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Firing Latapy not the answer

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The failure of the national football team in the Digicel Caribbean Cup finals in Martinique was a clear indication that all is not right with the sport here in T&T. From being the number one team in the Caribbean and one that was feared by all the other countries, T&T has now been reduced to just another team against which any of the others could compete favourably. A 1-0 victory over Martinique in their final game and two losses to Cuba (2-0) and Grenada (1-0) effectively stymied the aspirations of coach Russell Latapy’s Soca Warriors, who will now miss the Gold Cup, the premier competition in the region. It must be ironic that even before the team kicked a ball, Latapy was talking about playing against Jamaica in the final. The Little Magician, as Latapy was referred in his playing days, was overly confident of not only advancing to the semi-finals, which guaranteed a place in the Gold Cup, but of meeting the Reggae Boyz in the Caribbean Cup final.

As it turned out, he was partly right—Jamaica was in the final, which it eventually won, while T&T failed to get to the semi-final. As usual, the daggers have been taken out and pointed at Latapy and it would seem that the reason for the pathetic display lies in his exclusive domain. Already there are reports he is to be fired and the federation is negotiating with Jean Tigana, the former French player and Dutchman Ruud Gullitt as possible replacements. It is a knee-jerk response that is destined to fail. The truth is T&T football has been in the doldrums for a long time, some would say blighted by the failure of the federation to professionally deal with the players who represented the country with so much passion and commitment at the Germany World Cup finals in 2006. Several of the players who were heroes on that team were lost to our football simply because they opted to challenge the federation’s financial dealings with them.

It therefore came as no surprise, as revealed by this newspaper’s exclusive story in yesterday’s edition, that once again the federation has failed to pay the players’ salaries for the past 13 matches. The stark reality is that the days when players ran on to the field simply for the love of representing their country is far gone. Money remains a potent motivational tool, but more importantly for many of the players it is essential for taking care of their families. Even before they get to the point of representing the country, there is the whole question of the role of the administrators. Have they done everything possibly to help develop an environment for the success of players?

Was Latapy exposed to the cutting edge of teaching/coaching technology so that he could develop the knowledge base to better prepare the team? Administrators must understand they are there for the sole purpose of working for the success of the coaches and players, and by extension the team. If we look hard we will find that in the Martinique failure, there are lessons. Will we learn from them? Someone must tell the nation why it is the pendulum has swung so swiftly. It is folly to ignore this pathetic display and hope that it will repair itself. Football is not magic. The answer lies in the planning and intelligent work by the backroom staff. If we continuously use the firing of coaches to treat a cancerous problem, we will soon be the doormat of regional football. Firing Latapy is not the answer. The TTFF must dig deeper and come up with real solutions.


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