Sat, Sep


Shabazz added to senior team technical staff.Jamaal Shabazz was on Tuesday officially announced as joint head coach for the Trinidad and Tobago Senior Men’s Team that will contest the 2012 Caribbean Cup Finals next month in Antigua/Barbuda.

This was agreed upon following discussions between TTFF President Raymond Tim Kee and Technical Director Anton Corneal. Shabazz was involved in his first meeting with the rest of the Senior Team staff on Monday evening along with Tim Kee and Corneal.

Derek King remains as assistant coach to Co-head coaches Hutson Charles and Shabazz. The rest of the staff remains the same.

The decision was also announced during Tim Kee’s first meeting with members of the TTFF Executive Committee at the Federation headquarters in Woodbrook on Tuesday evening.

Tim Kee also stated that this move will remain until there is need for further review of the technical staff in relation to the team's progress  in 2013 and beyond.

Shabazz will make his first appearance at the team’s training session on Thursday from 9am at the Larry Gomes Stadium.

Charles who has guided T&T to six games unbeaten in the Caribbean Cup qualifiers, welcomed Shabazz’s addition to his staff.

“It’s something that I welcome. As  I’ve said before, I am in this for the national interest and if there's anything that can help the team go forward then I will support it.

Jamaal has had a fair amount of success in the Pro League and he has coached at the national level before. We also know of his success with Guyana. I think this is a good move towards seeing the improvement of the national team,” Charles told TTFF Media.

Shabazz himself was excited over his new role. He served as assistant coach back in 2003 under Stuart Charles Fevrier and was on the technical staff for friendlies against such teams as Morocco, South Africa, Venezuela, Haiti and Kenya.

“It’s a massive opportunity for me and an honour to be recalled to serve at the highest level which is the National Men’s Senior Team. I’ve been here before but I thought there was a lot more contribution to be made and I’m very pleased to be handed the opportunity.

I’m truly excited to work with this current team as we attempt to reclaim the glory and dominance in the Caribbean and continue our aspirations to be among the best in CONCACAF. Ive also observed with great interest the progress this team has made with limited resources and it means that the staff has been doing quite a good job at the same time,” Shabazz stated.

Tim Kee revealed that in his discussions with Corneal, there was a short-list of coaches based in T&T and a decision was taken to appoint Shabazz.

“We held our discussions and there were a couple more names that were mentioned and discussed very closely. At this time we felt Shabazz was the right man for the role.

He has acquired significant international experience over the past year or so and he has been involved heavily on the local stage. His success at Caledonia AIA has not gone unnoticed. This is partnership that we are definitely looking forward to as we continue our climb to higher heights in the confederation,” said Tim Kee.

Shabazz, who holds a UEFA ‘B’ License, also earned his FIFA coaching instructor’s license and has been one of the TTFF’s instructors for its coaching license programs in conjunction with the Dutch Royal Academy.

Odd couple aims to restore T&T football
By Lasana Liburd (

Sport is filled with overblown jargon that tries to oversell its importance like “group of death”, “do or die” and “dressing room feud.”

But what you are about to read is no cliché.

If Hutson “Barber” Charles and Jamaal Shabazz ran into each other between 27 July and 1 August 1990, one of the two might not be alive today.

Shabazz was 26-years-old when he stormed the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament with 113 colleagues from the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen religious group on 27 July and took the Prime Minister and most of his Cabinet hostage.

Charles, then 24-years-old, was one of hundreds of soldiers who swarmed into the capital of Port of Spain; determined to restore order by any means necessary.

The Muslimeen surrendered on 1 August and, after a two-year imprisonment, Shabazz and his gang were freed after a controversial amnesty was upheld by the Privy Council in London.

Today, the two men are working as joint head coaches of the national football team in an effort to lift the Caribbean’s one-time premier nation that has lost its moorings over the last six years.

Shabazz, 49, is still a Jamaat member while Charles, 47, is a Warrant Officer in the Defence Force. But their six-day war is now just an anecdote that both men are teased about from the rest of the camp.

“The players say: coach, a Muslim/ army combination could never fail,” Shabazz told Wired868, with a chuckle.

Charles dismissed any notion of lingering resentment between the pair.

“It wasn’t right but you cannot change what happened in the past,” he said. “They went through their thought processes since then and I think you just have to let bygones be bygones.”

Trinidad and Tobago prides itself on being a diverse, multi-cultural society where Africans, Indians, Syrians, Chinese and European immigrants can live in harmony on the most southern islands of the Caribbean, just off the Venezuelan coast.

But racial tension is always bubbling beneath the surface of local politics, arguably provoked by politicians themselves. While, in the private sector, the feeling persists that the Asian powerbrokers—be they Syrian, Lebanese or Chinese—guard their turf jealously from the more populous races.

The ruling People’s Partnership government initially declared itself as a caring, rainbow coalition but a series of self-indulgent gaffes has led to uproar from a sizeable segment of the electorate who feel they are being deceived.

It is in this climate of mistrust that Charles and Shabazz were thrown together like a contrived sitcom couple or bizarre reality television show. Two men who could have once killed each other put in charge of a neglected, underperforming football team on a tiny Caribbean island.

And, as a bonus, neither man has veto over decision making. Just let them thrash it out.

Two weeks later, Charles and Shabazz might not be finishing each other’s sentences but they are definitely singing from the same hymn sheet. And the “Soca Warriors” are in their first Caribbean Cup final in five years and already assured of a spot in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Soldier and former insurrectionist united by patriotism.

“My goal in accepting this was to bring stability into Trinidad and Tobago’s football,” said Shabazz, who took Guyana to unprecedented heights in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers but quit for an interim post in his homeland. “Football is so important for the country and one just has to check back to 1989, 2006 and 1973 to see that.”

Charles was a classy midfielder in the 1989 “Strike Squad” team that came within a point of the Italy 1990 World Cup. He sees this Caribbean Cup as the first step in making the “red, white and black” relevant in CONCACAF once more.

“What we achieved here is so important in giving the public a reason to come back and support our football,” said Charles. “We are trying to rebuild the image of Trinidad and Tobago’s football and give the fans something they can hold on to.”

In truth, Charles and Shabazz have more in common than football. They grew up in the same poor Morvant/Laventille neighbourhood and played together at youth level for Caledonia AIA.

Shabazz, always an avid thinker, was a player/coach while Charles was the team’s starlet.

“We were friends before the coup,” said Charles, “and we remain friends.”

And what if their paths had crossed in that hot July of 1990?

“That period was like something I could never have dreamed of,” said Charles, who had to abandon a Caribbean Cup game to rush to the army base in Teteron. “But I was a soldier with a responsibility to my country. I didn’t study about who was on the other side; it was just country first.

“If it came to it, I would have done my job.”

Thankfully, both men have a different assignment now.

Shabazz, an engaging person with notable motivational prowess, has a UEFA ‘B’ and FIFA coaching instructor’s license and solid coaching experience at club and international level.

This year, he steered Caledonia to the Caribbean Club title. Last year, he led a modest Guyana team into the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying semifinal round for the first time and defeated the Warriors along the way.

Charles, unlike Shabazz, carries the authority of a player who shone at the highest level for Trinidad and Tobago at a time when the country was laden with extraordinary talents like Dwight Yorke, Russell Latapy, David Nakhid and Jerren Nixon.

The 32-year-old Derek King, a former Coach of the Year with Joe Public and a once promising national defender whose career was curtailed by injury, completes the think tank as assistant coach.

In the semifinal game against Martinique, Charles announced the team and gave general remarks about the game ahead. Shabazz then discussed their tactical approach while King closed with instructions on set pieces.

At halftime, Shabazz spoke first and Charles got the last word.

Earlier, in what they jokingly refer to as the “Football Partnership”, the players would giggle and nudge each other as the coaches tried to all have a meaningful input without stepping on the other’s toes. But the success of the approach has converted the dressing room; and themselves.

Each accustomed to having his own way as former head coaches, ideas must now be tested by their three-man panel first.

“There is little room for spontaneity but I think that is making us better,” said Shabazz. “Sometimes, the three of us get off the bench during the game. And the fourth official is having a time with us: ‘One person, please’.”

Charles, who conceded sole leadership with Shabazz’s inclusion, pleaded for the public to give it a chance.

“So far, it has been working and it can only get better,” he said. “There is a real nice chemistry within the team.”

Not that everyone is won over by a team that almost forfeited the Caribbean Cup due to a lack of funding but now has the chance to win it outright.

If the team is being successful and getting this kind of criticism,” said Charles, “I don’t even want to imagine what would have happened if we had bowed out early.”

The Warriors, at present, could easily have a sign on its bench that reads “Under Construction.” From four outings, Trinidad and Tobago managed just three goals while conceding four and neither of the team’s two leading strikers, Devorn Jorsling and Jamal Gay, has scored yet. While talented players like Ataullah Guerra, Joevin Jones and Kevin Molino are still waiting for eureka moments.

But the resilience and tactical discipline of the squad has defied better prepared opponents while the likes of Seon Power, Guerra and Daneil Cyrus have run themselves ragged for the shirt.

Densill Theobald’s endless supply of clever short passes gives the team a focal point in midfield while goalkeeper and captain Jan-Michael Williams has a case for being the tournament’s outstanding player so far.

Last month, the Warriors defeated Cuba 1-0 in Bacolet, Tobago in the Caribbean Cup semifinal phase but Charles insists that they are not automatically favourites.

“Cuba is playing much better than the team we saw in Tobago,” said Charles. “And they played really well in Tobago. We have a game cut out for us.”

The three wise men will spend tonight around a roundtable seeking consensus for tomorrow’s final.

“I think the staff has to demonstrate the maturity and teamwork we want to see from the first team,” said Shabazz. “We know the players watch us closely to see our interaction. But they are now starting to see  the benefits of this.

“Why must we be limited by tradition? Why can we not be as innovative as we are being now?”

If a soldier and insurrectionist can put aside their differences and work together as equal partners for their country, then why can Trinidad and Tobago’s leaders in other more meaningful industries not do likewise?

The Football Partnership hopes to give further evidence of the worth of their collective approach in the Caribbean Cup finals against Cuba. The beleaguered People’s Partnership can follow their lead.

For once, the comparison between sport and society is not empty rhetoric.

Shabazz named as joint T&T football coach
By Lasana Liburd (

Jamaal Shabazz is set to pull off a stunning return to the Trinidad and Tobago national football fraternity at next month’s Caribbean Cup finals in Antigua and Barbuda after being appointed to the “Soca Warriors” coaching staff.

Shabazz, who also coaches local Pro League team Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA, will be officially announced tomorrow as a joint head coach of the senior team alongside Hutson “Barber” Charles. The remainder of the technical staff stays unchanged with Derek King as assistant coach.

“It is like a big dream coming true to work with your own national team,” Shabazz told Wired868, “and be part of a group that has already started the rebuilding process of Trinidad and Tobago football. I feel really honoured that I can even be considered to join the staff at this time.”

New Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) president Raymond Tim Kee said Shabazz was selected after discussions with technical director Anton Corneal. He expects the 48-year-old coach to add his knowledge to a promising but relatively inexperienced coaching staff.

“Organisations are going away from the maximum leaders into more horizontal office charts,” said Tim Kee, who is also a Guardian Life insurance executive. “So when the idea came up in football I am aware of the concept of teaming. I believe they can interchange and complement each other for one common objective.”

The most famous example of joint head coaches in football is the Swedish pair of Tommy Söderberg and Lars Lagerbäck who steered Sweden to the 2002 World Cup and 2004 Euro tournaments.

Charles, a Defence Force Warrant Officer One, told the TTFF Media that he welcomed any move designed to improve the squad.

“It’s something that I welcome,” said Charles. “As  I’ve said before, I am in this for the national interest and if there’s anything that can help the team go forward then I will support it.

“Jamaal has had a fair amount of success in the Pro League and he has coached at the national level before. We also know of his success with Guyana.

“I think this is a good move towards seeing the improvement of the national team.”

Charles steered the Warriors to the 2012 Caribbean Cup finals after six unbeaten qualifying games, which included five wins. In contrast, Guyana crashed out of the regional tournament in the semi-final round after several senior players refused the US$12 match fee offered by the Guyana Football Federation (GFF).

But Shabazz  is confident of a harmonious relationship with Charles, who is an old friend and former teammate at youth level for Caledonia.

“We had one meeting and we will have several more in the coming days,” said Shabazz. “They have been very welcoming… This generation has got to demonstrate to the past generation that the day of Mao, Gaddafi and Mubarak is no more.

“The idea of mutual consultation is a powerful concept in leadership in Islam.”

Shabazz’s return marks the end of a successful stint with Caribbean neighbours, Guyana, who he helped to its first ever appearance in the World Cup semi-final round at the expense of his homeland.

Shabazz coached several Trinidad and Tobago national women’s teams but found it harder to fulfil his ambition with the senior men’s outfit.

A former insurrectionist in the 1990 attempted coup, the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen member spent two years in prison before being granted an amnesty. Shabaz was 25 years old when the Jamaat stormed the Red House but believes the recent Commission of Enquiry has helped to exorcise his demons.

“Since that time (in 1990) to now, I spent my life trying to rebuild the country and make a contribution on and off the field,” he said. “I have spent almost every day that I have been in Trinidad in the Morvant/Laventille community, which I have a deep commitment to and try hard to help uplift.”

Shabazz was first appointed as the national men’s interim coach in 2002 and named Charles as one of his two assistants. But he managed just three training session before he was replaced by Hannibal Najjar.

A year later, Shabazz returned to the men’s set-up as assistant to Serbia-born Zoran Vranes and then St Lucia-born Stuart Charles-Fevrier before departing again in 2004 after the latter coach was replaced.

Guyana came calling and he took the “Golden Jaguars” to the 2007 Caribbean Cup finals and within a point of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. The Jaguars were edged out on goal difference by Cuba.

Shabazz resigned after the Caribbean Cup but was tempted back to the mainland in August 2011, just days before Guyana’s first 2014 qualifier. Remarkably, Guyana played unbeaten until the Jaguars clinched their historic qualification with a 2-1 win over the Warriors in the penultimate group match.

Trinidad and Tobago was coached by German Otto Pfister for close to nine months when it was eliminated. Shabazz spent barely a third of that time with Guyana.

“It was a strange feeling (to eliminate Trinidad and Tobago),” said Shabazz. “I was really happy that we won the game but when I saw the dejected Trinidad players and some of the staff who I know well, it was such a sad feeling.

“I was in the grocery one time and a guy said look the guy who beat himself and that summed it up… But, after seeing the contempt with which the former regime headed by Mr Warner showed local coaches, when that opportunity presented itself via Guyana I felt this was a platform on which I could make a statement for all home-grown Caribbean coaches.

“Unfortunately, I had to be a Warrior against the Warriors. But the statement wasn’t for me; it was for all Caribbean coaches.”

As further testimony to his relationship with Guyana, Shabazz will fly to Georgetown tomorrow to personally reveal his new career path to the media although he has already officially informed the GFF.

“They have given me a wonderful opportunity to develop my career as a coach and I worked very hard for them,” he said. “It is important for me to go and face them and say that it is time for me to go home.”

Shabazz’s spell with Guyana plus his recent success with the Caledonia team, which became Caribbean champions this year, set the stage for his third bite at the men’s senior team.

He plans to pass on his experience at preparing an international team within short timeframes although he will resist suggesting drastic change.

“They had to be doing a lot of things right to reach where they are now,” said Shabazz, “and at a time when you were only hearing negative about Trinidad and Tobago football off the field. I want to play my part rather than impose myself.

“I think Haile Selassie used to say there is no limit to what we can achieve if no one is overly concerned about who gets the credit. We have a real challenge not just to win but also to prove that we can overcome ego and put the interest of Trinidad and Tobago in front.”

Once more, it is an interim appointment and much may depend on Trinidad and Tobago’s performances in Antigua as the Warriors aim for its first Gold Cup berth in six years.

Football fans will hope Shabazz’s third time is the charm.

Shabazz coaching highlights

2002: Gets UEFA ‘B’ license

2007: Steers Guyana to Caribbean Cup final and within a point of the Gold Cup

2008: Steers Caledonia to TTFF FA Cup and Pro Bowl titles. Gets FIFA coach instructor’s license

2011: Steers Guyana into 2014 World Cup qualifying semi-final round at the expense of T&T and helps Caledonia to First Citizens Cup

2012: Steers Caledonia to Caribbean Cup, TTFF FA Cup, First Citizens Cup and Lucozade Sport Goal Shield titles