TTFA faces $3.5m lawsuit from Corneal.

The T&T Football Association (TTFA) is on the verge of another lawsuit if monies owed to former national coach, assistant coach, youth development officer and technical director Anton Corneal for salaries are not paid soon.

Corneal held the positions of Under-17 coach and youth development officer between 2004-2006; was youth development officer and assistant coach to German coach Otto Pfister for the period 2009- 2011 and was technical director of local football from 2012 up until he resigned in 2014 which was because of non-payment of salaries. 

He told the Guardian yesterday his decision to pursue legal action was something that he has to do if he is to receive payment for work he did. “I will not be going behind the football association begging for monies that are rightfully owed to me and therefore I will do what I have to do” Corneal said. 

Apart from salaries, Corneal who is the son of former national footballer, coach, technical and now sports commentator and FIFA analyst Alvin Corneal, is also attempting to recover other entitlements that were agreed to be paid in his contract. He explained his contribution to local football goes beyond salaries he worked for and included paying off minor expenses for his employers with an expectation that he will be re-imbursed. 

“About two and a half years ago, the TT team went to Miami to face Canada and the association had no money to pay stipends to the players and I had to dip into my pocket to pay the stipends. “It amounted to approximately $20,000 but I did it because I wanted to see the football progress” Corneal, the youngest T&T senior team player in history, explained. 

Taking court action was expected to be his last option, he said, he tried his best to settle the matter through communication, however, my situation has took a different twist after seeing that other coaches, who were employed after him are now being paid before him.

Corneal, who made his senior national team debut at the age 16, said: “This tells me that I was being, either ignored or that the association just did not care about me. It seemed to me that only way to get your money from the association was by taking them to court.” 

Of the coaches who benefitted financially from their work through the court, was former midfield maestro Russell Latapy and recently Dutchman Whelmut ‘Wim’ Rijsbergen, who will be paid after the court ordered that former president of the TTFF Oliver Camps, to sell one of his properties to pay him. 

And only last year a number of players who took the football association to court over monies owed to them from the 2006 World Cup campaign, were paid by the People’s Partnership government. 

Corneal, a qualified FIFA coach and lecturer, said while he was very happy for Latapy and the other coaches, he sees this practice as highly unethical, saying it was now time that the football association, which is being lead by David John-Williams, honour its agreement to pay him soon. 

Though now gainfully employed as a FIFA Technical Development Officer for the Southeast Caribbean, his life under the TTFA took a downward turn, as he had to endure periods of stress which had placed mental, emotional and psychological strain on him and his family after going many months and years without pay.  

“Can you imagine what it is like to be living in hope?...I worked almost everyday with a hope that football association officials would approach me to say they had my salary for me, but it just never happened” he said. 

The only payment he received was in 2012 when the Ministry of Sport and its minister Anil Roberts paid him half his salary for eight months. 

As the FIFA technical development officer, Corneal, a former Fatima student and the youngest player to score a hattrick in senior national colours in 1980, is responsible for ensuring that the development programmes of all the islands in the southeast Caribbean, fall in line with that of football’s world governing body.