Reaching another level of football
By Alvin Corneal (T&T Guardian)
They may not be filled with the high profile names of Dwight Yorke, Russell Latapy, Carlos Edwards and Kenwyne Jones, but my bet is that many of the members of the national Under-20 squad who are awaiting the start of the Fifa World Cup in Egypt, will one day occupy the minds and hearts of the people of T&T in the near future.
No one could have expected a more organised preparation for a young national team, with exposure, training and discipline added to their natural talents being brought to the fore with the group. Apart from the team’s financier and T&T Football Federation (TTFF) special adviser, Jack Warner, not too many persons are shouting from the top of the mountain about the achievement of this team, having reached the World Cup finals. This is clearly a sign that we are lovers of giving support to the established achievers, those who are facing sporting challenges at the Olympic level or World championships, and of course the elite athletes from the other sporting disciplines. Sometimes, even the news coming from the activities of this team is sparse and insufficient for the reading or viewing public to grasp the tensions and anxiety of the players and the staff.
This does not surprise me, knowing that this practice has been part of the type of appreciation which has been shown to other teams of the past. This is why I am so excited over these youngsters who seem ready to fight their way into recognition and demand the respect of the small population which represents our nation. What do we really know of our team which has been travelling across Europe, from England, to Turkey, now Cyprus and then into Egypt? Is anyone interested in documenting the historic experiences of these teenagers whose life today will produce tomorrow’s leaders in our society. It is reasonable to share a certain degree of optimism regarding the team’s chances against the likes of Egypt, (the host), Italy and Paraguay, and the reality check can even favour good results in the matches. From all reports, coach Zoran Vranes was sorry to have had to send three players home after the final selection of the squad.
Every aspect of their contribution must have been carefully assessed and compared with the other members of the squad. I am a big fan of Trent Lougheed, having seen him play many of the matches in the lead up to the tournament. Unfortunately, he suffered injury and was omitted from the squad. The others just missed the cut and were sent home. It’s always tough for omitted players who have gone much of the way. However, that is what sport is all about and while there is disappointment, there should also be that desire to increase their workload for the next selection process. I distinctly recall the year 1959, when the British Caribbean football team travelled to the United Kingdom for a six month tour. Two of my great friends and outstanding players Carlton “General” Franco, and Aldric “Son” Baptiste, had participated in the Caribbean tournament which was used to select the team.
Unfortunately, Franco did not seem to impress the selection panel, mainly because they were from different islands and had not previously seen him play on a regular basis. Son received a small injury during the first match and through some misinformation, he was advised not to risk playing, as he was certainly one of the best players on show. When the team was selected, both these guys were regrettably left out of the squad. Shattering to the local fans, but they lived to demand the respect of those who omitted them from the squad. No one suggested that they be taken along with the team. Recently, our tendency to be sympathetic to those left out, has encouraged the authorities to reduce the pain of being discarded. Players like Clayton Morris and Silvio Spann were recipients of these kind gestures at the expense of the Football Association.
Having followed this trend may cause the youngsters in this squad to feel cheated, even though the rules of the competition do not allow for extra players. Even if they did not witness the matches in Egypt, these youngsters have been exposed to tours to Brasil, Venezuela, England, Korea, UAE, Turkey and Cyprus, resources for vast experience and the motivation to become better players down the road. If you really like football and are interested in our development, its worth our while to look into the team’s performances in this tournament and try to create a crystal ball effect of what to expect from this bunch in the future. The country’s image is at stake and while football is the catalyst, the key ingredients of good discipline, full commitment, “teamsmanship”, and self respect are virtues which will reflect our country and our people in a most memorable way. May God bless the members of this team and full national support is coming your way.