Former Police FC footballer Earl ‘Mango’ Pierre believes several of the problems plaguing local football can be alleviated through the formation of a Professional Footballers Association. ‘Mango’, an avid football fan, said local players are often taken advantage of by their employers because there is no entity to seek their interest.
He cited a recent incident where it was alleged that a high ranking official of a local club almost came to blows with a footballer over unpaid salaries.
“The Players Association I started in New York, it started with this individual who used to go around soliciting funds and I took him to court and won the case. After this, I continued the Players Association in terms of educating the players and defending their rights. A lot of people think it’s just about taking people to court but no, there are a lot of stuff I did like getting scholarships and (help) for guys that can’t afford boots,” he said.
He said it pains him to hear footballers unable to train or play because they don’t have their gears.
He noted that there was also a recent incident with a hockey post tournament in Port-of- Spain with a $50,000 first prize where the winners were forced to wait close to two months after the final to get their money.
The former United Nations security department official added that many footballers come from impoverished backgrounds and are unable to articulate themselves properly and as a result sometimes cannot argue for their rights. He believes a Players Association will fill that void and bridge the gap currently existing.
“Some of them can’t read, so how they reading the contract? I’m not sure if some of them have agents. I don’t think so,” he continued.
‘Mango’ said he has held discussions with local journalist Gordon Pierre on getting the Association off the ground as soon as possible.
Gordon, commenting on his role in the project, said he has already spoken to players from all the top tier clubs as well as a number of national players, who have all shown keen interest in the initiative.
He stressed that they are not forming a union but rather a body to look after the well-being of the athletes. He believes not enough is being done to assist players as they transition from their playing days to when they hang up their boots.
“The players have been very interested and excited, not only national players but Pro League players as well. We hope to impact not only players locally but those abroad and create real change for the players. A player’s career at best finishes at 40 which is young in term of their life expectancy so they need to be prepared through qualifications and knowledge,” he stated.
‘Mango’, discussing the standard of football in TT , said it needs to be raised for this country’s national team to be able to make an impact on the international stage. He cited the 2006 campaign where midfielder Aurtis Whitley proved an instrumental player in helping the Soca Warriors qualify for the Germany World Cup.
He lauded the Pro league for carrying the games back into the communities but said the next step must be to immediately improve the condition of the grounds. He said with the cut of Government subventions, marketing of the league must also increase tenfold to bring more money into the league so players can be paid better.
“Central FC was trying to sell their own products with jerseys and so forth, I don’t know if other teams do that. They need to do that,” he argued.