Disastrous year for TT football
By JOEL BAILEY Saturday, December 31 2011
TRINIDAD AND Tobago football suffered from unparalleled controversy and failure to qualify for four major tournaments in 2011, including the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
The major talking point was obviously the resignation of long-standing administrator Jack Warner from the game’s governing body FIFA —where he was a vice-president, CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) and the CFU (Caribbean Football Union) — from his posts of president, and the TTFF (Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation) — where he served as the special adviser.
Warner took that decision on June 20 after he was suspended by FIFA pending an investigation into bribery allegations, which were raised by then CONCACAF general secretary Chuck Blazer that Warner and Asian Football Confederation head Mohammed Bin Hammam colluded in a plan to offer gifts to CFU officials in a two-day meeting at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Port-of-Spain in May.
That incident had a ripple effect as Oliver Camps stepped down from the position of TTFF president after 19 years in the hot seat in November, after he was called to account for his role in the scandal, while TTFF general secretary Richard Groden was given an official warning by FIFA. TTFF vice-president Lennox Watson took over as the TTFF boss, on an interim role.
There was also a election battle within the TTFF fraternity, as Watson was challenged by TTFF’s Technical Committee head Keith Look Loy for the presidency of the Eastern Football Association (EFA) in August.
Watson retained his post, albeit with a number of clubs challenging the decision, but then handed the mantle to his deputy Wayne Cunningham in November after he moved up one notch to the TTFF presidency.
With all the drama that unfolded at the administrative level, there was similar gloomy news on the field of play.
After the euphoria which gripped the nation as the “Soca Warriors” participated in the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, another German, Otto Pfister, had the unfancied distinction of being the coach of the TT squad who failed to reach the Third Round of the 2014 FIFA World Cup CONCACAF Zone Qualifiers, having lost 2-1 way to Bermuda (on October 7) and Guyana (on November 11) to finish second in Group “B” behind Guyana.
Only the group winner advanced to the next phase of qualifiers, starting in June, and with the 73-year-old Pfister’s contract due to expire on December 31, it is not clear if the TTFF will retain Pfister to oversee the development of the new set of national players or if that task will be handed to someone else.
Pfister, who officially took over from Russell Latapy in April, only had his first international friendly against India on August 21. However, he was only able to use local-based players as the game did not fall on a FIFA match date.
He virtually had no option but to try out new players during the qualifiers, with mixed results — victories in the opening games against Bermuda on September 2 (1-0 at home) and Barbados on September 6 (2-0 away) followed by the setback to Bermuda and a 4-0 win at home to Barbados on October 11.
But the loss to the Jamaal Shabazz-coached Guyana was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and a sparse crowd was on hand at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo to see the “Warriors” earn a 2-0 win against their neighbours on November 15.
Earlier in the year, the national Under-17s travelled to Jamaica for the CONCACAF Under-17 World Cup qualifiers, but the Shawn Cooper- coached team failed to earn a spot in the 2011 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Mexico.
Similarly, in the CONCACAF qualifiers in Mexico, veteran Serbian-born coach Zoran Vranes was unable to guide the TT Under-20 team to a place in the 2011 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Colombia. And the national Under-23 womens team, under the guidance of Richard Hood, failed in their bid to advance to the CONCACAF phase of qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England.
However, there are still glimmers of hope as the Angus Eve-coached men Under-23 team are in the CONCACAF leg of qualifiers for the Olympics, while a pair of women’s teams, the Marlon Charles-coached Under-20s and the Stephan De Four-guided Under-17s are in the CONCACAF stage for spots in the 2012 FIFA World Cups in Azerbaijan (Under-17s) and a country yet to be named, for the Under-20 (after FIFA recently stripped the rights of Uzbekistan to stage the event).
At the club circuit, Defence Force triumphed in the Digicel Pro League, followed by Caledonia AIA, but both were unable to advance beyond the CFU leg for spots in the 2011-2012 CONCACAF Champions League.
Joe Public clinched the Blink/bmobile National Super League, as well as their knockout and Christmas Cup titles, while St Anthony’s swept past all and sundry in the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL).
The Nigel Grovesnor-coached outfit took the BGTT/First Citizens North Zone, Big Five, Coca-Cola North Zonal Intercol and National Intercol crowns.