EVERTON Alfred, president of the Tobago Football Association (TFA), plans to boost the game in the island, during his four-year term in office.
Alfred, the former TFA general secretary, and his executive were elected unopposed last Wednesday, at its Annual General Meeting (AGM), which was held virtually.
Desmond Alfred, Carel Percy and Ronald Duke will serve as the TFA’s vice-presidents, but the three ordinary members, as well as a new general secretary, “will be named in due course to complete the Board”, according to a TFA media release.
During an interview on Tuesday, Alfred said, “We have to develop our stakeholders. We need better coaches in the island. We have to focus on development as it pertains to coaches. That will also redound to the development of our players.”
He added, “One of the things we want to focus on is a youth development programme across the island. One central programme that everybody is working with and doing the same thing. We’ll (go) through the ranks, starting from ages six (or) seven, all the way up to 17-19. That’s a programme that we’re going to work on.”
Another area which Alfred and his executive will be looking at is women’s football.
“We also need to expand the women’s game on the island,” he said. “We haven’t grown the women’s arm of the game. While they play at primary school and secondary school, we only have about three clubs on the island. We need to grow the game, even if it redounds to having our own league in Tobago, that will be worked out because the logistics would not permit six and seven clubs to be played in the WoLF (Women’s League Football).”
He continued, “I’m not against WoLF, we have to work with WoLF as well but, given that we’re separated by water, we have to treat with that going forward.”
Financial stability is another aspect which the TFA executive will be paying attention towards.
“It’s no secret, everywhere in football now there is debt, and then you have to depend on somebody for whatever you’re doing,” said Alfred. “So, we have to find a way to market the product of football that we have. The marketing is not just to get sponsorship. We have to market to get spectators to come out, to get parents and children involved in the sport because when this SoE (state of emergency) and lockdown is over, it’s basically like we’re starting over.
“We have to look at how we set those plans. The best players in Tobago didn’t have the opportunities of being exposed to higher competitions, except with a club that is playing in the Super League. All the players can’t play with the (few) clubs because the clubs are community-based.”
Alfred added, “We need to provide opportunities for our players in Tobago to be exposed to a higher level of competition, whether or not it’ll be in the form of a zonal competition or we try to invite teams from Trinidad to come and play against the best players from Tobago, that will provide them with the opportunity for growth and development.
“That will be part of our focus, to try to lift the standard of the game. That is not only for the players (but) for the coaches. If your better coaches are coaching the Tobago teams, it means that they are getting the opportunities to compete against a higher level of competition.”
Tobago has produced a few national women’s players, including the Forbes sisters Karyn and Kimika, as well as Kennya “Yaya” Cordner, but have hardly on the men’s team, except Daneil Cyrus and Kevan George.
Alfred said, “For a Tobago player now who is playing at the club level and trying to jump into the national team, there is no middle-ground. That is why we’re looking at having a Tobago team playing games. You’ll be identified as one of the better players in your club or on the island, and we’ll now put you in the set-up to play for Tobago. Coming out of that, it becomes an easier opportunity for you to get into the national team.”
He also touched on the obstacles faced by Tobago players who travel to Trinidad for national training sessions.
“He’s going to Trinidad, basically on a try-out, in an environment that he’s unfamiliar with,” Alfred said. “Therefore, he tends to be a little bit timid and circumspect in his actions. If we have the Tobago team playing games, therefore the coach can come and see a player in an environment that he’s comfortable with, and he can give off his best.
“You’ll see the (player) in his natural environment. We hope that will redound to the best Tobago players getting the opportunities to showcase themselves at the national levels.”