TRINIDAD AND Tobago’s proud footballing history continues to be kicked around the doghouse with the Ministry of Sport forced yet again to come to the rescue to avert another international embarrassment caused by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA).
Less than two months after the debacle in Dallas, Texas, United States involving the national women’s team which was left hungry and with just US$500 to cover their expenses for their training camp, money woes with the men’s team almost resulted in a boycott of last night’s Caribbean Cup final.
On the eve of their all-important clash vs hosts Jamaica in Montego Bay in Jamaica, the Soca Warriors on Monday threatened to pullout after salaries of players and staff were left unpaid for over a year.
An angry Minister of Sport Dr Rupert Griffith yesterday gave the TTFA a second verbal tongue lashing after his Ministry had to step in with $9.9 million to cover the arrears incurred by the TTFA which enjoys free rent, utility and use of the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Mucurapo for any event or tournament.
Speaking yesterday morning, national captain Kenwyne Jones assured the public that his team would take the field but was adamant that drastic changes need to be made within the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA).
“For far too long the same generation of people leading the Football Association and I think now we should have fresh young minds, fresh footballing people in the federation and taking control of the running of it. We have a lot of ex-players recently retired and up-to-date on how football should be run in this country... We have too many dinosaurs in place at the moment and we’ve been repeating the same trends from 1975 to 2006,” he fumed.
The former Stoke City forward took several shots at the TTFA on his Facebook page yesterday, stating, “It’s funny how the threat of embarrassment changes situations...I think the officials of the TTFA need to be removed from their places...... If the job is too big step aside...We expect success and progression in our various genres of sports but why do the relevant bodies time and time again produce actions to undermine this?”
Jones warned that the TTFA must get its house in order as their coach Stephen Hart is not pleased with the situation and he hinted that if Hart is released, there is likely to be a player exodus following him out the door.
“The team after tonight is going to be at a standstill. A lot of people have decisions to make. I know the coach is going to have to think of his future because he doesn’t want to go through this situation again. He doesn’t want to commit to football in Trinidad and Tobago and this is the situation. We have a bond with the coach and been doing well under him. Ninety-nine percent of the players I don’t think are going to represent the country - even though we love the country so much - if the coach isn’t here,” he continued.
Minister of Sport Dr Griffith in an interview with Newsday yesterday explained that he did all he could to assist the situation.
“This nonsense has to stop...They brought a proposal to us for something that has been outstanding since 2012 and I went to Cabinet two Thursdays ago and the Cabinet approved $9.9 million to help the team. If a note is approved then one week after it is confirmed and only when it is confirmed you can access the money.
As you were aware we were in Tobago last week, Monday when I returned to Trinidad we pulled out all stops and put everything in place to release all the cheques for the players and the coach. When they return tomorrow night, I have arranged for the cheques to be delivered in their hands on Thursday at the Office of the Prime Minister.”
Despite Dr Griffith’s statement that the cheques will be disbursed on Thursday, TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee who flew to Jamaica yesterday to watch the final stated in a television interview that cheques were on its way to Jamaica yesterday morning.
“The manager of the team left Trinidad at six o’clock on his way to Jamaica and in his possession are several cheques for the players and staff,” he said.
Former Strike Squad player, Brian Williams, yesterday lamented that the Soca Warriors had to threaten to withdraw their services for their salaries to be paid.
“That is always a difficult situation when our athletes are in a position of such nature. I would always find it tough when you reach into tournaments to take such action. It is difficult when situations like this aren’t addressed before we go into competition.
A similar situation happened with the West Indies team in India but when the turnstiles are being moved and people making money off the athletes then athletes must be compensated equally. I don’t like the idea that if things don’t work out in front and you end up in the tournament and players want to withdraw that is difficult to deal with,” he commented.
Williams continued: “We live in a society where you have to block the road to get it paved. You have to take some kind of drastic action for redress to take place and I think that as a growing or mature society we should get out of that. We should have a common understanding, negotiations and contracts being honoured properly before we create embarrassment,” he concluded.