TRINIDAD and Tobago's men's football coach Angus Eve is in an unenviable position.
The former national captain would have envisaged coaching the senior squad as his dream job, but it is slowly turning into a nightmare. Like the Israelites in ancient Egypt, Mr Eve is being asked to make bricks with no straw. With that unreasonable mandate, a desperate Mr Eve, expectedly, is clutching at straws.
The 2026 World Cup will be hosted by the US, Canada and Mexico, featuring an unprecedented 48 teams. The time is ripe for T&T to make a determined effort to qualify for just its second World Cup, but that dream seems more like wishful thinking.
The World Cup will kick off in just over three years and T&T looks nowhere near a World Cup team. The T&T Football Association, run by FIFA's normalisation committee, does not have anything in place to make Mr Eve's job easier.
In November last year, normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad said an elite league, a combination of the T&T Pro League and the Super League, would be launched in 2023, with a tentative kick-off on January 27.
Since the covid19 pandemic hit in March 2020, there has been no Pro League football in this country. The Government's covid19 restrictions on sport were lifted in 2022 but football stakeholders have been unable to get the Pro League running.
A few days ago, former T&T World Cup defender Brent Sancho, acting chairman of the T&T Pro League, poured cold water on the prospect of the elite league starting, saying there has been little communication from Mr Hadad.
How do we expect to qualify for a World Cup – even an expanded one – with no domestic football being played? How are we going to produce quality footballers to earn contracts abroad with no domestic league? How have our local footballers been surviving from March 2020 to 2023?
It is no surprise that Mr Eve is thinking outside the box and advocating for a change of the Constitution, to allow players whose grandparents were born here to be eligible for citizenship and a national call-up.
Who can forget the contribution of former Port Vale player Chris Birchall to this country's successful 2006 World Cup campaign? It all started when then Wrexham defender Dennis Lawrence asked Mr Birchall if he had any Trini blood after a game. "Me mum," he replied.
The rest was history. Mr Birchall made 44 national appearances and scored four goals – none more important than his rocket against Bahrain to earn a 1-1 draw in a World Cup playoff in Port of Spain.
Mr Eve is literally starting from scratch, trying to build a team of unfit local players mixed with foreign-based ones.
Are we going to watch another World Cup pass us by while we fidget and wait until the eve of qualifiers to scramble an unprepared team?
Football is still the most popular sport in T&T, shouldn't we treat it with the necessary respect?
SOURCE: T&T Newsday