Tue, Jun


Arnold Corneal, brother of ex-technical director Anton Corneal, follows up on his criticism of the TTFA president and general secretary with a suggestion for how money earmarked for Leo Beenhakker might be best used.

Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president Raymond Tim Kee and general secretary Sheldon Phillips have been bellowing for the return of former Trinidad and Tobago 2006 World Cup coach Leo Beenhakker as director of football at a cost believed to be anywhere between US$45,000 and US$55,000 per month.

Why are we not hearing those same sentiments from the technical committee of the TTFA? Oh yes, there is a technical committee which, under the TTFA’s constitution, has the responsibility for technical decisions inclusive of recommendations for the employment of coaches and directors.

Unfortunately, they have been kept very silent since Tim Kee’s appointment and side-stepped after Phillips’ arrival.

Further, I understand the committee was not even consulted about the appointment of present coach Stephen Hart and only found out when the decision was already made by Tim Kee after he consulted with Phillips. 

Again, we see a president demonstrating that he is a Jack of all trades; calling the shots on anything that peaks his interest or allows him to assert his authority. It is not surprising; he was an obedient understudy as TTFA vice president when Mr. Warner was at the helm.

We are now witnessing history repeat itself.

Beenhakker’s role in effecting Tim Kee’s new dispensation of football development emerges out of discussions by individuals who have absolutely no knowledge or experience on the topic. I understand that even these deliberations were done without the input of the TTFA’s technical committee.

How did both Tim Kee and Phillips come to the conclusion that we have had little or no development in football in Trinidad and Tobago? And how could they conclude that this alleged vacuum or longstanding dilemma warrants a US$55,000 salary for one individual to implement?

Did they see it fit to consult people like Bertille St. Clair, Ron La Forest, Gally Cummings, Edgar Vidale, Alvin Corneal, Steve David, Leroy De Leon and many others or to include the many coaching school coaches who fostered development over the last 30 years? 

These are the people who know about what development has taken place in this country. The old people would always say: “If you don’t know, then ask!”

On the matter of the supposed void in local football, I present another view, one based on facts that are available for evaluation and scrutiny.

While I subscribe to the fact that development must be continuous, I also acknowledge our local football has done reasonably well in this area for over 50 years. Those of the right age might remember that, in 1967, Trinidad and Tobago won bronze at the Pan American Games in Canada.

Some of the results were: Trinidad 1, Mexico 1; Trinidad 1, Argentina 0; Trinidad 5, Colombia  2; Trinidad 4, Canada 1.

Astonishingly, this occurred in an environment where Trinidad and Tobago had far less footballers than now and it was names like Pa Aleong and “Old Man” Braithwaithe who shouldered the responsibility for our development.

Six years later, our national team was on the verge of the 1974 World Cup at a time when only 16 teams qualified and not 32 as it is now.

In 1989, Everald “Gally” Cummings’ team almost made it to the 1990 World Cup with talent from national youth teams coached by Winston Phillips and Philbert Prince. Then, in 1991, Bertille St Clair took an under-20 team to the World Youth Cup with Dwight Yorke and many other talented young players.

All of this was done with local coaches and all working for free also, may I remind you!

In that era we also produced the David Nakhids, Dexter Skeenes, Shaka Hislops, Russel Latapys, and too many others to call here. If this wasn’t evidence of development, then what is?

Within the last seven years, Trinidad and Tobago has qualified for two World Youth Cups and almost did it again at under-17 level in Panama last year. If that again is not clear evidence of successful development, then wake me up.

Let us look at the factors that contributed to this development over these many years. Primary to this are the volunteer coaches, some of whom I named previously, and the many coaching schools that contributed to this cause.

It is important to stress that this success came at a time when little money was available to support development and, in many cases, coaches were not paid. Nevertheless, development took place because of the blood, sweat and passion that these players and coaches shed.

Now comes Leo Beenhakker!

While I respect his accomplishments as a world class coach, I question his history or expertise to help our development. This has never been part of his portfolio. He has always only coached fully professional world class players.

We are now asking an aged practitioner to establish a developmental system, which comprises many stakeholders who continue to operate pro bono while Beenhakker receives in excess of US$55,000 each month.

If half of Beenhakker’s monthly salary was available to fund youth developmental projects in Trinidad and Tobago, I can assure you that we will qualify for many more youth and senior World Cups.

The major problem in local football has never been with the development stage; as I have hopefully outlined. But it continues to be with the management phase.

We have always had the players, coaches and passion of a people who love the game; but, apart from the late visionary Eric James, we have had little football administrators who adequately understand the management of the sport.

Even more pressing is the fact that the current administration continues to demonstrate little appreciation and respect for the value of the local coaching practitioners that we have had for over 50 years.  And they fail to understand the impact of poor management on athletes’ performances and their chances of achieving success.

Many of the decisions that they make are business decisions that are conceptualized and implemented in a vacuum, that is void of input from the people who really know about the key ingredients of the sport. This has become routine.

Clearly we are allowing the tail to wag the dog. Football will continue to be played even in the absence of management; but management cannot operate in the absence of football.

I have little confidence in the sport management skills of Tim Kee and Phillips; and I urge our players, coaches and supporters to demand much more from football administrators. There is too much to lose.

Many sacrifices have been made by players and local coaches; mostly for the love of the game and not for the love of money. It is now time that our local coaches and players benefit from the money that we understand is readily available; they have been on the job for well over 50 years.

Now is the time to put them on the payroll. It is not too late to correct the errors of the past and move on quickly to create a successful future.

Editor’s Note: As far as we know, the figures presented in this blog are speculation. Wired868 cannot confirm or rebut the author’s claims regarding the current relationship between the TTFA technical committee and its president and general secretary.

Please note too that Leo Beenhakker has so far stood in solidarity with local coaches and refused to accept a TTFA position until all arrears to coaches are met.