Wed, Apr

L-R: Anthony Wolfe (former T&T midfielder), Anton Corneal (TTFA Technical Director),  Reena Gopaul (Manager Group Brand Management at Republic Bank), Shem Alexander (Managing Director of Gateway Athletics)

YOUTH FOOTBALL development is key to returning football in Trinidad and Tobago to a high standard.

So stated Anton Corneal, technical director of T&T football, yesterday, when delivering the feature address at the launch of the Republic Cup National Youth Football League.

With the T&T Premier League set to restart local professional football, from next Friday, Corneal felt that Saturday’s start of the National Youth Football League was also key to the development of young footballers.

The 2023 Republic Cup National Youth Football League runs from March 4-May 27 and is being organised by Gateway Athletics, sponsored by Republic Bank and endorsed by the Trinidad & Tobago Football Association (TTFA).

Shem Alexander of Gateway Athletics, detailed the structure of the tournament as having six divisions; Boys Under-13, -15, -17 & -20, along with Girls Under-16 & -20. Seventy-one clubs have registered to compete nationwide. Preliminary competition will be contested on a zonal basis, after which the top two teams from each zone will contest national playoffs.

Corneal lauded the full resumption of the Republic Cup, which had a shortened version in 2022, following a two-year absence due to the Covid- 19 pandemic.

“We have been advised that if one programme must exist it must be football. There must be a league in your country. It has been advised by Arsène Wenge (FIFA’s Chief of Global Football Development) who has actually spoken to all the MA’s, (FIFA Member Associations) asking, ‘could you get football playing in your country’. From the grassroots level to the elite level,” Corneal stated.

He further added that developing football at youth level was now key to improving football in T&T.

“We have to allow young players the chance to be part of a club,” Corneal declared. “Players need to learn from each other. They need to understand winning and losing. That’s how we grow as persons. It allows us to socialise with friends... That belonging to something...” he emphasised.

Meanwhile, Reena Gopaul, manager group brand management at Republic Bank, added: “Our Republic Cup National Youth Football can be used as a stepping stone to what may one day be promising career in football.”

One of the highlights of the 2023 Republic League is the All-Star weekend and College Fair, to be held from March 30-April 2 and will feature games from the league’s boys and girls top performers, allowing the international coaches to see the players in a game-setting. Already coaches from the USA and Germany have committed to having a look at the best performers.

“Our high-performing players will also have the opportunity of demonstrating their talent to international coaches in our showcase matches and our skills camp. Additionally, the College Fair is another avenue for further development, giving the young players with talent the chance to translate it into real opportunities for further education abroad,” Gopaul explained. 

SOURCE: T&T Express