More than a week ago, The Pan Am Games committee decided upon the eight competing teams that will participate in the football tournament, both men and women. Following the Concacaf qualifying series for the Women’s world cup, I assumed that there will be some enthusiasm among the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) with regards the women players to have them engage in intense competition against teams like Argentina, Columbia and Mexico.
The men’s team is also involved against Uruguay, Paraguay and Mexico for their preliminary round. It has always been my belief that Pan Am Games is probably the strong football competition in the region, simply because it includes countries from both the Concacaf and the Conmebol. Many will be surprised to know that the only medals won by team sports of field hockey and football were in the Pan Am Games. Our hockey team won the silver medal and the footballers won the bronze in 1967 when the Games were staged in Winnipeg, Canada.
Our current teams have been drawn against these top South American countries, a factor which should have sent their training programmes to full throttle in order to prepare for the July encounter. However, on listening to a radio programme some days ago, I was shocked to hear a report through an interview in which the team captain Maylee Attin Johnson, who was terribly disappointed that nothing was done about the women’s programme since the last Ecuador match. No training session, no information as to what the schedule will be and how soon.
One day later, I saw an announcement on the newspaper that the Yugoslavian coach, Vranes Zoran was appointed to coach the Pan Am men’s programme. It is always difficult to understand the operations of the ruling body when it comes to preparing national teams well in advance of big tournaments.
The dates for these games have been in place well over one year, which allows every country to begin their preparations early and make a positive contribution when the teams take the field with National colours. Instead, we are hearing from the women’s captain about an absence of planning or team preparation, plus no organised communication with the secretariat on the issue.
In a style that has now become in this country, the job of head coach for these two teams have never been advertised, which does not allow any of the local coaches to have an opportunity to be interviewed for these positions. Having followed the last Olympic team when they played really well in the final qualifying series for the London 2012 Olympics, I felt that the continuity for preparation would have been given to some of the coaches who have shown good work with the young players over the past few years.
Honestly, it is my humble view that selecting coaches must be preceded by advertising the position. Any other policy is another form of disrespect for the locals. Some months ago, we had been subjected to the choice of an American coach for the women’s squad for the world cup qualifying series. It was probably the biggest secret at the time, especially when the goodly gentleman appointed his son as a replacement for him during the training sessions in Trinidad.
It is also amazing how the country’s clubs do not take issue with these irresponsible decisions, many of which end up with our teams being underprepared for competition. There are three full months before these teams take the field in Canada and they are already late with their team planning and preparations.
No one has spoken about how this programme will be funded. I suppose that they are awaiting a day or two before the teams are ready to leave for the games, before they let the country know where the funding will be available. In this year of the country’s elections, the government will be busy with their campaign trails and who knows whether or not funding will be available for the squads.
I suppose that the presence of the former national footballer Brent Sancho in the seat of Sports Minister in the Ministry of Sport has placed the sport in a comfort zone for financial assistance, even without a budget. There shall still be great expectation that the teams will beat the shirts off their opponents. Despite a sluggish administrative commencement of their plans.
It is time that the administrative duties of the TTFA be better organised, otherwise, we shall never see the type of progress on the football field in the manner that would make us proud.