In this great country, we are inclined to aim for the skies, something which everyone should be pleased to do. Whether it is the workplace, the playing field, the home, or almost anywhere, there are those who swear by the word professionalism, especially now that money is floating around the country like rain flies after a heavy shower of rain.
Having said that, I tend to pay special attention to the area of my life which I cherish very much and keep looking for progress in every discipline of sport.
What I have found out is that my definition of professionalism differs with what is sometimes portrayed, especially in the situations where money has become the be all and end all for the people involved.
Today, I wish to target the country’s Professional Football League (Pro League), if only because I am so anxious to see this league grow from strength to strength in the future.
I am also aware that it takes a few years to make an impact on a society whose history in sport is based upon the amateur participant (or maybe that was the word used to describe a player many years ago).
I was impressed when the ruling body for football decided many years ago, to change the name of its organisation from the TAFA (Trinidad Amateur Football Association) to the TTFF (T&T Football Federation).
No doubt this move was designed for players to have a professional approach to the sport.
Personally, it was my own impression that footballers in the fifties to eighties, were actually professionals in their dedication, commitment and extreme desire to give of their very best each time they entered the field.
But because they all had to do other jobs in order to earn a salary and playing football was voluntary, we were referred to as amateurs.
Today 30 years and millions of dollars later, it is a professional world of football, (or that is what it is called).
Clubs pay high franchise fees, employ coaches, players and administrative staff, travel to mates in their mini buses, and play on the most modern facilities in the land.
To me that is the recipe of moving ahead and a strong base for top class performances on the field.
But, I am horribly mistaken! I did not take many things into consideration. I misread the mentality of our youth who believe that a professional player is one who gets paid to play. He believes that whoever gets more money, calls the tune for his team, and if by chance, he is a member of the national team, he become a prima donna.
It makes me think that we have rushed into this stage of our football without educating our young players that it’s a job which must be done efficiently and with a level of dedication and commitment which will make them the best they can be. I am so very wrong. Maybe the image of the past 30 years and the dedicated gentlemen who played the great game in those days, left me with an false illusion which was literally the opposite of what occurs today.
Then I ask the question to myself: whose fault is this? Is it only the young players who do not understand the definition of the word professionalism, or is it modern society who believe that they must redefine the meaning of the word?
When we witness matches in the Pro League, we get varied pictures of performance levels. Some good! others, not so good. But in recent times, there seemed to have been more consistency of good football among our clubs in the Pro League.
Looking deeper at the development of the game, I am faced with a number of non-professional behaviour coming from players and administrators alike, bringing a serious challenge on the future of the game.
For instance, the most recent spate of absenteeism by referees for Pro League matches, could not be justifiable to clubs, players, spectators and all the relevant stakeholders like radio, television, journalists and sponsors.
Many matches are postponed because of an absence of referees and sometimes, club linesmen are asked to officiate. What an insult to the professional game!
How could a professional league operate on the premise that referees may or may not show up for matches, especially as I am informed (unofficially) that it’s a question of payment.
This is difficult to believe simply because any professional organisation would have had a budget which will include payments for referees, match commissioners, ticket collectors etc.
And even if one is to bypass this huge faut pas, why can’t the match commissioners be instructed to make contact with referees 24 hours before to obtain confirmation that they will attend.
Why can’t the referees who are appointed to officiate at a match not be made to notify the league twenty four hours before the start of the game that they will not attend.
Exactly where is the professional behaviour of these individuals who are either running a business or working for it?
Then there is the question of the registration system, which is not as clear as it should be. There are players who still ply their trade in minor leagues, while they are contracted to professional clubs. Some players have been known to play in the Pro League and also the Zonal associations.
Players under 18 years old are confused as to whether or not they can play for their schools, and/or their professional clubs.
The most recent problem exists with the young players who represent the national U-20 team in the super league and are now debarred from playing for their schools. Why is this situation so difficult to resolve?
These problems tend to affect players and sometimes we are unable to see the connection between their performances and the indecisiveness that surrounds them.
Then we have the full fledge “pros” who lack the understanding as to what are their roles in the clubs. Some are known to play two good games (in their opinion) and suddenly ask for more money. There are cases where young players are persuaded by their agents to jump on a plane and travel abroad for try outs with another professional club, without notifying their local clubs (to whom they are contracted).
Others miss matches for their clubs because they wanted to spend a day or two with loved ones abroad.
In the final analysis, some of us take a look at these players at the national level and are quick to blame coaches for their poor performances.
I humbly ask the administrators of the ProLeague to get their act together so that they can make stronger demands on the clubs and players under their control.
There will be so much more support from the business sector, the government, and the fans, if there is efficiency in one’s management.
Football in any country can only improve when all the components are being managed properly, whether it be referees, match commissioners, players, coaches, or administrators themselves. Nothing shorter than the best will take us forward.