CRACK football professional Everard "Gally" Cummings is confident that Trinidad & Tobago can defeat Haiti in the next round of the World Cup if:-
* certain members of the Trinidad Football Association leave the players, coaches and trainers alone;
* the selection of the team is left to the coach and his assistant; and
* the team is picked entirely on merit.
Cummings, who has been playing for Trinidad & Tobago since he was 15, elaborated in this way:
"TFA officials must realize that they have to stick to administration instead of coming and causing conflict between the players. The majority of officials don't even come to the training ground and yet they want to have a say in picking the team."
Cummings feels that far too often in the past players have either been included in or left out of the Trinidad & Tobago team for non-football reasons: e.g., the personal relationship between a player and a particular official.
He warned as well against any tendency selectors might have to pick the team on the basis of football politics — so many for North, so many for East, so many for South etc.
"It is important," Cummings pointed out, "for the players to be in training for at least a month before the Haiti game — they should live in, together with the coach and assistant coach, since it is important that we get to know each other both on and off the football field."
Cummings, who plays for New York Cosmos, expressed concern over mutterings to the effect that foreign-based footballers should not be considered for selection.
He pointed out that it is not as if these players were flying from the United States and straight into the team.
"We will all be tested and Archibald, De Leon, Keith Aqui and I will have to prove ourselves. But we should all want to see the best team play — Haiti cannot beat our best team," he said.
Cummings leaves Trinidad for the United States in a week's time and one of the first things he will do there is to meet with the other professionals to discuss under what terms and conditions they will play for Trinidad & Tobago.
"Make no mistake — I, and I am certain the other professionals as well, want to play for the country — but we certainly can't play for just anything — football is more than a sport to us — it is our livelihood," he stressed.
"And if things go according to plan and we join the local squad in training in September, it means that we would just have finished our season in the United States — and we would be fit and ready to go."
He admits that he has never seen anything as big as the proposed plans by the TFA to ensure that this country is well represented in the World Cup.
"But let us be serious right through — and this seriousness must begin with the TFA and be passed on to the players. I have to confess, however, that the majority of times I have come down here it has always been one big joke — however, perhaps the time has come when we are seeing football become something more than an underdog sport," he said.
He agreed that some fans might have been disappointed with the performance of the professionals in the Santos-Trinidad game, but he reminds these fans that conditions on that day were hardly conducive to good football.
"But the World Cup is something else. If we are treated fairly we will be there playing our guts out. It is unfortunate that we allowed ourselves to be trapped into playing Haiti in that 'friendly match' last year.
I think we should have avoided it. Haiti won, which means that they have a psychological advantage over us — but the players have to get that defeat out of their system from now — and then there will be no stopping us," Cummings argued.
Cummings, who is now 24, said that his playing as a professional has made him a mature player. His whole approach to the game has changed.
"Like so many of the footballers here I used to think that dribbling was all. Now I only dribble when necessary, concentrating more on passing the ball to get it nearer to the other team's goal and from there into the net," he disclosed.
He concluded with an expression of dismay over the reluctance of youngsters these days to exercise:
"I remember we used to be able to collect some 35 players on any given day to go up to the Savannah and have a run. Now the most we can get is eight — too many of the others, some of whom I know to be good players, have gone off on drugs — their love for the game killed by the lack of real opportunity."