Give FOOTBALL back to the CLUBS

Author: 
Noel "Sammy" Llewellyn
Date Published: 
2005-06-09
Source: 
Trinidad Express

National League openingNational Soccer League opening: It was the opening of the National Soccer League (NSL) at the Oval in 1974 and Mrs. Maud Petit presents the St Paul Travel Service Trophy to the Defence Force's representative. At centre is Jack Warner.

Then from the middle of the 1970s, the next "Caesar" took over with a different style of dictatorship. Some "sold out" their clubs for "petty" favours and "funny" positions. Yes, coaches, referees, people holding down managerial positions etc. fell under his spell. It was a period where many were accused of twisting the media to attain their goals.

A whole lot of changes were made in Trinidad and Tobago football, and the game was "hijacked" by a certain group of "elitist" people who for sure didn't have the game's best interest's at heart.

I fully understand that sometimes we have to go "backward" in order to see where we're going "forward". But the question arises: What are we going forward with? We need to take a long, careful look at ourselves in the mirror to find out what direction we're going to take, and where are we are going wrong since it's positive results we're looking for and our main focus right now should be to make the necessary changes. Changes are imminent. Eventually, all things (old) must be a thing of the past.

I would like to know who introduced the National League in 1974, taking away that community support from some of our indigenous clubs-having two teams from the North playing in South, and two teams from the South playing in the East.

Obviously, Trinidad and Tobago was not ready for a national league at the time, unless it was a professional one. Who stopped the Haywood Shield, the Red Cross Classic, the North versus South classic?

Who stopped the first professional football team in Trinidad and Tobago, Pro Pioneers, formed by Selby Brown, Everald "Gally" Cummings, Desmond "Baby" Headley, and yours truly, and later financed by Euadne Gordon. For a short period after the team was financed by Kenrick "Foots" Belcon and the name was changed to KSI Phoenix. It was one of the best teams put together, and coached by the late Arthur "Jap" Brown.

They were the first club team in Trinidad and Tobago to beat Haiti's national team on two occasions 2-1, and they also played against the New York Cosmos with world class players like Carlos Alberto, Franz Beckenbauer, Georgio Chinaglia, and Francisco Marinho, and drew 1-1. The team was later coached by Cummings.

Who stopped the clubs of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association from voting for who they wanted to run the association? Who stopped the Coaches Association, with its president Dennis Yhip?

By now we should of had our own style of football, with all the coaches under one umbrella, developing a proper youth programme, playing one style of football...so it won't matter what age you were, you could just fall right in. Brazil had no problem with Pele at 16 years of age.

Who stopped Arthur Suite from running the first Professional Football League in Trinidad and Tobago-The Premier Soccer League-and banned all of its players when a team from that League, ASL were the first team of any kind in Trinidad and Tobago to beat an English First Division team, Arsenal FC, 3-2. And the first club team from Trinidad and Tobago to beat the Cuba national squad 1-0.

I would like to know who re-introduced a Professional League in 2000, 20 years too late and cannot get the support of the people. I will like to know the ones responsible for all these changes and the demise of football in Trinidad and Tobago. These are the people who should be banned from football in Trinidad and Tobago.

Is anyone counting? Do you know that between 1984-2004 there have been more than 20 changes in that senior team's head coaching positions? Yes, folks an average of more than one a year. And I'm sure it's not going to stop.

This year some more changes will have to be made after the World Cup qualifying rounds for the development and future of our football because we will go through the same thing again...Jack Warner, vice president of FIFA, president of CONCACAF, president of Caribbean Football Union, and sole owner of this country's football with all the "hard work" that he's doing for football, as they say, trying to improve Trinidad and Tobago chances of reaching a World Cup Finals. It would a crying shame if you were never to see T&T reach a World Cup Finals.

I respect you as an administrator for what you achieved...the sky is the limit. But you never kicked a lime in your life except for some minor league in Central Trinidad in the late '60s or early '70s, so you know nothing technically about the game of football. So take a little time and listen to this player that you BANNED FOR LIFE from football in Trinidad and Tobago in 1977 at age 26 because he refused to play for "chicken and chips" and asked for money instead. A footballer who had 45 caps, wearing national colours, scored 35 goals, was Footballer of the Year 1975 and 1976. Played for the Los Angeles Aztecs in the North American Soccer League, under the late Rinus Michels, one of the best coaches in the world in his day, the father of Dutch football, the inventor of Total Football.

Here are some suggestions I hope you will consider for the reconstruction and future of this country's football:

First I don't believe the first interest in having a successful national team is the hiring of a foreign coach. The talent, skill, knowledge and knowing our culture is here in Trinidad and Tobago to have a world-class coach come from Trinidad and Tobago.

A lot of people are scared to come forward because of the way coaches are being treated in the country. They would not like the reduction of their manhood for a job they are qualified for in terms of their history of success with clubs The respect for our local coaches must be given in terms of money and not favours. A foreign coach will be contracted for a period of six months to fulfill Jack Warner's dream of reaching a World Cup Finals at the cost of about US$250,000, with there being no guarantee it will become a reality. But a local coach would be contracted for the same job and be paid about $10,000 per month and some favours. These figures may not be accurate, but the difference in pay packages might be. I say, respect your own!

Jack by now you should realise things just do not happen overnight, even with money and power. Without proper planning you're only spinning top in mud.

As I mentioned earlier sometimes we have to go backwards and follow our tracks to see where we're going forward to make sure we're on the right track. Take a good look at our tracks with foreign coaches-Michael Laing (England), Kevin Verity (England), Ian Porterfield (Scotland), Zoran Vranes (Yugoslavia), Rene Simoes (Brazil), Leo Beenhakker (Holland), Jan Zwarkruis (Holland)-millions of dollars spent, and still being spent on these foreign coaches without success.

Stop letting money think for you. With your "power" of office give back the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation to the clubs of the Federation. Let them vote for who they want to start the reconstruction of football in Trinidad and Tobago.

Ollie Camps, I had great respect for you as manager of the national team before I was banned for life from football in Trinidad and Tobago, but as president of Federation, you are something of a rubber stamp.

Remove all the advisers and directors you appointed to the Federation, including yourself as special adviser. Advise all the coaches from 1970 to 2005 (35 years) to give new young coaches, with new ideas, the opportunity to coach. Thank them for their services. Let them know the revolving coaching system you were using did not work, having a pool of coaches with coaches getting two and three chances whether it's the senior or junior national team doing the same thing over and over again.

We need some new advisers and technical directors. Organise a Players Retirement Plan, since 90 per cent of our players depend on football for a living with nothing to fall back on. Especially players with at lease 25 caps or more.

Introduce a Players Association or Union to represent and look after the welfare of players. Re-introduce the Coaches Association, having all the coaches working together, with one vision, developing a proper youth programme and creating our own style of football with some continuity.

Bring football back to the ownership of the people, through the clubs. It will take dialogue. Most important with the clubs, the media have an important part to play, but we have to be fearful of some reporters.

There are brilliant football minds at home and abroad willing to give their services to the cause of the reconstruction of football in Trinidad and Tobago, but they are afraid. Take a look at USA politics at this stage: I see the people being afraid of the government when it should be the other way around-the government being afraid of the people. Trinidad and Tobago football is like that: the people, who are the footballers and the "clubs" are afraid of the government of football in Trinidad and Tobago. With what's at stake the rage inside of me is battling to tame my scream!

The people responsible have gone too far.

Some day in the near future our players will not have to leave our shores to seek fame and fortune abroad, for our people will recognise them as world-class players. Some day in the near future our coaches will not have to leave our shores to take coaching courses so they can be recognised as a coach (period) by this country's Football Federation.

Some day in the near future with the right structure and people in place, Trinidad and Tobago's senior national team will reach a World Cup Finals. And it will happen while I'm still alive.

Last but not least, I call on Trinidad and Tobago's administrators to place their egos on the back burner. I know for a fact there are favours and monetary incentives, involved for being loyalist, but our children's future is at stake. Make way for the future generation administration.

Although we have produced exceptional talent in the game a la Leroy De Leon, Cummings, Steve David, Warren Archibald, Dwight Yorke, Russell Latapy, and other professionals with potential, this country's football to me is at a standstill since most of the Caribbean islands have caught up with us and this is what has inspired me to write this article on the ills and demise of football in Trinidad and Tobago from the mid-70s to 2005.

Tell all those who criticised me after I protested the price of tickets for the World Cup qualifying game against the USA on Ash Wednesday 2005 that I around too long!