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Time to get real with our football

Friday, December 3, 2010
Alvin Corneal reviews T&T at the Digicel Cup
The Soca Warriors starting line-up for its Digicel Caribbean Cup Finals Group H match against host Martinique at the Pierre Aliker Stadium, Fort De France, Martinique on Tuesday night. T&T won 1-0 courtesy a Hector 47th minute goal. Back-row from left are: Daniel Cyrus, Keon Daniel, Marvin Phillip (GK), Anthony Wolfe, Clyde Leon (captain). Kneeling from left: Devon Jorsling, Hughton Hector, Kevin Molino, Kern Cupid, Julius James and Densil Theobold.

As disastrous as the horrible results may appear in this CFU championship tournament, it is probably a blessing in disguise for the leaders of our football to now start from the beginning to put a more organised plan in motion, one which is based upon the methodology for developing a stable and productive future for the game. After watching this current team for the past week, the picture now seems clear that this situation is much larger than the superficial manner in which we tend to view our failed results. When a Cuban team with a blend of matured players, neatly mixed in with some promising youngsters can present a performance which, when compared to ours, resembles a mis match similar to Barcelona against Falkirk, it is time to take stock. It will be folly to try any form of analysis as to why the players from this country have not been capable of even matching strides with its opponents. The simple fact is that there is very little or no technical or tactical formula in the preparatory process.

Is it not time to get real with our football program? Have we not been able to recognise the decay of the quality of the game, whether it be at the secondary schools or the proleague or any other league in the country? Any attempt to short circuit the repair stage will be a further step to retarding the progress. Maybe we can start by breaking down what was produced at each game in Martinique. Firstly, the field conditions for all the matches should have been more carefully studied, simply because the water sodden ground was literally a mandatory request for a special type of boot, the ones with long studs and the use of ankle bandages. It may sound naive that this is the first observation, but the number of times players lost their footing and either fell to the ground or miskicked their shots or passes, would have explained why this was a factor. Then there was the question of team selection. While it is not always the best idea to challenge the choice of players by the coach, it is not unnatural to make an assessment of the selected team. The path to victory is based mainly upon the chosen players, hence the reason why it was the first form of scrutiny.

When the teamsheet was handed out, the first impression was that the coach's choice would be based upon the practice sessions and game plan which the coach had decided to put on the field. I will admit though, that the omission of Cornel Glenn, Anthony Wolfe and Kendall Jagdeosingh was somewhat surprising. Why would Glenn and Jagdeosingh be omitted in the opening match away from home when they have been selected based upon their performances with their clubs in the MLS and USL? Glenn has the basic ingredient of speed, a feature which few defenders are able to handle, and his experience speaks for itself by virtue of his participating in the World Cup Finals and playing in a major league which recently concluded its season. It was clear that many of the players were short of the expectation, and failed to cope with an organised Cuba with their solid defence, led by Jeniet Molina and a midfield orchestrated by Jaine Valencia. The result was that the Warriors were reduced to secondraters being upstaged by the Cubans through their excellent cohesive manoeuvres in midfield.

In hindsight, the experience of these hardcore professionals may have provided some answers for Latapy. What was even more mysterious was the number of changes which were made for the second game. This curious decision left one to believe that the original choice of players failed to do the task required, and the subs were called in to repair the damage. Six changes after game one sends a message of indecisiveness on the path of the coaching staff. Now that both teams provided negative results, what else is necessary? Actually, the presence of Wolfe, Molino, and Hector came like a breath of fresh air, and brought a semblance of what was required from the team. Admittedly, Grenada was not as compact as the Cubans and offered more space and freedom for the Warriors. However, not only was the result the same, but the exit from the tournament came much faster than we all expected. The final game was a mere formality and the victory over Martinique brought some consolation to the team. Martinique was obviously shattered over their exit and it showed in their game. Their passing was substandard and they lacked the creativity for which they were given in the early matches.

Hector's goal was the result of some fine interpassing which took Molino to the byeline. His cross was accurate and Hector was clinical with his sidefooted shot. It is customary that irrational decisions are taken in order to convince the fans that the coaching staff is the only problem. The call to fire them is used as the solution and possibly a smokescreen to conceal the real areas which deserve solutions. I suggest that the authorities exercise some care during their moments of dialogue. Sometimes we could easily find the answers by looking into a mirror. Yes, changes are needed, but in all aspects of our football. Piecemeal adjustment is only sidestepping the major issues. And finally, a message to the organisers of the CFU Digicel championships. The performances of Cuba and Grenada in the final round match which ended in a draw, was somewhat contrary to what these two teams produced in the early matches. In my humble opinion, these two teams had performed as though there was little interest in getting a result other than a draw. They were slow, unproductive, and painfully boring. Hopefully, there will be penalties for performances like that one.