Anton Corneal stresses that the Under-23 football team as well, as hidden talents in the community, comprise the core of the TTFF’s plans for progression but maintained that their skill on the field must be accompanied by their discipline off it.

Referring to the “Soca Warriors” 3-2 loss at the Hasely Crawford Stadium against Finland earlier this month, followed by the Under-23’s 1-0 victory over the same Finnish team, Corneal highlighted, “The future is bright.

The senior squad encompassed some U-23 players as we wanted to give them as much exposure as possible. We wanted to see our best Pro-league players in the opening game but having so many U-23 players such as Sean Da Silva in both units shows how much we want these younger players playing higher level football.”

Corneal pinpointed that while the senior team seemed “scrapped together”, it was calculated so that the coaches could see the proper blend of local experience and youth. He attributed both satisfactory performances to the guile of coaches Hutson Charles and Angus Eve who are familiar with the two sets of players, and claimed that their expertise would be a pillar of strength for the future to see a cohesive structure come to fruition again for the senior squad.

“In Tobago, the entire U-23 team played well and notched a win. But what these youngsters need to know is that a footballer must carry himself with pride and discipline off the field as well.

A footballer is still carrying his nation’s honour outside the stadium. Stamp your authority off the field and be better role models in society,” continued Corneal as he was confident that the level of discipline instilled would step the game up for the U-23s.

He admitted that a lot rests on the shoulders of the U-23s and they offer much promise as he added, “Grassroots football builds youth players to fulfill their capability and optimise their potential to the brim.

Once primary, secondary schools and women’s teams are under the eye of certified coaches, it’s a huge step forward, but note that community football is also a great feeder to the national teams.” Corneal revealed that plans to take football back to the communities will be a potent stroke to ascertaining where local talents can be unearthed.

“Fifteen to 20 communities are being tackled and non-mainstream football is under watch. These communities have talented players and it also brings crime reduction with the arm of recreation — it’s unity. Biche, Toco and Tabaquite are such places. We must plan and design for the communities as seen with Mayaro, which gave us a youth skipper in Leston Paul,” Corneal boasted.

He also mentioned Laventille as area to focus on as and expressed disappointment with the stigma, stereotypes and labels associated with the community and its youth.

“We had former national skippers from Laventille (one notable mention being Russell Latapy) and we need to offer proper opportunities to the young people there. The young players in such communities must be afforded the right avenues. This will be inculcated in the TTFF’s developmental plans,” he concluded.