Wednesday 9th March, 2005

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Football: Germany or bust

I desire, in this campaign to get to Germany in 2006, a collective effort towards devising a clear-cut “strategic plan.”

I always cuss these Dookeran-esque terms that have suddenly become quite popular—“strategic plan,” “directional plan,” “transformational plan,” etc, the point being that if it is a “plan” at all then there ought to be inherent a strategy and a direction; the concept of a “plan” presumes strategy and development towards specific coherent goals.

The choice of language certainly indicates where our deep problems dwell, even with our so-called intellectuals. Nevertheless, our intention at all times in discussing football is to make a plug for intelligent and purposeful functioning that would ensure we pay regard to process.

In all my pieces I called first and foremost for “structural coherency in our football from cradle to grave” and a “board of coaches” to implement this process.

I demanded that coaches at all levels of the game be made to work in unison and not at cross-purposes in order to produce the national product we desire and that the erratic approach to the management of football be curtailed forthwith.

I have even gone as far as to identify the most likely source of this erratic approach and postulated that even though this very source is the greatest asset to our football, we must have the “testicular fortitude” to demand the curtailment in football of what Jamaicans in their culture have for years described as “one-man-ism,” precisely because it is addictive and like a disease spread and filter down to very last bitch and his brother.

I warned that we will go nowhere in football without our full comprehension of what “process” and “collectivisation” mean.

Both Gally Cummings and Bertille St Clair in the past have exhibited the negative attributes of listening to no one, of failing to consult, and as a result failed after some initial success. Nevertheless they have proven to have been the best of the crop, but now that Bertille is once again in charge will he ever seek assistance from Gally?

Since the Digicel Cup debacle, I have read in the newspapers that the Technical Committee of Lincoln Phillips, Alvin Corneal, Mohammed Issa and others will be meeting with Bertille to discuss and come up with ways and means to deal with the obvious deficiencies. That’s a good and timely start.

And if the little magician, Latapy, is offering his services as a coach, we should welcome that. He will bring fresh ideas. After all, he is the only person to represent T&T from a tender age to adulthood and was captain of the team at each stage. I do not know anybody else in the world who has such a track record.

I suggested before that our problems lie in two main areas, ie technical incompetence and poor marketing. The technical matters we saw as revolving around the following:

The need to perfect a structure to suit the players we have. It is foolhardy, for instance, to attempt a structure that demands two wing-backs when in fact we do not have any consistently competent ones available to us.

The key to the game is about possession of the ball and capable passing of the ball in which the question of timing and judgment is of the utmost, yet to date there are few players in the present teams who can do this, even some of those who are professionals abroad.

Defence of territory and spatial off-the-ball running and positioning are crucial basics that we lack. However, these aspects of our game must become instinctive in order to guarantee forward movement and the competent switching from attack to defence when we lose possession. All this comes to the fore if and only if an appropriate structure is working.

Our players must develop first-touch control of the ball. Reaching the World Cup is not a possibility without this capability and any national coach who proves unable to accomplish this requirement will be a failure. If however this requirement is fashioned from very early at the lower levels, the national coach will not be so burdened.

Football is about chemistry; the players need time to work together and to gel as a team. In that sense the professionals cannot be the backbone of the team. A locally-based team has to be built over time with the professionals playing their roles as time permits. Even so the professionals themselves will perform much better when placed in context of a team that is truly a team.

The other question is marketing. We are yet to intelligently work out a marketing plan. We need about $50 million to properly prepare the team. We cannot depend solely on government; neither can we depend solely on inputs from the private sector. In addition to these sources we must create an international plan to “sell” our team.

Back in that 1999, I suggested the mass production of a video highlighting our football history; the great clubs of the past; the travesty that took place in Haiti; the building and preparation of the Strike Squad, replete with music clips and performance clips. To this we can add Bertille’s handling of the team in the Gold Cup, and Portafield’s first round in which we defeated Mexico.

We also recommended the marketing of our well-known professionals; we suggested the images of Latapy, Yorke, Shaka and Stern and their accomplishments on 500,000 jerseys to be sold at $100.

We have to market the team and we have to start now to coincide with the technical decisions that we all hope will be made shortly. Enough said.



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