I wish to clarify a few misconceptions under which your columnist Bukka Rennie has clearly laboured in his writing of the article "Unbalanced (sic) in football administration" (22.02.99).
Equally as clear is the fact that everyone is entitled to his view(s) on the national sport, and we all know that when the team wins it is due to the players' abilities and efforts, while failure (however, defined) is the result of the coach's lack of ability and effort, don't we.
Criticism is par for the course, and that's fine. However, I would like to state the following for the record:
1) The only dissenting voice to the removal of Muhammad Isa from the position of Under 17 coach after the December 1998 CFU tournament was that of Keith Lookloy.
2) With the experience of three CONCACAF tournaments behind me (1993, 1994, 1996), I was never dissuaded of the improbability of qualifying, given the proven quality of our opponents over many years, and our lack of preparation, ie 16 sessions over four weeks.
3) I was, therefore, cautious in my statements to the media, and not "chockful of confidence" as Rennie states. On the morning of our first match, against the host El Salvador, I spoke only to Cana out of Barbados. The report, carried in another daily on 02.10.99, quoted me correctly as saying, "Trinidad and Tobago does have a good record against El Salvador at all levels, so we will not be approaching the match with any fear. We will have to be very careful and concentrate well and play our best. If we do that, then we are hopeful for a good result."
This is a long way from the fabricated quote conjured up by Rennie.
4) Although Rennie claims I have not yet spoken to the media since the team's return, in fact, I have not spoken to the Guardian. On Sunday, February 21, 1999, there was a full-page article in another daily on the matter of the Under 17 team, which was written after an interview of some 30 minutes.
5) Rennie clearly considers pre-tournament preparation to be an insignificant matter. He reduces the fact that the team trained for four weeks, four times a week, to be a "trite and tired excuse." For the information of your readers, let me state the following:
El Salvador played more than 100 international games over a three-year period; Mexico trained for six months together with a large number of international games, (and their players all belong to the junior divisions of professional clubs); Canada trained for more than six months, with live-in camps, usually three times a day and with several international games. These are not excuses, these are facts. The SSFL does not prepare youth players for CONCACAF play. It is a recreational league which enjoys huge popularity and that's all.
Now, Rennie does advance one valid viewpoint we need a "coherent programme" for the development of the game, and "a board of coaches to implement it." More than this, what we need is a strategy plan to guide the development of the game in the following areas:
- facilities and infrastructure
- national teams
- youth development
- women's football
- coach education
In the absence of such an approval we will continue to be confronted by the contradiction of having the leading scorer in both the English Premiership and the MLS of the USA carrying Trinidad and Tobago passports, dozens of players in foreign professional leagues and universities and nothing to show for it at the CONCACAF or FIFA levels.
To reduce this failure to the level of blaming the coach and "blue eyed boys" is, at least, naive and unnecessary. Progress, of any type, demands an appropriate level of professionalism and fairness in our viewpoints. For football to move forward, the petty hostility implicit in Rennie's article should be avoided, while the honest contributions of all should be welcomed. There is much more than I could say.
In conclusion, Rennie, and no doubt others, will be pleased to know I have resigned from the position of Under 17 coach, having assumed it only in response to the chaotic situation of the team immediately prior to the CONCACAF tournament, and to the personal request of Mr Warner.
He should further note I am not interested in being considered for any further appointment(s). The TTFF has been so informed.