We paid particular attention to the words of the Under-17 football coach, Keith Look Loy, before the team left for El Salvador. We knew the trip was an exercise in futility and expected nothing but utmost disaster. Look Loy, as all our coaches are before the fact, was confident, despite the fact that Issa, his predecessor, was removed as coach immediately after the qualifying rounds were held here in T&T and he, Look Loy, placed in charge mere weeks before leaving for El Salvador.
The level of madness that prevails in this place is stupefying. Issa was given that team to handle over a period of just six months; no official monitoring was established, no infrastructural back up provided, and this despite all the rumours one heard then about the unavailability of training grounds, the absence of officials and/or players at practice sessions, etc. No rational attempts were made to sought out the problems.
Though we qualified to go to El Salvador for the second round, it was quite obvious to all that the team was unprepared and ill-prepared and lacked the basics. But in typical erratic fashion, that has now become the hallmark of the Jack Warner-influenced administration, Issa was booted out and the blue-eyed Look Loy placed in charge. There was never any attempt at an in-depth examination of the problems to arrive at any serious, coherent policy formulations for the future.
Before the team left for El Salvador, Look Loy was chockfull of confidence. He said something to the effect that "El Salvador is one of the Latin American teams that T&T has handled favourably in the past so that they present no terrors for us and that we should do well against them even though we lack practice and preparation." At the end of the day we were beaten 6-1 by El Salvador, 6-0 by Canada and 6-1 by Mexico.
Look Loy is yet to speak to the media since the team's return, instead Leslie Marcelle, the manager, has been allowed to speak, imparting to us the now trite and tired excuse: "If we had had more time to prepare for the contests, things may have turned out differently, blah, blah, blah..."
So what shall the "Warner-influenced administration" resolve to do now? Boot out the blue-eyed boy?
The erratic swings of our football administration from one extreme to another utilising the same old faces has got to stop now. No one can fault the overall programme for football development that has been outlined from Under-12 right up to national level. No one in his right mind can be critical of all that Jack Warner has done for the development of the sport in the Caribbean region and in particular in T&T. But we need to allow the programmes time to work and to mature to fruition.
The contradiction indicates that exactly where your strength lies is exactly where your weakness shall be generated. Jack Warner is T&T's biggest asset in terms of our football development, but at the same time his influence is our biggest negative. Somebody has got to tell him so. And how we resolve that contradiction shall determine the future of T&T's football. The whims and fancies of any one individual must be tempered in the sole interest of the success of the objective programme.
The national coach must work with a body of coaches representing all the various levels. Is the Nigerian coach responsible for our 2004 Under-14 team working in unison with Bertille St Clair? Did our national coach or the Nigerian have any input in the preparation of the Under-17s that went to El Salvador? Are we putting together a particular structure that shall be used by all from the level of Under-14 to national level?
We need structural coherency in our football from cradle to grave. That is paramount! Once we have such a coherent programme in place and a board of coaches to implement it without fear of any power-broker then we shall see the light of day and maybe, just maybe, the lush green fields of the World Cup. But first we must have men with testicular fortitude.