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T & T Under 17 Team

December 8, 2000


THERE has been a lot of understandable concern expressed in the newspapers, over the past few weeks, about the status of the Trinidad and Tobago under-17 team – the home side at next year’s World Under-17 Championship.

First, it was former international midfielder Sedley Joseph, in the Trinidad Express, taking note of the fact that, apart from a 4-1 loss in Haiti, the team has not had much international exposure in recent months. Then, in a letter to last Saturday’s Guardian, M. Hotin of St. James stated that because of the poor international results this year, the side can easily be dubbed “The Bobolee Boys” and recommended the hiring of a “world-class coach” to properly prepare the team for the championships – lest there be international embarrassment next year.

In the meantime, the current coach of the team, Adegboye Onigbinde, was pulling his team out of the ill-fated CFU Tournament - due to lack of preparation.

Which all leads one to ask the relevant authorities: What is going on?

It is already bad that the current group are extending this country’s poor run at under-17 level. Now the team is being kept inactive, with the biggest football event in this country’s history just around the corner. After being outclassed by the USA, England and Mexico, and then humiliated by Suriname, Haiti and other Caribbean teams, one would have thought that the emergency switch would have been triggered off. Instead, the team has gone months without seriously training and now has only a matter of months to get ready for the globe’s best. Which means that we are now all set for a mad scramble to get the team prepared for the tournament – a process that is going to compete with the senior team’s World Cup preparations and the activities of the under-20 selection: there are no prizes for guessing that the senior squad is going to win the bidding for the bulk of financial resources.

Things are not shaping up well. A team that losses 4-0 to Suriname in one year, is definitely not ready to face the likes of Brazil, Ghana and Spain in the next. Since there is no time to destroy the nucleus of the squad, it means that the coach and his technical staff will now have to try and perform a miracle with the current group - over a period of just eight months. There is just no way to see how this is going to work out. Not with an under-17 program that has produced some of this country’s weakest teams over the last six years: sides that have won just one out of nine games played in Football Confederation tournaments from 1994 to 1999, losing on five occasions, scoring 16 goals and conceding 34. Coach Onigbinde does not have any established pedigree to work with at this level and, now, we have a team that is being easily manhandled by less-than-top-class opposition.

Trinidad and Tobago youth football is at a very low point right now and the time has arrived for the slate to be wiped clean and everything re-started from square one. I know that the phrase, “We have get a proper development program going,” has cliché potential but, that is exactly what this country’s football needs, as soon as possible. Trinidad and Tobago is falling further and further behind at under-17 level and the consequences for the future promise to be disastrous. A commitment must be made towards producing players who will be technically adept and on par with the counterparts around the world by the time they reach this stage. It is only when this is achieved that this country will start to do well at under-17 level and beyond, once again.

For now, the prospects are very dim.