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Fri, Oct

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MINISTER of Sport Anil Roberts is obviously sticking to the adage, "He who pays the piper, calls the tune," in handing down an ultimatum to national football coach Russell Latapy that he must improve Trinidad and Tobago's recent poor run of form in friendly internationals against supposedly inferior opposition or face dismissal.

Speaking at Thursday's launch of the 2010 Digicel Caribbean Cup, Mr Roberts disclosed that the Government has made qualification for the 2014 World Cup Finals in Brazil a national priority and, as the first stepping stone on that journey, he stated that the national team should at least make the final of the Caribbean Cup, set for December 5.

Mr Roberts' announcement came on the same day that the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF)—which will ultimately decide Russell Latapy's fate—obtained another adjournment in the court matter involving some members of the team who represented the country at the 2006 World Cup Finals and their demand for a share of the money the TTFF obtained through qualification for that tournament. Although that issue cannot be ignored in the overall scheme of things, it is another matter best left for another day.

While some may see Mr Roberts as representing the general public and the fans themselves, and his having a say about who is in charge of the team as being synonymous with ordinary supporters having an indirect input in T&T's performances, there are others who will question his intrusion into matters that are the responsibility of the TTFF.

Why should the Government get involved in telling the Football Federation, or any sporting organisation for that matter, who should or should not coach a national team? Even though this particular Minister can claim extensive knowledge of sport in general, his direct involvement opens up the playing field to the reality or the perception of back-biting and back-scratching, with candidates for the post jostling to please the person calling the shots.

In the meantime, spare a thought for the current coach who, some will say, is having to produce blood from stone in getting players of limited ability to generate positive results that will preserve his job.

Russell Latapy is a much-adored national hero, arguably the most skilful footballer to don national colours, and although he may have bitten off more than he can chew in trying to successfully coach the national team, he should be left to do his work without Minister Roberts waving a big stick behind his back, waiting to chop him down.

By all means give him a timeline, but let him get on with the job without warnings and threats hanging over his head.