Alvin Corneal's Free Header
December's Free Header

Returning home is always exciting, regardless of the circumstances, and my visit is no different. I was lucky to commence my vacation by being the recipient of an award for my contribution to soccer at a ceremony which marked the 90th anniversary of the TTFF.

The experience of being among the legendary soccer stars was worth the trip home, and to be part of that memorable night which was filled with great speeches, excellent food, and over two hundred guests, was enjoyable to the max.

Being live on television helped to make the occasion even more special, and denise Plummer's rendition of her 1999 calypso was the icing on the cake.

Unfortunately, the fun literally stopped there and one had to contend with an abysmal display of cricket by the West Indies against South Africa in their inaugural visit to that country. Irresponsible batting, bowling and fielding provided the fans with a humiliating defeat, causing the critics to call for dismissals for almost everyone, including the administration.

Thank heavens for Dwight Yorke and his dream dance with Manchester United, and to a lesser extent, the victorious start to the Busta Cricket Cup competition. However, the biggest news came from the TTFF, who through their Chief Executive Officer Jack Warner announced the start of the fully professional league.

The announcement was made at the TTFF presentation function amidst a large soccer audience and some highly influential guests. My first reaction was that we have arrived.

The game of soccer was about to create new employment for the talented ones, and the world may have to sit up and take notice of this tiny twin island state, whose claim to fame spanned from two Miss Universe winners, one olympic gold medallist and more recently, another sprint champion.

I am an advocate for professional soccer in T&T, so that type of news is music to the ear. That is when the roads leading to pro soccer began to occupy the attention of all the interested fans. Questions galore came from all quarters.

Do we have the quality players to produce the level of performances which will cause John public to pay his hard earned money to see? Do we have a club structure to deal with the business of the pro game? On what basis have the Federation made the decision to go professional? What type of crowds actually supported the semi professional league last two years? How many clubs can afford seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars, plus salaries for approximately twenty players and a coaching staff? From where will the revenue come? Will Television in T&T pay to put live matches on the Tube? On what figures did the TTFF base their projections? All these questions are to be answered before March when the league will kick off.

The shocking news of the two top Clubs of last season not qualifying for the pro league, sent the project into some type of temporary tail spin.

Caledonia AIA and Queens Park, both in the top four last year, are out, the latter even refusing to play in the semi pro league. Reports are that the Caledonia Coach Jamaal Shabazz, had accepted the job to coach the national champs Joe Public, and is expected to take some of his former club stars with him.

The move by the founder of Caledonia has left the fans shocked, but the fact is that every man has got a price. The names of two new franchise clubs "W Connections" and Futguf will not raise an eyebrow, as little or nothing is known about them. The former can only have been recognized as a Fete match team which enjoyed their Sunday afternoon fun.

The former Malvern and T&T right winger, the Late Arthur Jap Brown will be pleased to hear of Futguf's meteoric rise to being a full professional squad, without being a semi pro team.

So far, only the armed services Police, and Defence force, San Jabloteh, and Doc's engineering, will join Joe Public and the two newcomers to face the starter.

The future of this league will be recognized only when the pieces are put into place. Guaranteed prize money, excellent season ticket sales, and possibly a commitment by the television companies are the major players. There appears little evidence of fan support on the basis of what transpired last year, but proper marketing and the novelty of the pro league could be an attraction for the fans.

Incidentally, one of the criteria for the qualifying teams was that they must have U-14, U-16, U-19 teams, and one wonders how the armed services will field such age group teams. Who knows! Maybe the age for joining the services will be dropped, but I doubt it.

But the old people always say, never knock something until its tried and failed. So lets give this new venture some moral support.