There was no caribbean Soccer night in Winnipeg Canada at the Panam Games, not on the soccer field at least. Both T&T and Jamaica failed to make any impression on the tournament, and took their exit before the medal quest began.
For Trinidad and Tobago, there was some form of nostalgia, as it was in these same games, in this same city, thirty two years ago that this country had won its first soccer medal. While it was great to win a medal in those games, it was even sweeter to those who were there to see T&T defeat Columbia, Argentina, and Canada and draw with Mexico to earn the right to a semifinal and a third place.
And in those days, full senior national teams were used. This time around, even with the absence of the big countries from the Americas, Bertille St. Clair and his team could not win at least one match.
This was a firm test for the country to know the true strength of our olympic team. Jamaica had a victory over Uruguay, whose team was said to be virtually an underprepared second rate Uruguayan squad.
Nevertheless, their records will show that the Reggae Boyz resorded
a victory over a former World
Cup champion soccer country. But how far should we read into these poor results. Because I have not seen Jamaica in any of their matches, statistics will be all from which I can assess. But I Happen to be see the T&T vs Mexico game on television, and while T&T lost, it was a performance which I would have been proud of.
The inability to minimise problems and capitalise on those made by your
opponents saw Trinidad and Tobago losers. But, put a mark to the players
on the field, and all of Brent Rahim, Brent Sancho, Travis mulraine and
maybe one of two others, T&T could have won the game.
And despite what the fans may believe, one cannot expect any team to go to this level of competition, without an exacting programme, filled with tactical strong practice sessions and proper analysis of their opponents.
But this never transpired and the national team failed to get any international exposure, they were in over their heads, not because of their inability, but because of the intense form of this competition. How can anyone expect a coach, any coach, to win a major competition when he cannot even judge the true quality of his team.
Check Mexico, Canada, Honduras, America and Costa Rica. They travelled extensively and played against some good opponents. Even Jamaica had the opportunity to get in some valuable match practice and they still got only moderate results.
In small societies like the West indian Islands, team preparation is vital. There is no automatic programme for developing the young players in the region. The newly formed pro league in Port of Spain may eventually provide the atmosphere, but unfortunately, that will be down the road. In the meantime, money is the major factor whereby the technical staff can plan a calendar which will bring these players closer to reality in the soccer world.
Maybe the armchair critics can take heed from the attitude of the more developed countries like Germany, England, and Argentina. They do not readily call for their coaches heads after some defeats.
These guys are given chances to build a team. In the Confederations cup final,both of Erik Ribbeck and Wanderley Luxemburgo struggled to maintain the outstanding images of their countries, but they know only too well that their function is more than just winning games. Its more about building a good national team.
Mexico had been through the times when they build the team they now have. But it started since 1992 when the youngsters who were exposed at the youth level then are now big names and with seven years of experience. Only in 1994 all of Davino, Pardo, Blanco, Zepeda, Lara, Villa, Arellano, and Palencia were olympic and youth team players. Today, they form the nucleus of Mexico's champion team.
For some reason, the Caribbean people do not have the patience to wait
on the building process, and already there are those who are pointing fingers
at the coach. Funnily enough,regardless of what
quality a coach is, if the players do not have the understanding and values of being competent international players, the team will struggle.
Coach St. Clair, is not only preparing the national teams, but he is
attempting to make an adjustment to some unwanted habits among our leading
players. Its not necessarily about money, but its about
committment, something which has not been a feature in our life style.Soccer is not only about a good dribble, a great shot or a super save, and while these skills are useful, the physical, mental and
pyschological factors must accompany the skills.
Short term goals are only meaningful when it is part of the organised
long term programmes.
We are already late in preparation of the team for World Cup 2002, and unless something is done real quickly, we may have to be in the same position we were in the previous World Cup qualifying. And none of us would wish to repeat this situation, would we?