grand launch had been only a couple of days old yet certain persons
were already being vilified. Questions regarding commitment to the cause
were raised - this despite the fact that fanciful slogans, each trying
to emphasize its importance had been appearing in the local papers.
about it, the World Cup bug has descended on us, just two weeks after
the official start of this country's bid to qualify for the 2002 competition
in Japan and South Korea. Call it coincidence. Refer to it as déjà
vu. But, one can already identify some eerie parallels that link the
incipient “PROJECT 2002” with the failed Project 1998:
in mind these similarities, we must also be conscious of the one, important
thing about the 1998 campaign: it ended in disaster. The inability to
master the 3-5-2 system was exposed at the 1996 Gold Cup and Trinidad
and Tobago lost both its first round matches against El Salvador and
the USA. The warning signs appeared to have been forgotten during the
following eight months, during which Trinidad and Tobago recorded a
third, consecutive Caribbean Cup victory and routed the Dominican Republic
in its second round World Cup-qualifying tie.
the semi-final round group stage.
with the 3-5-2 system re-surfaced as Trinidad and Tobago played poorly
in its first game against Costa Rica in Port of Spain and lost 1-0.
This prompted an immediate change of coach. However only a solitary
point was to be gained from the remaining five matches. The fact that
some of our “foreign based” players did not perform particularly well
was telling, as was the desperation induced re-appearance of players
past their prime at international level. In the end, everything pointed
to a lack of long-term planning.
Trinidad and Tobago avoid repeating history?
depends on how efficiently we are able to deal with our shortcomings.
We still lack the foresight of the Americans, who are already planning
for future World Cups with their Project-40 and Project 2010 programs.
However, this time, we at least have a more structured preparation plan
going into next year. The present national team is set to play more
friendlies before the 2000 Gold Cup, than did the team of four years
ago, before the 1996 competition. Coach Bertille St. Clair has been
doing an admirable job in trying to create a sizeable pool of players
with senior international experience. It has been under him that promising
players such as Kerwyn Jemmott and Derek King (the outstanding player
in the Trinidad and Tobago under-20 team last year) won their first
full international caps. We should use the upcoming games to give opportunities
to such players, and avoid the mistake of stuffing our team with foreign
based players under the illusion that they represent the magic key to
success. The Colombia game proved that some of those players should
definitely not be considered fixtures in the team. Indeed, there are
only about three or four foreign based players who are indispensable
to the Trinidad and Tobago national team: including Russell Latapy (again,
one of our best ever players, whether some of us like to admit it or
not) and Stern John - still developing into a world-class striker at
the age of 23.
is already short. There are only a few months to go before the 2000
Gold Cup - the tournament that will test how good we really are.
Coach St. Clair still needs to strengthen the defence and try more players
up front. There is a need to continue developing our playing resources
so that there can be adequate back up should our top players fall out
ALL of Trinidad and Tobago must come together to support the team. We
have turn out in our numbers for games, whether they take place in Port
of Spain, Palo Seco or Tunapuna. Some of our top local companies still
haven't come forward to lend financial support, in spite of the moral
obligation. There has to be a change in our attitudes: we must stop
being so parsimonious.
we need to start planning NOW for future World Cups. There has to be
a development program so that we can produce players approaching the
technical level of their counterparts in the top football playing nations.
Countries such as Uruguay and Qatar have shown that one can never be
too small to enjoy international success. We have to keep striving to
be better than some of our improving CONCACAF competitors. We have to
start thinking in terms of the highest level.
It is only
then that Trinidad and Tobago will become capable of competing with
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