Sport Minister Anil Roberts and, by extension, the Trinidad and Tobago government spared little expense in celebrating the finished article as it recently feted Olympic gold medallist Keshorn Walcott and 50 of the country’s top sportsmen.
But the feeling within local football circles is that the Sport Ministry is not delivering to the athletes who are most in need.
This week, the Trinidad and Tobago national under-17 team, which breezed through its Caribbean qualifying group in July with 28 goals scored and one conceded from three matches, was forced to halt its preparations for the final CONCACAF World Cup qualifying round in February.
The national under-20 team has cancelled a weekend trip to Fort Lauderdale, Miami where it was due to play two practice matches against Canada in the build-up to its Caribbean Football Union (CFU) qualifiers in November.
And the senior team has abandoned a scheduled warm-up fixture away to Puerto Rico, which was meant to prepare the “Soca Warriors” for the upcoming Caribbean Cup.
Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) marketing manager Anthony Harford told Wired868 that the local football body has not received payment from the Sport Ministry since April and there was no money to continue.
“The position remains exactly as it was,” said Harford, who is also a director at All Sport Promotion. “They continue grand charging but we still haven’t received one cent. We are all becoming disillusioned by this.
“In my opinion, the government should to be there to facilitate and encourage growth and encourage its citizens. We have 300,000 young people in Trinidad who are struggling without many choices and we are just monkeying around with them.”
National technical director Anton Corneal was distraught.
The TTFF’s coaches had survived with a stipend of $2,000 per month while they report to sessions for three days a week. Corneal has not been paid this year.
“We have been pushing on for as long as we can without the funds but we can’t do it anymore,” said Corneal. “The under-17 and under-20 teams qualified and we have to say ‘thank God.’ We owe coaches, maxi drivers, everybody. I have not been paid for the year and I have a family to look after. I can’t do this anymore...
“I have been to the government and there have been promises but I don’t know how long we can wait again.”
Ashwin Creed, the Sport Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, admitted that Corneal has visited him. However, he dismissed any suggestion that the Sport Ministry was obliged to help.