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A year of Hart, balls and commitment

Thursday, December 26, 2013

1 — The introduction of Stephen Hart as head coach of the national football team. 
He came into the hot seat in June, mere weeks before this country’s opening Concacaf Gold Cup fixture against El Salvador. Hart has been a tremendous leader since taking over the top post. In his nine games in charge of the team, Hart has led T&T to four wins and two draws while three losses came at the Concacaf Gold Cup in July. He has earned the respect of his players and they have demonstrated their willingness to give everything for him. “He has definitely come in here and brought something good to the team,” said Kenwyne Jones. 


2. Kenwyne Jones’ leadership. 
Currently in and out of the starting team at Stoke City, Jones had one of his better years for the national team, scoring six goals in nine games since Hart became coach, almost half his overall tally of 13 goals in 61 appearances. “We’ve seen progress and the team has been able to gather some positive results. As players we know there’s more to be done but it’s important that we have faith in our coach... We’ve been doing that and it’s brought us some level of success,” Jones said.

3. Relationship between the TTFA and the Minister of Sport, his Ministry and Sportt.
In what has been one of its most trying seasons for funding, the TTFA didn’t receive much from corporate T&T, except for some assistance at the international games. Spanish sportwear manufacturer Joma came on board as the official kit suppliers but the biggest supporter was undoubtedly Minister of Sport Anil Roberts, his Ministry of Sport and Sportt, providing funding for overseas training camps for the senior team, under-20 and under-17 women’s teams, men’s youth teams and the beach football team. They also provided funding for payment of staff salaries and player allowances and match wages. Without their assistance, there might not have been much, if at all any international action for T&T in 2013. The commitment from the Sport Minister, his permanent secretary Ashwin Creed and Sportt chairman, Sebastien Paddington, must not go unnoticed.

4. Commencement of the TTFA Ball distribution program. 
The TTFA signed a partnership with OneWorldFutbol to acquire 15,000 indestructible footballs which were distributed to several primary schools at the schools finals at the Hasely Crawford Stadium. This will continue during the TTFA shoreline communities program in 2014. This is the first time the local governing body has ever embarked on such a program that offers playing equipment to various teams across the country. TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee has steered the TTFA ship through some patchy waters in 2013 and this is one of the programs he has earmarked to aid the development of football at the grassroots level and through the TTFA coach education program overseen by technical director Anton Corneal.

5. T&T’s win over Honduras.
At the 2013 Gold Cup in July, goals by Kenwyne Jones and Kevin Molino, propelled T&T to a 2-0 win and a quarter final spot against Mexico. It was the first time since 2000 that T&T reached beyond the group phase. Jones and goalkeeper Jan Michael Williams were subsequently named among Concacaf’s top performers of the year and T&T earned several plaudits for its showing at the tournament.


6. Akeem is alive.
The news that former national defender Akeem Adams suffered a massive heart attack in August shocked the nation and touched many. The former W Connection, Central FC and Hungary-based player subsequently had a leg amputated. But the great news is that today he is alive and aware of his surroundings and is able to communicate with his mother Ancilla and brother Akini who are at his side in his hospital in Hungary. 


7. Topping the Caribbean
T&T regained the number one spot in the Caribbean for the first time in three years. Their back-to-back wins over Jamaica in November, a draw with New Zealand and commendable performances against Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates helped push the “Warriors” to 78th in the world, ahead of Jamaica and Haiti. The Women’s under-17 team also won the Caribbean Championships, defeating hosts Haiti 1-0 in the final. They however, failed to progress out of the Concacaf final round. Their under-20 counterparts also reached the Caribbean final, but lost to host Jamaica. They will go after a World Cup spot at the Concacaf final round in Cayman Islands next month. The Men’s under-17s also dominated Caribbean and scored a memorable 2-0 win over Costa Rica at the Concacaf finals in Panama but missed out on qualification for the 2013 FIFA Under 17 World Cup after losing 4-2 to the hosts in their final qualifier in April.


Other notables included the work of Dennis Lawrence as assistant coach to Roberto Martinez at Everton which enjoyed a win over Manchester United in November. The work of Dwight Yorke as a Manchester United and FIFA World Cup trophy ambassador. The emergence of 19-year-old Central FC player Rundell Winchester who eventually made his first start in the 1-0 win away Jamaica. The performances of Joevin Jones and defender Carlyle Mitchell at the local club level for W Connection and Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS respectively. The thunderous long range goal scored by Khaleem Hyland for Racing Genk against KV Mechelen in the Belgian Cup Final. W Connection capturing the first ever FA Trophy, defeating Central FC 6-5 on penalty kicks in December’s final at the Ato Boldon Stadium. Applause must also go out to Club Sando and Guaya United for their showing in the TTFA Super League and the Toyota Classic Cup. Thumbs up to St Augustine Secondary on capturing the Coca Cola Intercol Crown and Presentation College, San Fernando, the BGTT First Citizen’s Secondary Schools League. Hats off also to St Augustine Secondary Girls for taking home the Girls Big Four title.


Shaun Fuentes is the director of communications for the TTFA. [email protected]


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