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RECENTLY APPOINTED general secretary of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA), Justin Latapy-George, is ready to make his mark in his new role, having served over five months in the job.

Latapy-George, brother of ex-national captain and coach Russell Latapy, replaced Azaad Khan who served in an interim role for a year. 

During a recent interview, Latapy-George spoke of his career in football, on and off the field, and what he wishes to accomplish during his time as the TTFA general secretary. 

JOEL BAILEY: “How have you adapted to this new role so far?”

JUSTIN LATAPY-GEORGE: “it is a pleasure to have been selected, through an interview process, to be the general secretary of the TTFA. Football has been a major part of my life from ever since I could remember and now, having gotten into administration as a full-time job for a number of years, to come to this point, I think it’s a personal accomplishment and a professional one as well. Having said that, the adjustment continues. 

“The TTFA is a very unique company. It’s over 100 years old. We have had good things and some challenges. Now we’re looking to see how carefully we can review all that we’re doing, all our operations, to take us into that next direction which is really ensuring that we implement football, with all of our stakeholders in Trinidad and Tobago and the larger world, in a very positive and progressive way.”

JB: “Who is Justin Latapy- George?” 

JLG: “I went to Nelson Street Boys, played at Success Laventille before getting in to Malick Secondary where I played at the Inter-Col level, went on to playing a bit at Jabloteh, then I finally got a scholarship opportunity prior to living a bit in Europe with my brother Russell Latapy. 

I got a scholarship opportunity in the US which really took me on the trajectory to balancing both the academic and athletics. 

From there really pursing an education in recreation through Sports Management and finally ending with a MBA with a specialisation in management and a Masters in Sports Management, with a Minor in Business.” JB: “Were you into football administration before or is this something new to you?” 

JLG: “The administration of football as a sole sporting product, it’s the first time. I worked with the Ministry of Sports as a Facility Manager. I also worked at the Sports Company where I was a Sports Services Officer for cycling and basketball. I later went on to work at the University of the West Indies (UWI) where I served as a Sports Coordinator before, through an interview process, being selected as a director at UWI SPEC (Sports and Physical Education Centre), related to my substantive post, after serving off my term. 

“Then I moved on to my last dispensation, in terms of work, (as) the Technical Sports Director for the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) in the Division of Education, Youth Affairs and Sports.” 

JB: “Being the brother of Russell Latapy, are you asked that question every time you say your name or do you take it in stride and chart your own path? JLG: “I think it has been a 50- 50. Obviously the last name is synonymous with someone we know and love as a country, and then the Latapy-George (tends) to throw people off a bit because I do have a hyphenated last name. But, ultimately, my career and my life thus far has been one where the opportunity of having the name of Latapy has opened a lot of doors. 

“From time to time, it has really allowed me to get into avenues that may not have been easily available for others. But, having said that, the fact of the matter is that I had to prove myself every step of the way. And I think I would have done that successfully. 

I’m just being a little bit shy about it but to be where I’m at should say something about what I’m doing as a professional in the field of sports management. 

JB: “Finally, have you set himself any aims or accomplishments as the TTFA general secretary, or are you taking things step by step?” 

JLG: “it’s a combination of the two. The reality is that the Association is going through that change. The executive is still new, it’s over a year. We’re looking at what we’re doing. We’re implementing a couple new programmes. 

So there is that day-by-day function that we have to monitor. 

On a professional level, what I would really want to do is see us getting our home for football (and) really operationalise our office structure. 

“I think we’re at a point now, after a 100 years-plus of history, that we need to have our office structure that is independent of what happens at that level, where the Association has hired professionals that are competent in their own rights, who are able to deliver the mandate that may be set forth by the Board or the executive, do that competently (and) professionally. We have a degree of integrity that a 100-plus year old company should have, to ensure that we continue to propel football in that direction. 

“We have to go back to the fact that years ago, we dominated the Caribbean and to the point that we even tackled our regional partners. 

Whether we have regressed a bit or whether our partners have caught up with us, we can debate. 

But the reality is that we are not where we used to be in terms of dominance. And a lot of that has to do with an overall structure. 

“Our administrative arm, I believe, plays a very significant role to ensure that we gain some level of prominence in the region but, more importantly, we step forward understanding that football has evolved where the administration of sport, in particular football, has evolved. 

And we have to ensure that we are doing the things as a sporting entity that speaks to the yeoman service that we need to give to the people of Trinidad and Tobago.”