I am ashamed of the officials who run football in this country. Two weeks ago, after tremendous pressure and discussions all over this country, the godfather of our football revealed, what many believed should have been confirmed since November 2009, that Russell Latapy would be the national coach.
For a while, T&T did not seem to care that we had no football coach with politics and Carnival in the air. We were so pre-occupied with the disappointment of not qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, that we dismissed football, and those in charge were given the opportunity to do nothing fast.
If we were a mature football nation, we would have already moved on and looked for the positives and started planning for the future. This would have meant that the Football Federation would have been professionally maintained by intelligent, forward thinking persons, and not by slaves to a particular servant. Why did it take so long?
Is it because no-one was able to stand-up to Austin Jack Warner and tell him: “We need to either re-appoint Latapy or find a successor immediately.” It is for this reason I am not happy. If these are the individuals who run the sport, how can Latapy depend on them for support. Can he trust what they tell him? Will they give him support in action and not only words?
Latapy needs to be allowed time to build a team. He needs to have competent people around him, and this appears to rule out current members of the Federation. We must not fool ourselves into believing that the Little Magician can wave a wand and dismiss these people. They enjoy some key positions and can do things that may not be in his best interest.
At the moment, Latapy needs, not only matches of consequences, but a technical group of people to help in improving particular skills of our players, from goalkeeping to scoring goals. He also needs to get an understanding of how these players think. Too many are allowed to earn reasonable income ($6,000-$8,000) without knowing how to spend their money, and end up wasting away their careers on the thrills of life.
This sort of responsibility has to be engendered from early if the young players are to be of value to Latapy. They need education and not large contracts without advice and mentorship. Not everyone can handle a million dollars. I hope the Federation is not trying to set up Latapy to fail by not supplying him with the necessary tools to succeed. I also want to know when will Latapy be spending the six months with Arsenal and Arsene Wenger.
So far I have not seen any indication on the Arsenal Web site of this impending stint. I welcome this move since this is the best training Latapy could acquire because Arsenal plays beautiful football and he would be able to identify with Arsenal’s flair, touch and tenacity. In the past, we have heard several false promises from football authorities and when questioned, they always point fingers at Government’s failure to fund football.
I hope none of the promises made to Latapy are dependent on government funding. As to those who should assist Latapy, he must choose people he can trust. With the Pro League due to start on April 9, and with it, a new beginning, as there will now be a 12 month season, with two breaks, this should ideally allow Latapy a chance to observe the development of the locally based players.
This is where he needs to draw his line. Having watched and played in the 2009 Pro League season, Latapy must have an opinion on the ability of several of the players and he needs to assemble a squad of 25-30 players, and, if he can arrange some matches and serious sessions around the season, that would be beneficial.
Every Trinbagonian believes he/she knows football and can pick the best team. But we must not pressure Latapy, it is his decision to select his own squad.
Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs Gary Hunt, must forget politics and help Latapy to grow and succeed in any way he can. The road ahead will be tricky but if he is given a fair chance, the Magician will succeed and this will mean our football is on the road to achieving some stability by the time qualifications start for World Cup 2014. Pro League coaches also need to co-operate with the national coach.
There will be those, whether owners or agents, who will want their player selected for the national team so that he can obtain the necessary international caps, that will grant him a rewarding contract abroad. This selfishness must not be encouraged. Let us support the new coach with sincerity and honesty. We must give him a chance to experiment while attempting to find the right formula and flavour for our national team.