DIRECTV North East Stars President, Darryl Mahabir spoke of his delight in the progress of the Trinidad & Tobago Olympic squad, who are currently preparing for final round in the Caribbean Football Union Olympic qualifiers which take place in St Kitts/Nevis later this month.
"The boys have carried the flag proudly, both in the first round of qualifiers, and more recently in the Pan American Games in Mexico" said Mahabir "Angus Eve has done a superb job of building an exciting squad and I hope he's allowed to continue in this position, because the future of T&T football not only lies at the feet of our young players, but also in the development of young coaches like Angus."
The Under 23 squad returned from Mexico unbeaten, and although they did not make it through to the final rounds, the draw with Mexico on their own turf speaks volumes of the development of the players.
"Kaydion Gabriel flew back from Mexico on the Thursday night and scored a magnificent goal for North East the following afternoon. You could see the confidence flowing through him." said Mahabir, owner of the Japs Fried Chicken restaurant chain. "One of my best experiences in 10 years of football is seeing players like Kaydion develop. I'm very strict with these youngsters and I try to install a professional attitude in everything they do. Jeromie Williams plays with such maturity, you forget he's still a youngster."
North East Stars C.E.O., Brent Sancho agreed with his Presidents views. "There is an exciting crop of youngsters coming through the Pro League and it bodes well for the future of T&T's International ambitions. Much must be owed to visionaries such as John Williams at W Connection who has spent 10 years and lot of his own money in developing talent, and people like Keith Look Loy at Santa Rosa. Terry Fenwick is another example of a coach with a passion for developing talent, and I hope we get to see him involved again in the Pro League sometime soon."
Sancho maintained that too many people focus on results tomorrow to the detriment of long term development. "TTFF should have a stated programme of development targeting the 2022 World Cup" said Sancho. "We should be aggressively recruiting 9-13 year olds with a formatted development programme including international schoolboy fixtures. There is already a scouting pool in place, with Pro League clubs all running under 13 teams, yet I have never been contacted by TTFF to identify players or attend moratoriums on schoolboy coaching.
Youth development is an essential role of TTFF, yet they seem to think that boys wake up on their 17th birthday as a fully developed footballer with understanding of tactics. Players have to be proficient at the basics at a young age so skills such as ball control, first touch, positioning and vision are all second nature. We always start at a disadvantage, with other countries benefiting from a progressive youth development structure. It also provides an excellent development opportunity for young coaches, administrators and match officials"
North East's Operations Director, Kevin Harrison said "It has always been our ambition at the club to put in place a quality academy based in Sangre Grande. However, as usual, finance is the issue. We first need to build a professional facility and this can't be achieved without support from corporate sponsors or the government." Harrison said there is a lot of prestige associated with youth development.
"Its worth pointing out that when players such as Kenwyne Jones make the leap overseas, this provides massive profile for the academy sponsors. We already have located a site for our academy, but need to build changing rooms and bleachers.
Once built, we will look to employ qualified coaches to work with our youngsters. We will also look to attract a big name player to support the academy and hope to capitalise on our links with Feyenoord, Ajax, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool, as well as develop links to South American clubs through our Brazilian coach. An academy provides a source of Corporate Social Responsibility opportunities for a very cost effective investment"
Sancho added "We have the natural talent in T&T, but this is not enough.Youngsters must be schooled to develop a professional ethos which will carry them overseas to the bigger leagues. Education is essential as scholarship to U.S. colleges is an ideal route, one that players like myself and Kelvin Jack benefited from."
Mahabir, speaking ahead of the launch of DIRECTV North East Stars Champion of Champions 2011 Invitational Football Tournament said that North East are focused on the opening of an academy in the North East. "People who know me are aware that youth development is a particular passion of mine. There aren't that many opportunities for youngsters in the outlying areas of the North,East and Central regions such as Manzanilla, Rio Claro, Valencia and Toco.
Football is the only way out for some youngsters and I want to encourage them as much as possible. I would like to see TTFF put regional development programmes in place. Its great that the Ministry of Sport hold coaching schools, but these do not address the lack of consistent progressive developmental programmes that should fall under the purview of TTFF. Until the Federation starts to work in tandem with the Pro League and the various zones, our international football potential will be hampered."
All three North East stars officials proclaimed their belief that the Olympic Squad could progress to the CONCACAF stage of the 2012 qualification process.
Sancho said "We have to overcome Cuba, St Kitts/Nevis and Suriname to progress. But following on from the draws against Mexico, Ecuador and Uruguay, we must be in with a great chance.
Those 3 countries are big guns and the games were played in front of big, hostile crowds, yet the youngsters maintained their composure. Any kind of positive result against Cuba in the opening game will give the lads a massive platform to launch themselves into the CONCACAF round."
Mahabir agreed. "I believe Angus Eve can get the best from this squad. I hope TTFF will provide him with all he needs to complete his preparation. Next to the World Cup, playing in the London Olympics will be the biggest footballing event in T&T football history, and I for one, would be making the trip to cheer on our guys."