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Sat, Jan

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When last you ate a sno cone?

Monday morning by the Queen’s Park Savannah, I engaged in a childhood pastime—eating “shave ice.”

Can’t remember the last year I did that. Had me a big cup of cool and refreshing nostalgia.

Cost me five dollars. Prices, like time don’t stand still. But as I chipped away at the ice with my straw, I was reminded that to get the best out of a sno cone, you have to use the right technique.

Chipping steadily at the ice until it melts down rather than sucking up the syrup—or water in the case of the plain ice—straight away, will allow you to have a nice beverage in the end rather than dried, coloured ice. It is all about patiently sticking to a process for the best results.

Nowadays though, people don’t seem to respect process very much.

Sunday afternoon, I was reminded of how that breakdown in order continues to affect young people who choose to play football.

In the western corner of Fatima College ground, the Women’s Premier League (WPL) six-a-side tournament was in progress. The sounds of competition were all around, as the young women of the various teams tried to work their way into the final. This was essentially a fun day for the six teams taking part in this first season of the WPL and their four Women’s League Football (WoLF) counterparts. But for the two national sides in the competition, the day was about more than just having a good time.

Today should have been the start of the first round of Caribbean Football Union qualifying for next year’s Under-17 World Cup in Jordan for a group including T&T, St Kitts and Nevis and the British Virgin Islands. But up to Sunday, National Under-17 coach Rajesh Latchoo had no clue when the competition would begin, or where it would be held.

“The competition was supposed to start this Wednesday but because of some venue issues we are unsure and await the CFU’s response,” Latchoo told me.

For the moment therefore, the coach and his staff must prepare a squad with no date in mind. But time is of utmost importance for this team.

The coach explained: We have five players from overseas here, and if the tournament does not play soon, they must return, then they would not be available for the tournament.”

In addition to those five, Latchoo could lose another seven due to National Under-20 duty, as that team is also getting ready for CFU competition.

“We have presently seven of them training with the Under-20s. From feedback, they are doing well and I’m glad for them. That’s seven and then five (overseas) so that’s half a team.”

Latchoo reckons that if T&T cannot get through their tournament by August 5, his squad could be decimated by player departures.

It is against such a background that Latchoo’s charges were playing Sunday afternoon. They were competing as two teams, “A” and “B.”

“Small-sided games are high intensity,” the coach noted, “so this would be a good opportunity to see them play against quality players, very good players. This is like a measuring stick for us, so we will know who could play from who can’t play and who ready to go forward and who not ready to go forward.”

As useful as the six-a-side sweat might have been, it could hardly be described as ideal preparation for a “big field” tournament. But Latchoo and his players have to take anything they can get.

Yes, the story of this Under-17 side is the latest episode in the frustrating story of national teams preparation.

A unit so close to competition should be fine-tuning, having played a number of warm-up games against opposition that would be similar to what would be encountered in competition. Instead, they have had to settle for “small goal” football.

And while the unit—the core of which competed in last August’s CONCACAF Under-15 series—has been together for 15 months, it has not been a year-and-a-half of solid preparation.

Latchoo was frank: “We should be two if not three times further than where we are,” he said. He reels off a list of drawbacks—“The lack of resources available to the girls in terms of transportation for them; in terms of having the (required) number of training sessions; in terms of having all the staff available for all the sessions because they have their work commitments, I have my work commitments. Those are the things that have affected our preparation. We have to rely heavily on the parents to carry the programme.”

Imagine that, a national team having to lean on mothers and fathers to make its way in 2015.

But for the love of their children there may not be an Under-17 team to prepare at this stage.

Latchoo does not go that far, but what he does not say is as telling as what he does make comment on.

When I ask him what the Football Association has been saying about the issues with preparation the coach tells me: “I think it is best for them to answer that question.”

At the moment, president Raymond Tim Kee and his executive have their hands full giving answers to Minister of Sport Brent Sancho.

But while that fight over figures rumbles on, Latchoo speaks of the growing frustration of the parents.

Meanwhile, his “diehard,” “120 per cent” players just want the chance to play.

They have come through the Under-15s, now they want to get to their first World Cup. They are eager to go through the process.

If only their elders would match their commitment and dignify them with the necessary support, eventually the best that they have to offer will come out. And the end results may be truly refreshing for national football.

Shave ice refreshing.