Many across the Caribbean, USA and the world were shocked that the ‘Yanks’ failed to make it to the 2018 World Cup Finals in Russia, as did Trinidad and Tobago. There is a huge similarity between the historic structures of the game in both countries.
I’ve dealt with US soccer since the early fifties – indirectly in the early stages– then became aware of the systems which they chose to fast track them to where they want to be, at the top of the world. The US administrators decided to invest their money in a most direct manner by creating coaching programmes for the thousands of their people infatuated by the joy of the great game, giving coaching certificates to anyone who wanted to get their children or good friends involved.
They also recognised that their children were giving preference to soccer because their major sports such as American football, basketball, and baseball, needed a special type of physique. Short persons would struggle on the basketball courts; strong, heavily built muscular types enter the American football arena. US administrators quickly realised that opening doors for youngsters of any size would popularise soccer.
In a nutshell, they tried hastily to get their nation into a rapid mode of development to achieve their goal of being the best soccer country. Unfortunately, those who received coaching certificates did not fully understand the intricacies of the game, neither did they ever play the game themselves.
The administrators created a programme called the ‘Olympic Development Programme’ (ODP) in almost every city, and children gathered in droves to be taught the game by those novices.
They boasted of their soccer population as compared to the other favourite sports in their country and sold the project as productive and progressive in game talent. But they never admitted that their process was based on bringing together children from the more affluent communities who could afford thousands of dollars to participate in the ODP, and gathering insufficient technical, tactical, or theoretical education of the game. Those from less affluent communities had little opportunity.
They mass produced soccer players and some carefully selected talent from all over Europe, Central America, South America and more recently the Caribbean and Africa. The presence of some of these foreigners enhanced the quality of their game, and occasionally they were able to show some progress.
But the progress slowed and the Americans took to the pattern of coaching soccer the way they did American football and basketball. They even invested in foreign coaches.
The times have changed and over the past four to five years, the game has deteriorated. In desperation, the MLS (Major League Soccer) signed veteran stars from Europe and South America to elevate the quality of their game.
That has not worked and today, “the Great Country”, as described by their current President, is left with journeymen whose physical capabilities are better suited to the sports to which they are accustomed playing.
They can no longer lure the Latinos, Europeans and others from their own countries, causing their teams to be void of creativity, cohesiveness, rhythm, mobility and modern tactics.
We too are creating participants and not progressive talents in our soccer programme. Some appear naturally talented, but most times, they lack understanding of the game. We have not demanded quality coaches for the future growth of our football and unfortunately, we are below the powerhouses in the region. Maybe another day, I shall attempt to break down the reason for our lack of success.