Soca Warriors Online (SWO) gets up-close with Canadian Soccer Association technical director Stephen Hart on his view on the just concluded 2009 CONCACAF Men’s Under-20 Championship in Port of Spain, Trinidad.
1. What are your thoughts on the T&T vs Canada Under 20 match.
SH - T&T's team speed was exceptional, and it seemed their game plan was not to allow Canada to settle on the ball by pressing the midfield and back line when in possession. This forced several turn over’s of possession in Canada's half and created chances for T&T (which they wasted). Canada also struggled to deal with the direct play of T&T. In the first half Canada's back line got caught with passes played over the top and the T&T side created several good opportunities, with their willingness to chase every ball.
The second half Canada adjusted well and though T&T still looked dangerous, the game became more balanced and Canada had two chances inside the penalty area which were not taken, one of which came just after T&T scored. In the end, the game was won on an excellent free-kick by DeSilva and one must admit it was a well deserved victory.
2. What are your thoughts on the current T&T under 20 team.
SH - It is difficult to judge on just a few games, but the T&T team is very athletic with speed in almost every position and some talented players that can turn a game with moments of invention. Add Khaleem Hyland, Jamal Gay, Stephen Knox & Jerrel Britto to the squad and its potential frightening (once they can fit in).
3. Which T&T player/s were you impress with the most.
SH - Leston Paul, Sean DeSilva, Daneil Cyrus & Glenroy Samuel.
4. How was your trip to T&T. In terms of- off the football field scene.
SH - Always special to see my parents, family and friends. Though I was working so its hard to make time for everyone so I hope they understand.
5. Did the Canadian team enjoyed there stay. Care you give us a brief on there visit.
SH - Well, they are there to compete and I am sure they valued the experience of the competition even though they were disappointed in not being successful. Other than that they saw little of T&T besides the hotel and fields.
6. T&T have beaten Canada in the last under 17 qualifiers in Jamaica. And now they got the better of Canada at the under 20 level some 2 years later. Canada was one of the stronger teams when it came to youth and women football. What has caused the sudden declined. Or is it, other teams (i.e. T&T) that is getting better.
SH - Everyone is getting better and investing more and more in their football development. Getting a Canadian team together is difficult. This group of players had very little time together, in comparison to the T&T team which was together for one year playing in the Super League (from what I understand). Traditionally, Canadian players mature later than those of other CONCACAF Nations. Canada has been to the U-20 WC in 1997, 2001, 2003, 2005 and hosted in 2007. Getting into the Quarter finals in 97' and 03'. What is important at the youth level is the production of players for the senior team. We are in the process of attempting to create an understanding of the role for everyone involved in the game, to makes us more efficient in our delivery.
7. What other teams in the under 20 qualifiers that you saw and felt will be a force for the future.
SH - I was really impressed with Honduras, they are a well balanced team with an exceptional player in #7. If it were not for exceptional goal keeping they could have easily beaten USA by 3 clear goals. However, this is all based on seeing one game.
CR are also a well polished unit, playing some fluid football and in #16, 8, 17 and 7 they have a nice attacking flow to their game.
USA reminds me of Germany in the early 80's, the are physical, wear teams down and some how get the result. I don't like it myself but it is effective.
8. What's next for you in terms of football in Canada.
SH - Well I have been in the TD position for only 10 months and we have a lot of work to do on all fronts. I intend to seek the advice and listen to all involved in the game and patiently build towards the future.
9. Before the tournament were you expecting T&T to qualify for Egypt.
SH - Playing at home is a huge advantage and based on that everyone knew that T&T were going to prove difficult opposition and consequently among the favorites to qualify.
10. Do you agree CONCACAF deserve 4 spots at this level for a youth WC final.
SH - Its something I have wrestled with for quite a while. Europe seems to pay more attention to their own U-21 Tournament which is huge and of high quality. They can afford it, so why not have 4 teams from CONCACAF at the world level. However, if CONCACAF teams don't do well questions will be asked.
I will say this though, CONCACAF has to make more of an effort to improve the quality of the region. Maybe CONCACAF can have a Gold Cup at U-16 - U-19 which qualifies teams for the World Championships almost a year in advance. This will allow for the competitions dates to be planned better, played when schools are closed and be less of a financial burden on Federations. Now what you would have is the U-15 CFU and CA competitions, one year to prepare for the GC and another year to prepare for the WC (as an example).
About Stephen Hart From Wikipedia.
Stephen Hart (born 15 March 1960) is the recently appointed technical director of the Canadian Soccer Association (there were 15 applications, six from outside Canada, for the job).
He played in his native Trinidad and Tobago for Texaco in the Trinidad and Tobago Professional Football League and well as San Fernando club the San Fernando Strikers. In 1980 he was selected to the Trinidad and Tobago national team. Later in the same year he moved to Canada to attend Saint Mary's University, Halifax. Hart starred for the school's Saint Mary's Huskies and local amateur side Halifax King of Donair. He coached Donair in 2000. He had been their player-coach in 1988 and 1989.
His duties include leading their long-term development as well as overseeing all their technical programs. Part of this involves helping young players come up the ranks with improved technical skills. Currently works as Assistant coach for the Canada and as Head Coach from Canada U-17 National Team.
In the past Hart has been a coach with Canada's youth and senior teams. He has recently been head coach of Canada's U-17 team and assistant coach to Canada's senior team. In 2007, he stepped in as the senior team's interim coach and led Canada to a semi-final spot in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Hart was technical director of Soccer Nova Scotia from 1993 to 2001.
A long-time Halifax resident where he lives with his wife Lynn and three daughters, Eilish, Keva and Yara Hart.
Note: On behalf on the Soca Warriors Online and Warrior Nation, we say thank you to Mr. Stephen Hart for taking the time out to do this Q&A Interview for us. We wish you all the best in the future. May Gob Bless you and your family.