T&T's Under-15 boys' footballers will face a tough assignment after being grouped with Mexico, Panama and Curacao in Pool A of Division One for the 2019 Concacaf Under-15 Championship from August 4-11 at the IMG Academy campus in Bradenton, Florida, USA.
The developmental tournament will feature the 39 teams from North, Central America and the Caribbean and three guest teams from UEFA. The tournament, which will provide access to international football for over 750 boys from across the CONCACAF region, will be contested in two rounds.
For the first-round group phase, the 42 participating teams have been divided into three divisions according to the CONCACAF Under-17 ranking as of 2019, ensuring sporting balance and a minimum number of four matches for each team.
Division One features the top 14 ranked CONCACAF teams, as well as Slovenia and Portugal. These 16 teams have been divided into four groups of four teams each (Groups A-D). After round-robin play, the four group winners and the four second-placed finishers will advance to the quarterfinals to play for the championship. The third and fourth place finishers will play an additional match to determine their final positions in the division.
Division Two will feature the next 15 best ranked CONCACAF teams and Israel. These 16 teams have been divided into four groups of four each (Groups E-H). After round-robin play, the four group winners will advance to the semifinals to play for the championship. The second, third and fourth place finishers will play an additional match to determine their final positions in the division
Division Three will be made up by the lowest 10 ranked CONCACAF teams. The teams have been divided into two groups of five teams each (Groups I & J). After round-robin play, the group winners will advance to the divisional final, while the remaining teams will play an additional match to determine their final position in the division.
Concacaf Under-15 Groups
Group A: Mexico, Panama, T&T, Curacao
Group B: USA, Haiti, Guatemala, Suriname
Group C: Canada, El Salvador, Slovenia, Guadeloupe
Group D: Costa Rica, Jamaica, Portugal, Barbados
Group E: Nicaragua, Guyana, Cayman Islands, Bahamas
Group F: Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Grenada, Martinique
Group G: St Lucia, St Kitts/Nevis, Israel, Belize
Group H: Bermuda, Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, Saint Vincent & The Grenadines
Group I: Bonaire, US Virgin Islands, Anguilla, French Guiana, St Maarten
Group J: St Martin, Dominica, British Virgin Islands, Montserrat, Turks & Caicos Islands
What next for T&T’s Elite U-15s? Fenwick, Grayson, La Forest and Look Loy have their say.
By Jovan Ravello (Wired868).
After a disappointing debut at the recently concluded TTFA Youth International Invitational where the National Under-15 Team lost 5-4, 4-0 and 4-1 to Panama, Venezuela and Mexico respectively, TTFA board member and FC Santa Rosa owner, Keith Look Loy, is one of several voices laying the blame on head coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier and the NLCB Elite Youth Programme administrators.
“The boys tried but the weaknesses in their coaching—after two years and millions of dollars being spent—were amply exposed,” Look Loy said. “Lack of team structure, low intensity play, poor physical conditioning, really poor defending. All of that, after two years of being together, rests squarely on the shoulders of the staff and programme administrators.”
Look Loy, who is a TTFA board member, claimed the TTFA Invitational was not approved by the TTFA board and said it was another instance of mismanagement by the administration led by local football president David John-Williams.
“It was not planned. It was an arbitrary, desperate, knee jerk response by the TTFA hierarchy to the firestorm of criticism provoked by the country’s dismal performance in the Gold Cup,” Look Loy said.
“The hope was that the boys would play well and save the hierarchy’s collective face. It was all about politics—not football—and it failed. Do not forget that the U15 girls were also supposed to play. That failed.”
Look Loy, who piloted an unsuccessful no-confidence motion against the TTFA president last year, aimed a jab at football’s local governing body.
“In the immediate aftermath of yet another poor performance by one of the other national teams, the Under-15,” Look Loy said, “it is clear, at least to me, that TTFA’s national teams’ programme, it’s coaching appointments, its coaching performance are a complete debacle. This is so in all of our teams, in both genders and in all age groups.
“The evidence is not opinion, it is there to be seen in poor performances and last-place finishes that the football-loving public has now grown accustomed to.”
Former San Juan Jabloteh head coach and Football Factory principal, Terry Fenwick also lay the blame on the bench.
“The team has to be motivated and that comes from the coach,” Fenwick said. “After these poor results and performances, I can’t see the team progressing as the president had suggested.”
“This is not the future,” Fenwick continued in derision of the TTFA Invitational tagline ‘The Future is Now’. “These kids have lots to learn and clearly the existing coaching staff fall short on team structure and motivation. After two years of training, this group are miles behind where they should be.
“Time, attention, budget—all afforded this group to the detriment of other National teams, boys and girls— and they simply have not performed.”
Trinity College East coach Michael Grayson’s critique rang a touch gentler. Grayson, a former national youth team coach and a Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) icon for his work for Arima Senior Comprehensive and St Augustine Senior Secondary, said the team’s first outing was good enough, given the quality of their competition.
“To score four goals is an achievement,” he said, “however, poor ball possession and lack of cohesion in defence led to [the result]. The game versus Venezuela caused many questions to be asked. Maybe the rule of players having to play at least 60 minutes led to the poor performance.”
Despite the tournament structure, Grayson spotted glaring flaws. “In this game [the team had] no possession, no energy and [there was] a total collapse in the second half.”
The Davis and Elkins College Hall of Famer lauded the team’s fighting spirit against tremendous odds but said there was a lot of work to do. “If 13 goals are conceded in three games, well, it’s not difficult to figure out our weaknesses and positives.”
Still others, like Ron La Forest, a former National Senior assistant coach and stand-out player, was not ready to make sweeping indictments of the youngest of the national teams.
“As the coach mentioned, [he has] a good bunch of players, you could see they’re lacking experience, but with time they will grow,” he said.
La Forest said the invitational was the ideal platform to stimulate that growth. “We need that kind of opposition going forward,” he said. “[They’ve had] one tournament, it was a good experience for them, now we have to keep them together and look around for added talent.”
The TTFA president, John-Williams, admitted that team depth was a factor in the team’s bottom of the table finish after the closing ceremony of the TTFA invitational saw Mexico lift the inaugural title.
John-Williams mentioned plans to conduct screening sessions in the United States in the coming weeks while leaving the doors open for prospective local players.
All the coaches we spoke to had their own fix for the young squad. Grayson agreed with the recruitment drive and called for critics to stop blaming the SSFL.
Look Loy had three different suggestions: reopen the closed squad and search for new talent, appoint new staff and replace the current programme administrators.
Fenwick, a former Senior National Men’s team head coach candidate, suggested the players be made to study videos of the best international teams and for the coaches to train them for pace and game structure based on the videos. “We cannot and should not relate success to games against local opposition,” he said.
Meanwhile, La Forest urged patience. “Let the coach do his thing,” he said. “[He is] a very experienced man and it is not a quick fix. Give him more time and you will see a difference.”
In the Concacaf Under-15 Championship scheduled to run from 4-12 August at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, T&T is grouped with TTFA Invitational Tournament winners Mexico, Panama (who won 5-4 in the opening match) and Curacao. The team is currently encamped and will travel to Florida next Friday.
Asked about T&T’s chances of eventually qualifying for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup, Loo Loy dug into his optimism. “It’s football,” he said. “You always have a chance.”
It remains to be seen what the T&T Under-15s will do with that chance.