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A good footballing couple
There can be little doubt that T&T’s football is fighting back, and if anything fighting tough at that. Perhaps it is the combined skills of the two coaches, the army man with intense years of military training in Hutson Charles, and the one-time militant but opinionated Jamaal Shabaaz, that has led to this revival against the odds.
No funding, no salaries, no travelling, no food, no drinks; yet, despite these negatives the team has prospered from one campaign to another. As Charles explained recently, he had to tell the players there was no guarantee they would receive their emoluments after every match, but yet each wanted to represent their country. This is a rare occurrence these days as most young men (and some women) in sports only know the dollar sign.
It is a fact that most of those who wield the financial power to support the national footballers never envisaged this team reaching the Caribbean Football Union finals much less placing second and qualifying for the Gold Cup in the USA in July 2013. However, both Charles and Shabazz are men with backbone and both refuse to easily give up in the face of unfair and unfortunate pressure.
When you talk with both men, one can sense a purpose, a belief in what they seek to deliver for T&T football. Charles, 47, is the more smiling of the two—very composed and with a lot of national footballing pedigree through two very decisive goals during the Strike Squad era. His tutelage under Everard “Gally” Cummings has certainly not been forgotten. His footballing experience means he has earned the respect of many of the players in advance. His willingness to listen has ensured he has the players’ trust, which is critical to any coach’s success or failure.
Shabazz, 49, is the opposite. He is the tough-talking, no-nonsense coach that will graciously give the media the one-liner and the banner headlines they want. But he is also a brilliant tactician, whose vast experience in international circles has opened his eyelids to a new world of constructive differences and football equity, where before there was none. Both men do not like to lose. Both men want to win, and while some will consider Charles to have a much more flamboyant attacking style and Shabazz to be more dour and methodical, together they make a very good footballing couple. There is respect for each other and that has enhanced the relationship and this togetherness has assisted the national team.
The way forward will not be easy. There are doubters in the media, outside of the media, inside of the federation, outside of the federation, inside the Ministry of Sport and outside the Sports Company. If you are confused as this seems to cover everybody, can you imagine the position of the players? One thing that is clear is that after Carnival Wednesday’s attendance of 4,500 at the Ato Boldon Stadium for the match against Peru, the people are ready and willing to support football again.
So what is needed is support for both of these men and our footballers as they attempt to rebuild the sport in this country. It is not going to be easy, but if there are two young men in this country who fit the bill to succeed, then Charles and Shabazz are such. Let us all hope the federation and the Ministry of Sport, together with the Sports Company and any other individual involved can meet and discuss the way forward without jeopardising the future of our young footballers. We all know that there is a lot of talent in this country and that in many areas, there are persons just waiting to excel on the international stage, but they like all of us, need encouragement and motivation.
We know the public in this country love football and still remember our 2006 adventure in Germany, and many would like to have such feelings of joy and pride restored sooner rather than later. The good news today is there is hope in football again...long may it continue.
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