Stephen Hart is going to the CONCACAF Gold Cup after all — and he's going to be joined by a national hero.
The former Canada coach was named head coach of his native Trinidad and Tobago national team on Tuesday, and Leo Beenhakker — the Dutchman who coached T&T into the 2006 World Cup — has been hired as the program's director of football.
Hart (above) has been without a job since stepping down as Canadian national team head coach last October after nearly four years in charge of the senior team. Under Hart, Canada came within a victory of reaching the final round of World Cup qualifying for the first time in 16 years but his team was pummeled by Honduras 8-1 in San Pedro Sula to end their run.
A former T&T interational during his playing days, Hart had served in various capacities within the Canadian Soccer Association since 2004, including as interim head coach from 2006-07. He coached Canada in three Gold Cups, most memorably to a semifinal finish in 2007, when the Canucks were eliminated in controversial fashion by the eventual champion United States.
Beenhakker, meanwhile, is considered a footballing hero in T&T after taking over the national team during the 2005 Hexagonal and leading it from the bottom of the table to a fourth-place finish. The Soca Warriors then prevailed in a home-and-home playoff with Bahrain and qualified for Germany 2006, the first-ever World Cup appearance for the Caribbean nation.
The 70-year-old Dutchman has coached more than a dozen clubs and three national teams during a 48-year coaching career, including Real Madrid, Ajax, Chivas Guadalajara, Club América, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands and Poland.
According to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation, Beenhakker "will come to Trinidad to observe the Gold Cup pool and eventual squad at training camp and accompany the team to the US as part of the T&T delegation."
T&T open their Gold Cup participation on July 8 vs. El Salvador at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.