IRVING WARD draws Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation chief Oliver Camps on some of the issues surfacing in the sport in the country in recent weeks.
IRVING WARD: Mr Camps, Nigerian 2001 Technical Director Chief Adegboye Onigbinde recently tendered his resignation from the National Technical Committee. What was the reason for his move?
OLLIE CAMPS: Actually, what happened is that he came here basically to handle the 2001 Under-17 team and we asked him to take on additional responsibilities. That is how he came to be on the National Technical Committee. Initially, handling these things was not a problem because, as Under-17 coach, his programme involved mostly screening and skill training of the talent and developing a training programme. But now that they have started to play games, his duties with the team are a lot more time-consuming, hence the reason he has asked to be relieved of his other responsibilities. We agreed.
IW: Is the TTFF satisfied with what Onigbinde has been doing with Team 2001?
OC: Yes, we are satisfied with his progress and the programme he has developed with the team.
IW: In recent times, there have been many young players getting trials and contracts abroad. T&T have also managed to move a couple notches up the Fifa rankings. Can we draw any valid conclusions about T&T football from this?
OC: Well, the standard of football has risen tremendously since 1989. One of the reasons why some of these players are being contracted is that the PFL has produced a lot of good players. Evidence of this is how competitive the fight is between the top four clubs in the PFL. We had Semi-pro football last year and the year before and the decision to go fully professional is already bringing rewards.
IW: T&T has been able to pull off a string of eight consecutive victories and establish a nine-game unbeaten run so far this year, including the stunning 4-3 victory over Colombia. Any particular reaction?
OC: I was very happy about the Colombia victory. What made it even more pleasing is that we did it without two of our top players, (Dwight) Yorke and (Russell) Latapy. But, you know, unless it is a competition match or one of the preliminary round World Cup qualifiers, the victory in itself doesn't mean that much. What is very important is the performance of the team. I want to see continuity in the performance at this high level. But I was very happy for the victory and the excellent performance on that occasion.
IW: Both Latapy and Yorke failed to show up for that game and the TTFF subsequently issued an ultimatum to them concerning their future participation in national team games. Does that mean that the Federation is going to be taking a harder line with them and, for that matter, all foreign-based players in the future?
OC: For quite some time now, our stand has been that we do not want to force any player to come to play any match. We would like them to want to come. For example, all the guys who played against Colombia wanted to come. (Lester) Felicien came and offered his services. That is how we will approach it in the future because when you force a player to play, you'll never get 100 per cent out of him. So, it was disappointing that Yorke and Latapy did not come but, in future, if players want to play they will have to tell us so directly.
IW: In writing?
OC: Well, that is what we have asked Dwight and Russell to do. But those were special circumstances. I don't expect that to become the norm.
IW: Not so long ago, you were criticized by former national skipper David Nakhid who contended that you have not done enough for the sport during your tenure in office. You have never responded. Do you want to do so now?
OC: No. I don't think I want to deal with David Nakhid. He is just one person who has his own view and has said what he has to say. But let me say for the record that I go back since 1970 in local football administration. If you cannot make a judgment on what I've done between then and now there is nothing more I can say.
IW: Some people have been saying that you are not in charge, that you have been letting other people call the shots.
OC: Well, you know who they are referring to. Jack Warner. But you have to bear in mind that I have a very good relationship with the Fifa vice-president who is also president of Concacaf and the CFU. We have a very, very good working relationship which goes way back since he became general secretary of the TTFA which is somewhere in 1975. We both worked together and have the same kind of vision for the football. We always talk, so that he can even speak for me because of the fact that I have given him authority to do certain things after discussing it. When you see he says something, it is because we have discussed it. I do not think too many people like the idea but once we have a man of that caliber in our midst, we have to take the opportunity to get done the things that will make us improve.
IW: Such as bringing in a foreign coach? We have already talked about Chief Onigbinde but there is still the question of Bertille St Clair's tenure. There was talk that he has been operating without a contract.
OC: People, including Mr Nakhid, have said that he didn't have a contract and we didn't want to give him a contract but that is not true. Bertille has always had his contract. He had his contract perusing it to see whether he was in agreement with it and that contract was signed some time ago. It had nothing to do with his performance. We were just letting him look at it properly to ensure that when he signed it, it was what he wanted.We were not thinking about bringing any foreign coach either and I don't know where that came from.
IW: So is the Federation happy with St Clair's work to date?
OC: The results of the matches are there to show so there is no way you can fault Bertille. He uses what he has and he has been able to do quite well in the circumstances.
IW: What are the plans for the team within the next couple months?
OC: We already have other warm-up games against Guatemala and Honduras and we are working at lining up quite a few more. The team is going to be looking at whether they can sustain the high level they have reached and that is the important thing now. They are working hard at it.We are going to continue improving into the new millennium because we are going to the Gold Cup and then straight into the World Cup preliminaries. We'll be looking again at all those players who are out there-in North America particularly-to bring in as many of them as possible give ourselves the best chance of making it all the way to the World Cup stage.