AT LAST Trinidad footballers have cottoned on to the fact that Eric James is not the only professional in the country. Despite the fact that most of them backed down at the eleventh hour on their demand for payment for participation in the CONCACAF series, it is just the first round in a battle which will end up in a professional league.
It is very unfortunate that the players underestimated the support they have in the country. They did not realise, apparently, that Eric James' unpopularity is surpassed only by that of the other Eric. They have failed to grasp that the country, as much as themselves, is sick of the incompetent, bloodsoccing vampires in the TFA.
The bloodsoccers are completely out of touch with the hopes and aspirations of players and supporters. Even if they are far too incompetent and unimaginative to realize present and future possibilities. The demand by the national team for payment is in the final analysis a call for a professional league, and contrary to the prevailing mood in official circles, professional football is not only feasible but necessary to further progress in the game.
FANS WILL PAY
All the basic ingredients for success exist. The game is extremely popular. There are fenced grounds other than the established grounds, and most of all, fans are willing to pay to see a good match. The only obstruction is the crucifixed vision of a corrupt football association which uses irrelevant FIFA definitions and rulings to veil its dracula teeth.
You ever hear of such nonsense? A senior official of the TFA once confided to me that if our players become professionals they would be eliminated from international competition the exposure to which we worked hard for. Surely if we have professionals then we can play on greener pastures. Instead of running down "Cali Games" and the like we can promote the visits of professional clubs and national teams. Besides, professionals play in the most cherished international competition, the World Cup. Are [we] to believe that amateur competitions and FIFA rules are more important than the improvement and satisfaction of our own players.
A NEW GAME
Fans will agree that Trinidad/Nautico is a far better proposition that Costa Rica/Cuba. But even if we have to accept FIFA rules there are ways to evade them. Instead of playing football we can invent a new game and call it "boots." Instead of playing on a square field we can play circular fields and replace throw-ins with freekicks.
However the purpose of a professional league is not simply to export funds from grasping Eric, but, to provide an incentive to induce better performances and to give our top talent the full time to devote themselves towards realising their maximum potential. It is annoying to see gifted players failing to head or pass a ball properly skills which can be easily acquired by a week or two of serious practice.
Also, the TFA can only conceive of a professional league in terms of sponsorship, grandoise stadiums and million-dollar players form abroad. Initially, all a professional league needs is a fenced ground and fans who are willing to pay to see a reasonably good match. Well, North/South encounters convincingly demonstrate this. In every nook and cranny of the country there are supporters who relish seeing their community heroes against any worthy opponent. To my mind, these localities are roots for initiating and intercommunity league. Superimposed on that we can establish a regional league with each region drawing its sustenance from a group of community leagues. Such a league can be run on a full professional basis.
While the grass is growing the horse won't starve. There are more immediate possibilities. Players should form a bargaining body of some kind to demand the players participating in the inter-league series should be paid a percentage of the gate receipts. IF the TFA turns a deaf ear they must mobilise themselves to boycott all football matches.