I had planned my column this week to revisit some of the top European football leagues, and of course the Champions League final where the most entertaining club in Europe – Liverpool – was unlucky to lose to Real Madrid; Salah’s injury was a massive game changer. Those of you who know me are well aware that I have been a lifelong Liverpool fan since the days when Roger Hunt was bulging the old onion bag with goal after goal. But we will save the top European leagues for another time and I will preview the upcoming 2018-2019 season after the World Cup.
The reason for my diversion is simple. I was left astounded when I heard Maylee Attin-Johnson speak about the state of women’s football in T&T and why she won’t be wearing our national colours again. Now let me state upfront, I have great respect for this young lady. I met her a couple years ago when I was doing commentary on a World Cup qualifier for CNC3 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium. Maylee, along with Stern John and Russell Latapy, were analysing the T&T performance at half-time and at the end of the game. I found her to be honest and quite knowledgeable in summing up the performance but more than that, she seemed unfazed to call a spade a spade, in terms of any player she felt was not giving 100% which is what I admired about her. Naturally, this left her open to creating enemies within the sport.
Our women footballers have begun their long journey for qualification for the 2019 FIFA World Cup in France by so far dominating the Caribbean Women’s group C tournament against teams that we should have relatively no problem in overcoming. However, as we move closer and closer to France 2019, the opponents will become tougher. We only have to review our performance in the 2015 World Cup qualifiers which saw our women’s team finish fourth in the Concacaf Championship before they were narrowly beaten 1-0 by Ecuador here in T&T. This after holding them to a goalless draw away from home in the inter-continental play-off that denied us a spot at the finals in Germany. Ecuador went on to lose all 3 matches in the group stage of the World Cup scoring 1 goal and conceding 17. That precisely sums up what we are going to encounter if we were to ever qualify for a Women’s World Cup.
So why is Maylee not part of T&T’s plans even though she gives 150% when wearing the red, white and black? I also read that attempts are being made to convince her and another stalwart - Akheela Mollon - to return to the team. I understand that Maylee is willing to return to the team, however, she believes the set up needs to change, and we cannot attempt the same formula which has proven not to work and expect different results.
I know there would be those of you saying no one is bigger than the game and while I totally agree with that statement, I am firm of the opinion that this is not the case here. This does not seem to be a question of players being underpaid or players wanting to play a different system, it appears to be the need for a more professional approach to the way we do things and with how we treat and analyse opponents. I have seen so many of our different sporting organisations competing in tournaments for the experience, knowing full well we would not stand a chance. However, they fool the sport-loving public by saying either the team is well prepared tactically and they are fit so we should do well, and then we lose every game and the poor excuses begin. You can easily cast your mind back to our Under-17 Girls tournament when the team was unfit and we did not seem to have the tactical knowledge of our opponents, and we looked poor and totally disjointed.
It is unfortunate that we still have Administrators who think they know everything and when players make solid suggestions, they are quickly shut down and in some cases banished from the team. The old adage often comes to the fore - “who running the show”. Maylee Attin-Johnson has the experience. She knows what it takes for us to have any chance of qualifying. She has blood, sweat and tears for this country. Why not give her a hearing and understand if her suggestions make any sense, give them a chance. I do understand there has been some type of dialogue but of course, there is a standoff and she must be hurting inside to take the stance she has taken; but it is quite obvious she believes in her opinion.
It really appears to me there will be no solution unless our wonderful Administrators sit around a table and at least try and work out an amicable solution. I am not saying for one moment that if these players, together with Maylee play, that we will qualify for the 2019 World Cup but for ‘David’s’ sake, let’s have our best team on the pitch to fight for our twin-island republic and make our people proud. We deserve it.
Meanwhile, congrats to the Chennai Super Kings who were crowned champions of the 2018 IPL, just as I predicted.