Shabazz opens doors to Morace outcasts
Apart from being heavily involved in the hiring process of Italian Carolina Morace, new women’s team head coach Jamaal Shabazz was also the T&T Football Association’s (TTFA) co-ordinator of programmes when former captain Maylee Attin-Johnson and star midfielder Kennya “Yaya” Cordner were suspended by Morace for breaking team rules, while Ahkeela Mollon quit soon after Morace’s tenure began.
That banishment has left a bitter taste in Attin-Johnson’s mouth and now that Shabazz is back in charge of the programme he helped build and led as either coach or technical at several intervals over the course of the last two decades, the midfielder is not ready to forgive and forget even though Shabazz has wiped the slate clean.
When Guardian Media Sports spoke to Attin Johnson yesterday, she said that while she does harbour hopes to play for the country again, her decision will not be easily swayed by Shabazz, a man whom she described as a father figure to her. “The way the situation took place its a hard pill to swallow. I’m trying to put that behind me but I know what I’ve given to T&T on and off the field and for someone to be allowed to come in an disrespect our local heroes without any answers and all of a sudden she’s gone, everything cannot be hunky-dory.”
Attin-Johnson also stated that she could not think about taking up Shabazz’s invitation until next year due to personal reasons and while she was in high praise of Shabazz’s achievements in the past for the women’s game in T&T, she held some reservations about his re-appoint after at least six years away. “We all know that without Jamaal the women’s programme would not have been able to accomplish the things that it has because he built it from the ground. That is not a matter of opinion, it is a matter of fact. But brining him back now I hope he has learned what it would take to get us over the top this time.”
In 2011 Shabazz walked away from the women’s senior team claiming that the programme needed fresh ideas.
Speaking with Guardian Media Sports yesterday, Shabazz stated his readiness to assume his duties this time and said: “I did not have the full knowledge of the entire dispute, that is between the FA and her (Morace). But now that she’s not here we have to face up to the fact and get on with the job.”
Shabazz will not have a honeymoon period at the helm since, when Morace walked out, she took with her several staff members who were overseeing the age group programmes, and so it is now the job of the former Guyana senior men’s coach to re-tool all departments as quickly and as seamlessly as possible.
“I think the departure of the last coach with the under-17s having a tournament in just a couple weeks and the under-20s in January there needs to be some kind of assurance that we can pull this off. The players need to see something from the staff, a level of commitment. We’re up for the task. We have been a part of building this programme since 1998 so coming in now it really is just trying to get everybody on the same page and pulling in the same direction and to focus on football.”
He continued: “There is the tendency when a change happens in football for the focus to be on politics. Obviously some would be pleased, some would be vex and others would wish it was them. But for me I want to focus on the football and refocus the minds of the players and the staff on the job ahead.”
Shabazz told Guardian Media Sports that the senior programme along with the under-20 sessions will take a two-week break in order for both to be re-organised. Neither team has any major competitions this year. The under 17s will continue training for their Caribbean competition in August.