Head Coach of the Bajan Tridents Russell “The Little Magician” Latapy says he will take all the criticisms for the team, but has asked detractors to leave his players alone.
He was speaking from the Dominican Republic where the Barbados Football Association's (BFA) senior men contested their first game of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. The team was able to hold off the Panamanians up until the 82nd minute but were defeated 1-0 at the Felix Sanchez Stadium in their opening Group D game.
“Sometimes for the general public, the expectations do not match the support that the players have. We’re competing with players whose livelihood is professional football, and all we ask is that our players go out there and give 100 percent every time. I think every man [Thursday] night gave us 110 percent and I’m proud of them to the maximum” he said.
Addressing the naysayers, Latapy said he knew with the job of head coach came heavy criticism which he was willing to take, but he made it explicitly clear when it came to his players he would defend them at every turn.
“To put things into perspective, I have boys who work in a warehouse. I also have boys who work on a truck for eight hours and then they come to training two, three times a week. I have boys who are working and training maybe 10, 12 hours a week against boys who are training 30 and 40 hours a week. I think what the boys did [Thursday] night, they deserve a lot of credit for it based on everything that we know,” he said.
Latapy maintained it was not just about the BFA supporting the players but the public at large doing the same.
“The reality is that we have our expectations and I don’t know if those expectations as a general public match the support that these players get. As coach, it is my job to demand of them, but the reality is we don’t know in terms of nutrition and rest what is going on with them. We at the BFA are trying to put the right things in place, but we also need support in doing that. It is not the easiest thing. If we can put all these factors in place, it gives these young players and young talent a better opportunity to mature and do well in a sport they choose to play and then football is in a good place,” he stressed.
While the head coach acknowledged some Bajans had rallied around the team and commended the management, coaching staff and players for their efforts against Panama, he said he knew the expectations were high heading into tonight’s game.
“I am delighted to hear that and it is appreciated. All I ask for is that we be fair. In a game like tonight, I know the expectations are there because it has to be there. What we’re trying to do is improve and become better. We take those expectations onboard and we want to go out and win these games. On the other hand, we’re saying if we’re playing Panama and the USA and Canada, of course we want to go out and win these games as well, but I think the expectations of the fans should also be realistic,” he said.
Latapy urged all involved in the game to band together for the betterment of the players.
“I also understand that the coaches and some of the groups and football fraternity want the best for the team as well. What we’re asking for is that we work together to come up with the best possible solutions so we can make this a reality. I think sometimes when we criticize and it’s not constructive criticism, it is not always the best way to go about helping to develop these young players and making our football as best as it can be,” he stressed.
The midfield wizard, whose on-field prowess spans over two decades, said he was no stranger to criticism. He said while many might critique his methods and means, he remained undistracted and continued to focus on developing his players.
“I focus on the development of the players and to get the best out of the team, for the development of football, so I understand a lot of people will criticize. What I will say is if they criticize me, I have no problem with it, but I’ll defend my players down to the end. I’ll take all the criticisms for the team, but leave my players alone,” he declared.