an opportunity to give a pardner a wuk or as undeserved compensation for a demotion.

Well, here's one solid recommendation for a support staff member based on the new man's immediate desire to go scouting for talent:

Holly Betaudier, come on down!