By Veersen Bhoolai
Oliver Camps had an opportunity in early January to clear the air on several matters pertaining to TT football. What was evident was that whilst other CONCACAF nations have already embarked upon their road to the 2002 World Cup. The Federation was yet to identify theirs.
Camps stressed however, that all this would be done by mid February. The Federation was awaiting the return of the Nigerian Coach, Festus Onigbinde. Initially Onigbinde had been given the responsibility of readying the national team for the U-17 WC (which they are hosting) in 2001. However, now he is heading a Technical Development Committee, which will deal with all technical aspects of TT football, from the U-13 level all the way to the senior team. Onigbinde, who is being paid five thousand dollars US, per month by the Trinidad Government, was away on holiday, and scheduled to return in mid-January.
Upon Onigbinde's return, Camps says the Federation will then have a
course of action outlined for the next four years. This schedule will entail
not just the national Senior team, but all age groups, including
the women's team.
Foreign players not willing to commit
With the sounds of France '98 still ringing in our ears, many Trinis are still despondent over the failure of the "Dream Team," to qualify. Camps said that after TT had failed in their most recent WC attempt, the Federation sat down and analyzed the matter. They came to the conclusion that the problem lay "at a technical department level." Camps added, "the problem, whilst not blaming any one person, was with the management of the team."
The TTFF President added that one foreign based player did not want to stay in the hotel with the rest of team, rather he wanted his own private quarters. This same player was supposed to be nursing an injury, however on the day of a WC qualifier at POS, he went through a training routine, both he and the Coach passed him fit. However, later that day he called his club, and after the phone conversation, suddenly decided he was no longer fit. He thus, canceled out on the national team at the last minute. Another foreign based player would sometimes show up for practice late, as he was taking care of other business commitments. Camps said he was unable to take care of the matter himself, because he was away in Canada at the time. He explained that he asked the Coach to use locally based players, because there were problems getting commitments from the foreign based players. These players were under pressure from their clubs who preferred them not to go, as it was in their best interest. "The players must want to come," said Camps. He admitted that many of them did want to. However, there was the threat of injury, or someone else performing well and taking their place. "In fairness to them that does happen." This scenario is also "de motivating" to the local guys "who are trying hell hard."
There seems to be a theory that if a foreign pro comes down to play
for the national team, he is losing major money, and is not being adequately
compensated by the local Federation. "This is not true," said Camps. "FIFA
ensures that they don't lose their wages. However, they could be replaced
once they return, and therefore lose future earnings."
TT to train in Europe and the USA
One idea that has been bandied about during the last four months, is having the national team train in the United Kingdom, and the USA. With so many players based in both locations, and the problems in getting players home in time for international encounters, the idea seemed to have some logistical sense. There are frequent flights from both locations to the other, making the idea even more appealing. There are many who believe that the national team should train and play friendlies during the break in the English League. Camps response to both ideas was a resounding YES!!! However, the Federation President was not sure whether the foreign camps would be initiated this year.
"In the long term, there will be camps in Europe (where in Europe was still to be ascertained), as well as the US. There are a lot of US players not as popular as Dwight Yorke, but playing in the MLS, and other (American) leagues. We need to see them."
The Copa de Caribe (formerly the Shell Cup) will take place during the
English off-season, and Trinidad hopes to field its strongest possible
team. Players such as Latapy, Yorke and Stern John should be representing
the twin Republic. The Brazilian U-23 team shall also participate in the
tournament to give it greater depth. Camps was confident that the Samba
boys would represent themselves well. If the Brazilians fall through, then
the CFU hope to have the senior teams of Cost Rica or Mexico replace them.
The Warner Conflict
The presence of Jack Warner in TT football seems to represent a major conflict of interest, however, it is one that the Federation is happy to live with. Warner, a Vice President of FIFA, President of CONCACAF, the Caribbean Football Union and the East Zone Football Association of TT, also runs Joe Public, which in 1998, was the country's only fully professional team. Camps says that it is Warner's son that is the owner of the team. However, he freely admits that Warner does represent the team in the first person, and it is his money that is backing the team. Camps explanation for the Federation allowing this scenario, is that when others have complained in the past, the Federation has outlined Warner's administrative behavior in relation to actions with Joe Public. No conflict has been found, and the situation is quickly diffused. This is a weak excuse by an administration that benefits from Mr. Warner's money and contacts.
St. Clair until 2002
When Coach Bertille St. Clair was handed the reigns of the national
team approximately two years ago, many viewed it as a caretaker position.
The theory was that St. Clair would do the job, until a more high profile
individual could be hired. However, after creditable results under trying
circumstances, St. Clair's contract has been renewed until the year 2002..
Which means barring failure, he'll be the man to chart our course of action
during the WC qualifiers. Onigbinde will be his technical advisor. However,
advisor is the key term. In the past, the Yugoslav, Vranes, basically ran
the show, with Coach Kenny Joseph as his assistant. Onigbinde's job is
solely to offer advice. He has no authoritative function. Camps admits
the Federation has been recycling coaches over the last few years. "We
just don't have the money to pay a top international coach," said Camps.
"The Brazilian who took over after Vranes, just wanted too much money to
stay on full time. We're very lucky to have Onigbinde for only five thousand
dollars US, a month (which is paid by the TT Govt., not the Federation).
You can't get a top international coach for that kind of money."
This year will mark the beginning of the Caribbean's only professional
league in TT. The first prize a whopping five hundred thousand dollars
US, is being sponsored by Craven A, the Jamaican cigarette company. The
sponsorship is worth one million dollars US a year, for the next three
years. Eight teams will comprise the new pro league. Queen's Park has dropped
out, citing money woes, and have dropped their football team. They will
not even be in the SPFL. Expect Joe Public to swoop in on Nigel Pierre,
who has been courted by Warner for quite some time. Petrotrin United, a
stalwart of local football, and a team with no money problems will also
not be part of the new Super League.
To go or not to go
During the course of this decade Trinidad has changed its national Coaches/Technical Directors, a number of times. The scenario is simple, consistent failure means you go. However, with all the changing that takes place, most of the administrators of the last six years are still there. After two dismal WC qualifying attempts, should not the Federation administration step down. "I have no problem with that, says Camps. "However, if we put everything in place administration wise, and we don't make it (qualify for the WC). Then we should change the other problem, because changing the administration won't solve anything."
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