THE Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL), by itself, cannot develop the country's young players for the senior national team.
And with the absence of the T&T Pro League and Super League domestically, since March 2020, young footballers transitioning from secondary school have limited options locally to expand their budding careers.
So said Soca Warriors head coach Angus Eve on Wednesday, who believes more must be done to continually develop players during this crucial transitional stage.
Eve made these remarks at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo, during his first official training session, for 2023 with locally-based players. The squad of over 30 players is preparing for the upcoming Concacaf Nations League in March.
The camp includes a mixture of youth and experience, with the likes of Joevin Jones, Khaleem Hyland, Real Gill, Che Benny and Gary Griffith III among them. Some are yet to make a senior international appearance.
The lack of post-secondary school transitional programmes and tournaments must be amplified to give youths a better chance at familiarising themselves with different environments and varying style of competitive game play.
“We need to expose the youngsters. Back in the day, we used to carry locally based players to camps in Brazil where we played against Corinthians and those kinds of teams. This is how you build that experience.
“You can’t just build, play here or train here (in TT). The college league is not good enough, from a national standpoint, to develop players for a national team.”
Eve, who is also coach of the T&T U20 team, referred to their performance at last year’s Concacaf U20 Championships in Honduras, in July. T&T were eliminated in the round of 16 courtesy a 4-1 loss to Costa Rica.
Previously, in the group stage, they drew 4-4 with Haiti in their opener, lost 5-0 to Mexico and then beat Suriname 3-0 to advance.
Eve said the U20 team was good on paper but lacked much-needed experience outside T&T. Additionally, the tournament came just five months after a two-year stoppage of sport, owing to the pandemic.
“We did pick the right U20 team to go to the tournament but again, we went there with a lot for the kids never left Trinidad before. The level of experience they had was nil. It was the first time players played a national game for T&T.
“Not having a domestic league and a lack of competitive opportunity consistently contributes to where T&T is now, as a football nation,” he added.
The national coach also highlighted that T&T law restricts national team selectors from scouting foreign-based players whose grandparents only have local lineage.
Eve knocked the law, which he said, is hampering the growth of T&T’s player pool, while other smaller nations capitalise on the ability to sign players on these grounds. T&T can only invite foreign-based players for national team selection if their parent/s are of local lineage.
Chapter two, section 17 (ii) of the T&T Constitution says: “A person shall not become a citizen of T&T, if at the time of his birth – (a) neither of his parents is a citizen of T&T.”
Eve confirmed teams like Jamaica, Grenada, French Guiana, Curacao and other Caribbean territories are using their law to field players from multiple other countries.
When asked about the effect this local rule has on football, Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe said, “I would need to speak to Angus Eve, the normalisation committee head (Robert Hadad) and the Ministry of National Security to see what exactly the policy is before I comment. I prefer to get that answer back to you.”
Eve will use the coming weeks to amplify training with the local bunch as they seek to attract the eyes of national team selectors ahead of the Nations League, which also serves as a gold Cup qualifier.
The local bunch will use friendly Caribbean opposition for practice matches in the lead-up to team selection.
He said, “What we’re trying to do is have the guys (local crop players) training and bring them up to that level of match fitness so they can have an equal opportunity. They’re really disadvantaged (without domestic football being played).”
T&T play their opening Nations League match on March 24, away to Bahamas, and their second against Nicaragua at home, at the Dwight Yorke Stadium in Tobago.
SOURCE: T&T Newsday