BRAZILIAN coach Professor Rene Simoes enjoyed his first day in charge of the Trinidad and Tobago under-17 football team yesterday and wasted no time in ringing in the changes.
Simoes, who replaces Nigerian Chief Adegboye Onigbinde, is responsible for taking the national youth team—dubbed "Team 2001"—to the Fifa 2001 Under-17 World Cup tournament which will be held in Trinidad and Tobago in September.
Brazilian goalkeeping coach Francisco Santos and trainer Alfredo Montessori, both members of his staff in Jamaica—who Simoes took to the 1998 World Cup in France—also helped to conduct the session, along with former national assistant coach Clayton "JB" Morris.
Another Brazilian will soon be selected to join them as assistant coach.
Simoes, who recently enjoyed his silver wedding anniversary with wife Maria in Brazil, quickly familiarised himself with his new assignment yesterday.
His first training session with Team 2001 was held from 8 a.m. at the Fatima College ground, Mucurapo Road.
It will also be his last session at that venue, which he said was unacceptable for that level of football.
"That is definitely out," he said, with a disapproving nod.
Simoes also scrapped the team's present 4-4-2 system for a more sturdy 3-5-2.
He explained that the formation used by Onigbinde left them too exposed at centre field. He said the 3-5-2 system—which he also introduced to Jamaica—was conducive to a marking game which should better suit them in the World Cup.
"You are the weakest team in the group," said Simoes. "So you have to make some protections and try to make something to surprise them."
Team 2001 will also be withdrawn from the Professional Football League (PFL) reserve league to allow Simoes more time to organise and trim his roster.
He complained that the current 36-man squad was too big and he hoped to reduce it to 26 within the next two weeks.
Simoes has already earmarked Argentina, Paraguay and Germany for warm-up matches and hopes to have at least ten international games under his belt before September.
In just two sessions, Simoes has already spotted several other team habits in need of change. Chief among those weaknesses was concentration.
Throughout the evening practice at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Simoes ordered his players to do push-ups for infractions ranging from errant passes to slow responses to game situations.
"They switch off too easily," he said. "The way you build your sessions must be one which will remind them to keep thinking...
"When they switch off they will get push-ups again and again until they get like (Arnold) Schwarzenegger."
Simoes compared his present job to the task he faced when he joined Jamaica in 1995. It took him four years, he said, to get the Jamaicans playing the way he wanted.
However, he believes that things are less complicated for the youngsters than the national senior team.
At present, the "Soca Warriors" have just one point from a possible nine and occupy cellar position in the Concacaf World Cup qualifying group.
The Brazilian, who created history in the English-speaking Caribbean by taking Jamaica to the 1998 World Cup, explained that he will offer technical advice gathered from five years at the helm of the "Reggae Boyz".
He also expressed hope that the entire national team would begin staying at the same hotel—a reference to reports of two of the squad's more senior players sharing separate lodgings to their teammates.
"If you are at the hotel everybody must sleep at the hotel," he said. "There must be no privilege for anyone. No matter how good you are, everyone is a member of the squad...
"Things that I heard happened cannot happen."
However, Simoes will not sit on the bench with coach Ian Porterfield and will allow the Scotsman room to do his job.
"I think the senior team will be okay," he said. "There is no necessity (for me to sit on the bench)."
Still, there was a word of caution.
"No matter how big the player is..." he said, "the point is what contribution he is making for the progress of the team. I don't think about the name, I think about the contribution that he is giving to help the squad and the progress of the team.
"If it is not (good), then you don't need (him)."
For now, though, he will focus on Team 2001, who are drawn with defending champions Brazil, Australia and Croatia for the U-17 World Cup.