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Unpacking the 2018 World Cup: Hart, Walkes, Hislop and Sheppard talk France, trends and lessons from Russia
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868.com)

“Teams that couldn’t adjust defensively and show patience and discipline to withstand those spells [of possession from opponents] found themselves chasing the game. France were without question the best at this…”

“There was […] a return to what we would consider ‘outdated’ centre forwards like Mario Mandzukic, Olivier Giroud and, somewhat, Edinson Cavani…”

“With VAR in place in 2006, England’s 83rd minute opener by Peter Crouch against our Soca Warriors would have been disallowed…”

“We can look at smaller programmes like those in Morocco, Senegal, Egypt, Iceland and even Croatia, to see what can be accomplished with administrators who are clear-eyed and void of corruption…”

So what should we take away from the Russia 2018 World Cup?

Canada’s HFX Wanderers head coach and ex-Soca Warriors boss Stephen Hart, ESPN analyst and former World Cup 2006 and England Premier League goalkeeper Shaka Hislop, ex-Trinidad and Tobago technical director and US-based coach Kendall Walkes, and Fatima College and QPCC coach Wayne Sheppard share their views with Wired868:

Wired868: What stood out for you about the Russia 2018 World Cup?

Kendall Walkes: On a personal level, the greatest fascination for me from this World Cup was seeing the game at a crossroad with the blurring lines between older traditions and modern ways of approaching soccer.

The disappearing foam, the advent and use of VAR, the off/on protection of star players (more on that later!) are all modern ways.

[…] The world is now getting introduced to the electronic eye as an extension of the team of officials, which is actually commonplace in American sport. How the soccer world handles that will have a big impact on the game going forward, and it made a huge difference at this World Cup.

Stephen Hart: Physically, teams were very well prepared; this was evident. Every team showed how the collective was important for success, even without world class talent. Even Saudi Arabia, who had a poor opening, bounced back with a balanced performance. You could see every player working for each other and willing to do the little extra.

What was also evident was the defending in wide areas. The final four teams all had fullbacks who could defend first and foremost.

Almost every team also had their top players playing in Europe. I think this was important. Many teams had players who were involved in the European Champions League at some stage and this contributes significantly to the team’s collective experience.

From a sentimental perspective, I love when teams have a clear identity of play. However, globalisation in coaching does take away from this.

Wayne Sheppard: One of the main things that stood out for me was the number of completed corners and indirect set plays. And when I say completed I mean that resulted with a shot on goal.
I think that the introduction of VAR had a big influence on this. Teams have, in the recent past, gone away from zonal marking schemes at corners and set pieces, and have instead adopted pure man to man ones, simply because defenders were by and large getting away with wrestling attackers and denying them a chance to attack the balls delivered into the area.

The introduction of the VAR has—by the sheer weight of goals and shots—put paid to that in this World Cup. This sword cuts both ways as infringements by attacking players have also been spotted.
With VAR in place in 2006, England’s 83rd minute opener by Peter Crouch against our Soca Warriors would have been disallowed—and who knows how that game and the group would have progressed from there!

Wired868: What were the prevailing tactical trends—and the pros and cons of them?

Shaka Hislop: The standout trend from the 2018 World Cup was the number of teams that used attack and pressing the ball high up the field as the foundation of their play.

I was expecting that teams would sit back and be cautious, particularly in the early rounds when it seems they are often more concerned with not losing than with winning. This tournament was different. Maybe it was Russia’s 5-0 opening day rout of Saudi Arabia that set the trend; but, whichever way, it made for upsets and an outstanding tournament.

The pros for such an approach were evident all tournament long. The cons were that regardless of the stage—and almost regardless of the opposition—your opponent will have periods in the game when they dominate. Teams that couldn’t adjust defensively and show patience and discipline to withstand those spells found themselves chasing the game. France were without question the best at this.

On their path to World Cup glory, neither Lionel Messi (Argentina), Luis Suarez (Uruguay), Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku (both Belgium), Luka Modric nor Ivan Rakitic (both Croatia) were able to have much impact in their respective games against [France]. That is some list!

Walkes: There was not really a progressive domineering style of play like we saw in the last two World Cups. Spain’s early elimination raised questions as to the continuing value of the ‘tiki taka’ style, as their hundreds of passes did not give them much penetration and was not as effective as in the past.

I think the world is again searching for a new soccer blueprint or style. In this World Cup, the saying ‘to the victor’ doesn’t end with ‘goes the spoils.’ I don’t think the champions gave us something that everyone will be trying to adopt like they did after Spain’s 2010 triumph and Germany in 2014.

I think France’s star player was N’Golo Kante. While all eyes were on Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann, you could tell that Kante was the one who coach Didier Deschamps heavily relied on.

He was the cog in the wheel for the French team, who did all the dirty work of destroying the attacks of opponents. A yellow in the final defused him a bit but he was the man of steel—ŕ la Patrick Vieira and others of that ilk—up until then.

Hart: It is funny that some very attractive teams did not get far at this World Cup due to poor starts, or just plain bad luck. Morocco, Peru and Senegal were all very exciting and imaginative.

In the end, this tournament was football without the ball. France were the most efficient at it—patiently waiting for errors and to make swift counter attacks. It was defensive play at its finest.

Interestingly, Paul Pogba did not score or assist up to the final, Olivier Giroud did not score a single goal and Antoine Griezmann only scored on a set play and penalties. Let’s hope these sort of tactics are restricted to tournament play only.

There was also a return to what we would consider ‘outdated’ centre forwards like Mario Mandzukic, Giroud and, somewhat, Edinson Cavani. They worked tirelessly, pinned back their opposing central defenders, were menaces in the air, and created space for wide players to play one v one and run the channels.

I think we saw interesting variation in tactical play from some teams that had the ability to change shape in mid-game. An example would be the Mexico players, who alternated between man marking and pressing. Russia did it too, especially with pressing in their own half. Croatia were able to interchange positions and roles in midfield at will.

We also saw players who were willing to play two ways—back and forward—without question, especially in wide areas of the pitch, and good efficiency in set players. I think VAR contributed to the overall numbers in that regard.

On the negative side, we saw that possession teams that did not have the ability to penetrate in wide positions could not breakdown deep block defending sides like Iran and Iceland.

Worse, there was too much diving to con the referee and players faking injuries on corners and free kicks to prevent counterattacks. There was a lot of tactical fouling to prevent counters too.

Sheppard: One of the things that struck me tactically about this World Cup was the desire of most teams to play quickly through lines of pressure. There was a lot more verticality. This was most evident in the Germany/Mexico game, where Mexico would play quickly forward as soon as they came into possession and caused Germany no end of problems. France, Belgium, Uruguay, Portugal and even England—to name a few—adopted this tactic at some point in time.

The winning teams of the last two World Cups were built around possession, probing for weaknesses and lapses in concentration by the opposing defences. This time around, the teams that put a priority on possession were put to the sword. Germany, Spain and Argentina—the top three teams in terms of possession in the group stage games—all failed to make it to the quarterfinal round.

But if I had to point to one tactical trend in this World Cup, it would be the flexibility of the teams. Most teams used a number of tactics based on who they were playing and what they saw as their best means to success.

France, on taking the lead, would then drop back in a low to medium defensive block—also commonly known as defending on line three (low block) or line two (medium block). This was done to invite opponents to push higher up the pitch and expose space behind their backs, so a speed merchant like Kylian Mbappé and a clinical, intelligent finisher like Griezmann could catch them on the counter.

[…] In Croatia’s opening group game against Nigeria, they used Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric in fairly deep roles behind Andrej Kramaric, who played in the hole behind Mandzukic, who led the line. Come their second game against an Argentine team that needed a win, Croatia’s midfield triangle was turned to point backwards, with Modric and Rakitic now operating as a double 10 while Kramaric dropped to the bench and Marcelo Brozovic was introduced as a holding midfielder.
They rotated between those two tactics throughout the tournament, according to the situation of the match.

These are just a few of the myriad of changes made from game to game—and sometimes within a game—at the World Cup. The number of tactical changes seen shows the intelligence and maturity of the players, who have to understand and execute the coach’s instructions. The group stage is something like three games in seven days, so for coaches to shuttle through so many variations demonstrates the quality of these players.

Teams constantly trying to outmanoeuvre each other, like a moving game of chess, gave us more attacking football, as compared to the 1990 and even 2010 World Cups, which were more attritional with tactics employed to suffocate.

The downside to all the tactical tinkering was that, spoilt for choice, coaches can easily get their tactics wrong on any given day; or, as in the case of Jorge Sampaoli and Argentina, have tactics that does not suit the personnel at their disposal.

Wired868: Did any individual talent catch your eye and why?

Hart: I think extensive team analysis and scouting, players’ experience of each other—since so many of them play in Europe—and attention to detail planning, made it difficult for the best individuals to really dominate games.

But individual talent was still very evident. Many teams had fantastic goalkeepers; like Jordan Pickford (England), Thibaut Courtois (Belgium), Keylor Navas (Costa Rica), Guillermo Ochoa (Mexico), Hugo Lloris (France), Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark) and Danijel Subasic (Croatia) to name a few.

Of the outfield players, what struck me was how they brought their skills in to the collective effort. Mbappé (France), Ivan Perisic, Modric (both Croatia), Hirving Lozano (Mexico), Ahmed Musa (Nigeria), Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium), Denis Cheryshev (Russia) and Cavani (Uruguay) all had moments of brilliance; but their work ethic was impressive.

Hislop: A lot of talent caught the eye. Because so many teams played with styles that mirrored how big European clubs now play, I expect there’ll be a lot more movement of players this summer because of good World Cup performances—whereas recruiting at big international tournaments had previously been trending downward.

Sheppard: The obvious answer here is Kylian Mbappé. He has a maturity that belies his age and understands his strengths and his role. The solo run that led to the penalty decision against Argentina was the standout individual play of the tournament; but there was so much more to admire about his world cup. He isn’t a one trick pony and his skill on the ball will still allow him to navigate defences that are set deeper to deny him space to run into behind their backs. I’m very interested to see where his career goes from here.

But other than him I went for players that impressed but were not already household names—at least not to me.

Lucas Torreira started on the bench for Uruguay. But, by the final group game, was starting at the base of what looked like a diamond midfield. It was plain to see that this guy could do everything—except perhaps mark a Lukaku or Fellaini at set pieces, since he stands at only five foot six. Fantastic 20 yard pace; good passing range and a keen eye for the interception of passes. What really stood out for me was his use of dribbling skill only when required to get out of tight spots, and his use of short passes to move opponents into bad defensive positions that then allowed him to play forward.

It was no surprise to me to read that big clubs are after him after his world cup exploits.

Noureddine Amrabat (Morocco), Andre Carillo (Peru), Ahmed Musa (Nigeria), Salif Sane (Senegal), Hirving Lozano (Mexico) and Juan Quintero (Colombia) were also among my lesser known standouts.

Wired868: What lessons are there for Trinidad and Tobago from the World Cup and which teams best illustrated these?

Walkes: Invest in youth! I think the World Cup showed that youthful energy and skill remains a hit.

Also we can look at smaller programmes like those in Morocco, Senegal, Egypt, Iceland and even Croatia, to see what can be accomplished with administrators who are clear-eyed and void of corruption. Look at how many players are natural-born from those countries and watch the leagues in which they ply their trade.

FIFA qualification bonuses are short-term gains that can greatly enhance youth development and domestic leagues and facility upgrades. Many Mexico and Costa Rica players are now in the MLS and we can use that as a cost-effective investment too. We should be trying to get some of our young players into such leagues to better develop them.

I still believe that Trinidad and Tobago’s best World Cup campaigns came when our core group of players came from the same foreign leagues, such as the NASL during the 1970s and the English leagues in 2006. That’s arguably the blueprint of almost all of the successful World Cup teams.

Hislop: There are a number of lessons that Trinidad and Tobago can take from this World Cup. You can start with the performances of tiny Iceland, which demonstrated how a clear organisational structure and inclusive approach to the game can reap huge benefits.

But, most importantly, I think the need for a national ‘football identity’ that reflects and respects our own footballing history is a must. We cannot hope to emulate anyone else. We can’t simply aim to copy-cat and expect to reap any kind of long term reward.

Another valuable lesson we must take away from this World Cup is that a malfunctioning FA is detrimental to the team, on and off the park—even if you have the greatest player of a generation. Just ask Argentina.

Sheppard: Iceland is the smallest nation to ever qualify for the World Cup, with a population in the vicinity of 330,000. Although they didn’t advance past the group stage, they were very competitive against established footballing powers and, more importantly, have now qualified for back to back major tournaments. To better understand what they did, let us place the Icelandic experience up against what our local football experts are saying.

Fallacy number one: We need a professional league as a means for our players to develop. That it is essential and without it our football will fail.

Well, Iceland has NO professional league. They have a semi pro league. Just as in Trinidad, their better players go overseas to play professionally.

Fallacy number two: Best way for our young players to develop is to have them playing in competitions as much as 10 months out of the year.

Iceland’s competitive season runs from May to September. Indoor centres have been built to facilitate training and strength work in the off-season.

So how did Iceland—a nation with a combined total of 22,000 men and women footballers—succeed without doing the things that our “experts” say are mandatory? Well for one, they invested in their coaches.

The KSI (Icelandic equivalent of our TTFA) looked around and decided the best way to improve the standard of their football was to elevate the standard of their coaching. They seemed to think that better educated coaches eventually translates to a bigger pool of well-trained players to choose from.

It was a ‘rising tide floats all ships’ approach. Logical isn’t it?

The TTFA has decided to go the other way and invest in an elite program. I have had the benefit of seeing that elite team—aka the National Under-14 Team—play on consecutive weekends and I have been totally impressed by the talent on display from all 30 of the players. Messieurs Stuart Charles-Fevrier, Leonson Lewis, Wesley Webb and the rest of the technical staff have done a fine job, no doubt.

But is this the correct approach for sustainable success? After all, that is what we should be aspiring to—isn’t it?

How does developing 30 boys raise the standard of our country? Why not invest in coaches like the aforementioned staff and others like Angus Eve, Shawn Cooper and Clayton Morris to name a few?

Why not leverage on the knowledge of folks like Hayden Martin and Trendsetter Hawks’ Anthony “Dada” Wickham, in conjunction with TTFA technical director Anton Corneal’s national coaching syllabus?

We need a common manuscript for coaches to follow when coaching the country’s youth; so that Trinidad and Tobago, with a population of almost five times that of Iceland’s, can consistently vie for a World Cup spot.

A rising tide raises all ships—that are seaworthy.

Wired868: Any other points you would like to make about the World Cup?

Walkes: I think FIFA still has to let go of the old ways, which we saw in the treatment of Neymar. Yes, Neymar embellishes; however, almost 90% of the replays show that he was actually fouled and it was reminiscent of what superstars of yesteryear like Diego Maradona and Pelé dealt with.

Compare the penalties awarded to France and England in the first round with what happened to Neymar in Brazil’s elimination game against Belgium. The referee owes the world an explanation about why he did not call one from three possible penalty kick situations in that quarterfinal.

I saw the lack of protection for Neymar as contrary to modern day officiating, which is designed to protect superstars.

I also feel FIFA needs to understand the importance of keeping its best players on the field. The paying public wants to see the best players perform and it is FIFA’s responsibility to rid itself of obsolete rules like two accumulated cards resulting in game suspensions. That’s rubbish!!!

FIFA should recognise the importance of the viewing public and the best players should be given every opportunity to play and not be legislated off the field.

Suspension for one caution in two separate games is utter nonsense! Maybe you can justify that in group games but certainly not the elimination rounds.

Sheppard: This World Cup was a UEFA bashing of all other continents and footballing zones. No CONMEBOL team made it to the semis, no CAF team made it out of the group stage and Japan and Mexico were the only teams from Asia and CONCACAF to get to the Round of 16.

In the past, a non-European team failing to win in Europe could be blamed on climate, time difference, etc. But in the modern game where the world has gotten smaller and most players now call Europe home, it was surprising to see the failure of non-

UEFA teams to advance deeper in the competition. Reason for this? Your guess is as good as mine.

Hart: We will hear a lot about the domination of European teams. Brazil have only themselves to blame for their loss, while Uruguay without Cavani are a much weaker opponent. But, in 2014, the balance between South America and Europe was equal, so I would not read too much into this.

Tournament football is very difficult and unpredictable; and even the best coaches fail at times to guarantee consistency.

WC 98 Winners France were out of WC 2002 Group stage.

WC 02 Winners Brazil out in the quarter finals of WC 2006.

WC 06 Winners Italy out in the group stage of WC 2010.

WC 10 Winners Spain out in the group stage of WC 2014.

WC 14 Winners Germany out in the group stage of WC 2018.

And, in the aforementioned scenarios, Italy, Spain and Germany all still had their World Cup winning coaches at the helm.

Football has no truth. Many of the stats for 2018 were mind boggling, with the exception of who scored more goals in the game. Possession percent, shots on goal, shots on target, corners; none were conclusive.

I don’t necessarily think going to a 48 team World Cup is the best thing for the game. However, it remains to be seen how that will work.

The projected format of 16 groups with three nations and only the group winners moving on—in my humble opinion—does not sound very appetising; then again that is just me.

Whether it is 32 or 48 teams, what is evident is that much of a national team’s success is down to its foundation. You need a strong Federation that works closely with all aspects of its football and is supportive in the World Cup campaign, with detailed consistent planning over a period of time.

For small nations, getting this right could take about 10 years.

Unpaid bonuses, fraudulent accusations and wilful ignorance; the TTFA’s $12 million cases against Hart, Phillips, Futsal and Morace
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868.com)

When the Soca Warriors held Guatemala to a 2-2 World Cup qualifying draw at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 2 September 2016, it not only meant a place in the Concacaf Hex but also a cash windfall of US$1.5 million or TT$10.4 million for the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA).

The Concacaf bonanza was the largest single payment to the TTFA in 2016 and represented just over a quarter of the football body’s income for the year.

Then head coach Stephen Hart was due US$10,000—roughly 0.007 percent of the bounty—for his role in taking the Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team to the Hex. But TTFA president David John-Williams allegedly refused to authorise the payment to his most valuable employee.

Hart’s claim is one of a stream of legal briefs against the local football body that add up to well over TT$12 million, even before  damages and legal fees are factored in.

And with the TTFA Board often in the dark about financial details—and general secretary Justin Latapy-George unable to push through even a TT$50,000 TTSL registration fee without John-Williams’ say-so—the local football body’s growing legal difficulties appear to be linked directly to its president’s abrasive, ruthless managerial style.

Hart, who was also owed five months’ pay and various travel-related expenses at the time of his dismissal, is suing for roughly TT$5 million plus damages—which includes the full value of an employment contract that was due to run until December 2018.

The TTFA also faces suits from ex-women’s team head coach Carolina Morace and her staff (estimated at TT$4.3 million), former general secretary Sheldon Phillips ($2 million), Futsal head coach Clayton Morris and his players and technical staff (TT$501,376) and former National Under-17 coach Ken Elie (TT$187,000).

The local football body has already coughed up close to TT$800,000 to former Referees Department head Ramesh Ramdhan and Phillips. And, of course, there is also a legal claim for damages by United States Spanish-speaking television network, Telemundo.

In almost every case, the plaintiffs expressed astonishment at the John-Williams-led body’s dismissive and high-handed attitude to their claims, which made out-of-court settlements near impossible.

When the Futsal team asked the TTFA to pay outstanding money to the group, the national players and staff members were asked to prove that they were hired to represent the country in the first place.

“Our request at  this stage […] is for the disclosure of the following documents,” stated TTFA attorney Annand Misir, in correspondence to the claimants. “The contract or agreement or any relevant documentation whereby the appointment, terms and conditions of the technical staff were approved by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association…

“The contract or agreement or any relevant documentation whereby the appointment, terms and conditions of the players were settled and agreed by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association…”

Morris, who was hired by John-Williams’ predecessor, Raymond Tim Kee, led the same Futsal squad into two international tournaments under the current football president. The John-Williams-led TTFA also sent Morris and his manager, Ronaldo Brereton, to a Concacaf workshop as their representatives and arranged their travel, accommodation and per diems for participation in World Cup qualifiers in Cuba and Costa Rica between January and May 2016.

John-Williams would do well to explain to the High Court how he can claim to be unaware of any responsibilities to the Futsal team, particularly given that timeline.

In response to Telemundo’s case for breach of contract by the local football body, the TTFA’s defence and counter-claim—which was signed by Latapy-George—insisted that the television company’s deal was made with a “separate legal entity” called the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation that had nothing to do with them.

“The Defendant herein was therefore not a party to the said [television rights] agreement,” stated Misir, “[…] and specifically denies that it legally transferred to the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) any rights as alleged or at all.”

Telemundo, who are represented in the local High Court by Christopher Hamel-Smith SC and advocate attorney Jonathan Walker, retorted that the name change was done by then TTFA president Oliver Camps, who acted on behalf of the Defendant and pointed to multiple instances in which the football body had conducted business as ‘TTFF’.

“The Defendant’s name was changed to ‘the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation’ at its Annual General Meeting held on 13 September 1998,” stated Hamel-Smith, “[…] thereafter, in or around 1999, the Defendant changed its corporate logo so as to reflect the [new] business name… This […] was the logo used on the official uniform of the Trinidad and Tobago Men’s national football team from around 1999 until 2013 when the Defendant reverted to using its formal name and a further redesigned logo.”

So was John-Williams unaware that the TTFA and TTFF were the same body? Or that interim TTFF president Lennox Watson had acted on behalf of the local football body when he agreed a deal for the country’s 2018 and 2022 World Cup television rights?

Such bizarre assertions were familiar themes in the legal positions taken by the current football body.

Hart, in his statement of case, noted that his contract was formally terminated with immediate effect on 29 November via a letter from John-Williams—which followed verbal notice by the president given five days earlier in a meeting at the Ruby Tuesday Restaurant in Grand Bazaar.

Yet, despite written evidence of the sacking, John-Williams told Hart, a week later, that he had not been fired at all but had left by mutual consent, if that were true, it would have voided any claim for a pay-out covering the remainder of the coach’s contract.

“By letter dated 6 December 2016, the President of the [TTFA] wrote to the Claimant alleging that the Claimant agreed to part ways,” stated Hart’s lead attorney, Keith Scotland, “and due to this assumption, the Defendant purportedly did not issue a termination letter. However, [Hart] under no circumstances was in agreement with such [a] bold assumption and never agreed to part ways with the Defendant.”

In Phillips’ case, the John-Williams-led body accused the former general secretary of fraudulently affixing Tim Kee’s signature on his employment contract, which was due to run until 9 May 2017.

“The [TTFA] avers that Mr Tim Kee had no knowledge of the purported agreement,” stated Misir, “and that Tim Kee’s electronic signature was fraudulently obtained.”

One would think that such a strong accusation would not be made lightly, yet Tim Kee claimed to have no idea what John-Williams and company were talking about.

“I duly authorised such employment agreement [with Phillips] on behalf of, and as the President of the TTFA, with full understanding and acknowledgment of the terms stated therein,” stated Tim Kee, in a witness statement submitted to the High Court. “[…] I strongly deny that the […] contract with Sheldon Phillips was never properly executed, and strongly deny that my signature was obtained fraudulently.”

Several of the TTFA’s former employees complained of being mistreated by John-Williams. The Futsal staff members and players said they were given a per diem of just US$10 per day for a two-week stay in Costa Rica, while they were not given any match fee at all while representing their country—despite allegedly receiving verbal assurances by John-Williams.

The football body also failed to book the team’s hotel for the entire tour, which meant the players were ordered to leave the premises and had to huddle, bewildered, in the lobby in front of rival football nations.

“The Claimants faced the most embarrassing and unfortunate position of having to be put out of their hotel accommodation at the CONCACAF campaign,” stated attorney Melissa Roberts-John, in her deposition on behalf of the Futsal team. “In an attempt to curtail the humiliating and distressing position the team was unjustly placed in, the technical staff—namely Mr Brereton—was forced to pay out of pocket for extra accommodation and/or expenses until their scheduled departure…”

The TTFA is yet to reimburse Brereton.

Hart complained too about the TTFA’s failure to adhere to several clauses in his contract, including four return trips to Canada per year so he could spend time with his wife and children.

Among the testimonies to Hart’s strained relationship with John-Williams is a document that sought to quash an infamous training ground incident involving the pair, which was reported exclusively by Wired868.

In May 2016, John-Williams, who had already agreed three practice games away to Peru, Uruguay and China in the space of 12 days, asked Hart to prepare his team to play a fourth match against Equatorial Guinea.

The extra match almost certainly contravened FIFA’s medical guidelines and Hart’s said the workload would be too much for his squad—particularly as the team was travelling without a masseuse and several players had just completed their seasons.

John-Williams, according to witnesses, walked on to the national team’s training ground on 17 May 2016 and asked Hart to allow him to speak to the players alone. Then, the football president allegedly asked the players to overrule their own coach.

The players would refuse, via email.

A day after Wired868’s article, John-Williams sent his coach a document to sign, which addressed the issue in obscure terms.

“In light of all the foregoing, it is disappointing that one segment of the media has chosen to focus on reports of an ‘incident’ that simply did not happen in the manner it is being reported,” stated the document. “Due to the TTFA, like all best run companies, not conducting its business in the public domain, the TTFA will not be commenting further.

“Suffice to say there is no rift either between the President and the Coach of the National Senior Men’s or the President and the players.”

Tellingly, the document did not specifically contradict any of the allegations in the Wired868 article or deny that John-Williams had made overtures to the national players behind Hart’s back.

Hart refused to sign, out of concern that to do so would mean emasculating himself in front of his players, who had witnessed John-Williams’ training ground intervention. In the subsequent seven months of Hart’s tenure, the TTFA did not arrange a single practice game for his squad.

According to Hart’s contract with the TTFA, the former Canada national team coach could only be dismissed for failing to perform his duties in a professional and timely manner, committing a felony or misdemeanour involving “moral turpitude” that could embarrass his employer or if he was unable to legally perform his duties.

Curiously, i95.5FM radio host Andre Baptiste repeatedly questioned Hart’s moral leadership in the lead-up to his dismissal—after team doctor Terence Babwah and paramedic Dave Isaacs claimed the coach recklessly risked the life of goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams by playing him in a World Cup qualifier away to Honduras despite his being injured.

Hart, goalkeeper coach Michael Maurice, fitness trainer Tobias Ottley and Jan-Michael himself all denied the allegation. And it later emerged that i95.5FM was being paid by the football body—unknown to the TTFA Board—at the time of the radio station’s ‘campaign’ against the football coach.

Neither Maurice, who worked consistently for the TTFA for roughly two decades and was one of just two local coaches hired by Leo Beenhakker for the 2006 World Cup, nor Ottley has been hired by the local football body since then.

John-Williams has so far not used Jan-Michael’s injury as an explanation for Hart’s dismissal—which, in any case, he claimed was a mutual parting of ways.

Telemundo also noted what it felt to be inconsistent stances taken by John-Williams as regards the television rights agreement that the football body claimed was null and void.

“The [TTFA] has acted in furtherance of this said agreement including, by email dated 11 March 2016, requesting the payment to the Defendant of the bonus that was due under that agreed formula,” stated Hamel-Smith. “And as at March 2016 receiving the sum of US$450,000…”

So John-Williams, according to Telemundo, asked to be paid from the same contract he later suggested was not worth the paper it was written on. Ironically, at the same time, the TTFA allegedly ignored its contractual obligation to pay Hart US$10,000 out of that figure.

Hamel-Smith suggested that the TTFA was trying to have its cake and eat it too.

“That is not the conduct of an honest commercial man,” said Hamel-Smith, during Telemundo’s pleadings at the High Court on 21 March 2017. “The conduct of an honest commercial man is that he respects the rights of somebody who is bonafide and he gets what he can get from the people who took advantage of him if he truly believes that.”

In John-Williams’ first year in office, the football body spent TT$1.2 million in professional and legal fees, which was the TTFA’s third highest line item and just TT$200,000 short of its annual wage bill. And that was before the TTFA took on Telemundo.

Not that the cases are altogether straightforward. The Futsal members are demanding match fees of US$200 per game—which they claim to be “consistent with international accepted standards”—although it would be an unprecedented sum for the squad.

The TTFA claimed too that Morace and her staff refused to accept payment from a third party—in this case, Concacaf—on their behalf and declared the agreement “terminated for just cause” after a three month impasse. Her suit is believed to be lodged with FIFA.

And Phillips was fired by Tim Kee, although it was a controversial decision and the TTFA board declared, at the time, that the dismissal was improper.

There was grounds for legitimate concern from the TTFA in the television rights matter too, after the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) convicted former Traffic president Aaron Davidson and ex-CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb for fraudulent behaviour related to several financial deals inclusive of the one involving the then TTFF.

However, as Telemundo’s attorneys pointed out, the US network was never accused of misbehaviour and, if John-Williams felt the TTFA was cheated, then the appropriate body to tackle would be Traffic or Concacaf.

Already cash-strapped and unable to pass its audited financial statement for 2016, the TTFA may well find darker days ahead if John-Williams’ bullish legal stances fail to bear fruit.

At present, John-Williams is recovering from an unspecified injury suffered late last month.

Medical sources claimed John-Williams’ accident occurred at the Home of Football construction site although, after the TTFA Board had voted to take the FIFA-funded contract from under his watch, the president had promised to remove himself from the controversial project entirely.

“It wasn’t about qualifying, it was about stability!” Shabazz shares his vision for T&T’s women’s football
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868.com)

“For me it wasn’t about qualifying [when I accepted the job as women’s coach], it was about stability,” said Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Under-20 Team head coach Jamaal Shabazz.

“It was about creating what we created back then, which was a framework for players to go on scholarship and develop.

“[…] The public’s emphasis is they want the team to qualify and I want that too but laying the framework with this limited resources and building that foundation again so we can produce players is the kind of stability [I can offer].”

Trinidad and Tobago hosted the CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 Championship in Couva last month but, despite home advantage and scoring first in each match, the hosts lost all three group games to Haiti (2-3), Canada (1-4) and Costa Rica (1-2).

In the first of a two-part series, head coach Jamaal Shabazz talks one on one with Wired868 about his role in developing Trinidad and Tobago women’s golden era and his current goals in the programme:

Wired868: So what are your thoughts on the just concluded tournament?

Jamaal Shabazz: The tournament has shown that the pendulum is swinging. I am impressed with where the women’s game has reached since my last outings in the game—especially with the way that Mexico and Haiti in particular have performed.

We have come to expect dominance from USA and Canada and even in the past Costa Rica was an emerging force. But now you see Haiti’s programme bearing fruit and Mexico, with their local league. When I look at the [Mexico] roster, all their players are with clubs and it is bearing fruit.

Maybe 15 years ago, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica were the forces in women’s football in the Caribbean with Haiti running a distant third. Now they have gone past us.

Wired868: What do you attribute that to?

Shabazz: I think it is emphasis. Even in the [Jack] Warner days, he would ensure participation in the women’s game. Back in 1991 when women’s football was relatively new to the region, Trinidad and Tobago would beat Mexico… From that time to now, Mexico have tried to move their programme from participation to competing and, in the last number of years, to qualifying.

That takes a certain level of commitment from not just players but administrators across the board. After Warner, we had [Raymond] Tim Kee who had a difficult economic period so the development aspect of the women’s game was absent.

Our revolution started in 2000 when we went to CONCACAF and were slaughtered by USA (0-11) and Brazil (0-11) and drew with Costa Rica (2-2). We saw then that there was need to develop a new cadre of players and we had screening sessions across the country. This was not the Federation; this was a group of concerned people for the women’s game…

Wired868: Who was in that group?

Shabazz: People like Abdul Rasheed in Madeleine; he is deceased now. And Marlon Charles, Kestor Lendore, Jinelle James, Izler Browne… We would go to the primary schools every year and recruited a bunch of players who we would train four days a week—outside of the federation [programme]—until they reached the under-15 bracket. So these players came through some kind of development programme.
This programme went on until about 2011/2012 [when I went to coach in Guyana]. So until the establishment of the TTFA’s Elite Development Programme [in 2017], there had not been a specific group doing technical development with female players. And remember with our female players we are already starting well behind North America because of the age that they start to play…

Wired868: When you say across the country, can you be more specific? Did we have someone in Tobago? How did we get a Kennya Cordner? And how was this funded?

Shabazz: We had Corbin Cooper in Tobago and Arnold Murphy in south. We had Slim Andelucio in Toco. We had point people across the country who had a common interest and a common desire to develop the women’s game. For six months in 2000, we trained four days a week just doing technical development.

The biggest problem was transport to get the children to come to training. We used to train at Carib ground and at UWI. We approached [former Director of Sport and Physical Education at UWI] Dr Iva Gloudon and she brought everybody together and made us develop a strategic plan and then she went and found the money for meals for the girls after training. Also some of the senior players like Izler would put money for transport and we would tell the girls if you don’t have the money for transport, borrow the money.

This is where we saw girls like Maylee Attin-Johnson, Tasha St Louis, Dernelle Mascall and Ahkeela Mollon emerge. They never missed a session. We trained four days a week from 4pm to 6pm and three months would pass and they would never miss a session.

Maylee was 13 years old then, some were 14. None were over 15. We contacted Bertille St Clair in Tobago and he put us in touch with Corbin Cooper. And this is how we get the Forbes sisters who came as two 12 year olds. They would come on a weekend and stay at my home. There were seven tobago players. There was Candice—I can’t remember her surname—Karyn Forbes, Kimika Forbes, Kennya Cordner and several others. One or two of them had a place to stay in Trinidad and the rest would stay be me.

I remember to get them to come the former head of the THA, Orville London—he was a journalist then—went and spoke to their parents because they didn’t want to send them to Trinidad at first.

Wired868: Did the THA pick up the costs?

Shabazz: Dr Gloudon would find the money. (Laughs). She was a phenomenal person in terms of getting things done. After about a year, the TTFA started to get involved with the team. In 2001, [Brazilian coach Rene] Simoes came and took over the whole men’s programme. When I asked Mr Warner if they would help us he said they didn’t come for women’s football. But then we played the Men’s Under-17 team a practice game on the Hasely Crawford Stadium training ground and lost 5-1. After that they asked for a meeting with our staff and Simoes suggested that Professor Leal be put over us to take over the women’s programme because it had potential. So that was the first time I had to bow to the master. (Laughs)

Wired868: That is how you saw it? ‘Bow to the master’? (Shabazz laughs again) What do you think Leal brought to the team?

Shabazz: He brought a tremendous amount of knowledge and know-how. I had been trained in [courses in] Brazil in 88 and 89 but what they brought was the practical application of how to do a programme—on and off the field. Things like nutrition and how the staff should operate as a group rather than one man and his dog kinda thing.

Leal was phenomenal. That’s why I say he was the first master because we really really learned. It was funny. People would pass and say ‘Jamaal, you’re licking the Brazilian’s bottom.’ (Laughs again) But it was a real eye opener. I remember Dr Gloudon talking to me and encouraging me to submit because if I submit the other coaches [on the staff] would submit.

Wired868: So there was friction?

Well, there were coaches who felt that these people now come and why are we giving them the programme. But they showed us how to build. They spent about a year with the team and then they left not long after. The girls had a nice CONCACAF Under-20 under Leal, which excited the nation and was the first tournament for Maylee and the likes of Avian Douglas.

Before they left, Leal told Marlon and myself that what we did in training those girls for four days a week and focusing on technical development laid a tremendous foundation and these girls one day will go to the World Cup.

And we knew because when we started them in 4v2 and 5v2, they couldn’t even warm up properly. And then when we went in the middle—Marlon and myself—we couldn’t even keep up with them. And we brought in people like Denzil [Theobald] and the Caledonia players. We would make them play two touch or one touch against the girls and they would help and this is where we saw the improvement. and when we put guys in there with them, they would keep the ball.

[…] Then we went to the CONCACAF Gold Cup and the first game was against Panama and we had a player sent off—Leslie James—and they outscored us 4-2. The second game was against USA and everybody expected us to be slaughtered but we parked the bus and, at the end of the first half, they were leading 1-0 which was unheard of in CONCACAF. We lost 3-0 in the end and we got three chances.

(Editor’s note: USA defeated Panama 9-0 and Costa Rica 7-0 in their other group matches).

Our goalkeeper at the time, Lisa-Jo Ramkissoon, was so excited after the game in the press conference that, when they asked her how she felt, she said, ‘Well it is a tremendous feeling to win this game.’ I had to kick her under the table to remind her that we lost. (Laughs)

But to lose 3-0 after scores of 12 and 17 over the years, it was a great feeling for all of us. But I had made a pledge that never again would a Trinidad and Tobago team get double figures against the US and these teams.

Wired868: How did you feel two years ago then when we lost 22-0 with our Under-15 team, coached by [your current assistant] Marlon Charles?

I felt if even Pep Guardiola coached that team, the scoreline would remain the same. Those players were not ready to play teams like the USA and Costa Rica. When the administrators entered the team, they didn’t understand that most of those players had started playing three and four months (earlier). But then they said that the TTFA would have gotten a fine if they didn’t carry a team…

People blamed the coach but, if that team had any of the ten top coaches from Europe, the score would be the same; they were not developed. Most of that team was used at U-17 level in Haiti [last year] and there is so much to teach because they are beginner players.

Wired868: What happened to the developmental programme when you left to coach Guyana in 2011?

This was immediate post-Warner and there wasn’t much funding. Tony Harford came in under Lennox Watson and started to get things going but then, after Watson left, the Tim Kee Administration was forced to make priorities and the senior men’s team became the priority. You needed a drive too because I picked up where Dr Gloudon left off. Her attitude was ‘You can find a way.. I think that the others just didn’t continue to do it on their own and it fell by the wayside and here we are today.

[…] I remember I was in Haiti in 2013 with [Pro League team] Caledonia AIA and at 5am in the morning I went to walk and I saw these little girls jogging […] and I found that they were Haiti’s Under-13 team. They were living in this Goal project centre, which had 80 girls and 120 boys and they would train in the morning, have breakfast, go to school and come back and train in the evening.

[…] That (sort of developmental work) is what we did with Maylee and them. When (American) Randy Waldrum was the coach, he got a bunch of players that were well formed. We took all the beating because the pioneers does get the snake bite and the nail jook and the mosquito bites but the future generation of coaches who worked with Maylee and St Louis and them got players who can play and with an insight into the game. If you listen to Maylee, she knows too much. (Laughs) Listen to Mollon, she knows everything.

Wired868: So administrators let down the women’s programme?

I’d say over the years, yes. But to be fair to Jack Warner, he always ensured the team participated. I remember Lincoln Phillips brought in Randy Waldrum to coach a youth team […] and we had to lose by six goals or less against USA in the last game for a play-off spot and we get nine. And Jack Warner rewarded that team by sending the staff and the girls to Tobago for a week. And I said ‘What is that one? When we come back from tournaments we never got any of that.’

And you know what he said? He said ‘If it was a local coach, they would have gotten 10!’ (Laughs)

Waldrum came within one point of qualifying [for the 2015 Canada World Cup] although we forget that team got four bites of the cherry and still didn’t qualify. We felt that [relative success] was off of our backs.

Wired868: Apart from Leal and Waldrum, Norwegian Even Pellerud was the other foreign coach in the women’s programme. What did he bring?

Pellerud was here from 2008 to 2011. The first thing Pellerud brought was the colour of respect.

Wired868: The ‘colour of respect?’

Yes. I remember before his first meeting with the parents, he told me he wanted to train six days a week and every third week he wanted to do seven. I found him to be naive at the time. I told him with Maylee and their team, I tried to get them to train five days a week and the parents kicked up against it so we ended up with four. And lo and behold, the first meeting he had with the parents he asked them for six and there was not a single dissenting voice. (Laughs). And I am talking about people coming from La Brea, Guayaguayare… This was the next master. He got total support.

I was then the assistant director of the women’s game and I was there at every session, learning from him. His emphasis was purely on fitness and pressing. He didn’t spend a lot of time on technical development. His philosophy was intensity (slaps hand) and running the opponent out of the park by intelligent pressing movement. His methods were based on aggression in training. He got the girls to respond very well but they were not a team to make five (consecutive) passes; they were a team to work hard and get behind the opposing defence.

Wired868: How much of that aggression remains or did you try to keep in our sessions?

Coming back into the women’s game last August, there were three weeks before the Under-17 qualifying tournament. I was looking for a coach because I was brought in to coach the seniors and U-20s. We spoke to Richard Hood and basically he and the (TTFA) didn’t agree on financial terms. So (technical director Muhammad) Isa suggested that I hold the team.

I did more technical work with the team. I believe this is football and, while you need to be aggressive, I think if I have to choose in developing an aspect, I would go with technique. So the period we had, we tried to focus on technique. In the small-sided games, we encouraged them to squeeze and press but it was alien to them. Even with the Under-20s, the time they spent with the Italians was more technical-oriented.

In the football world now, we see people use more football training for fitness training. So with limited guidance, we tried this for six weeks with the Under-20 girls but we learned afterwards that the intensity wasn’t there (in the sessions).

After one week together, we played Jamaica but we had hoped to get three games against Chile in December, which the Federation didn’t get because they didn’t have funding for it. We felt if we had gotten these games, it would have better schooled us as to where we were in terms of our ability to compete in January.

Wired868: And where did we fall short in January?

I think our inability to do repeated football actions. We scored all the time but we were not able to keep that action—to stay compact as a team, to be able to squeeze and press them, to be able to just keep our legs…

Wired868: How could a team that was together for months be unfit?

Well, I think they were together from March and then they had a three-week break just around July/August. And then that was the time I was with the U-17s and there was also school football. So there wasn’t that emphasis.

I was focusing on the Under-17s at the time, so we had them under some coaches like Ayanna Russell and Dernelle Mascall who had C licences. Marlon Charles would take them occasionally and Anton Corneal but the emphasis was on teaching them aspects of the game (like) possession, closing the ball down; the emphasis was not on the conventional running, fitness…

Wired868: Was there a clear philosophy during the time they were under so many different coaches?

Yeah. We focused on keeping the ball and trying to play the ball over the top to the flanks because we recognised we had quick strikers. We knew that (Dennecia) Prince would be a force, the big one. But she is anaemic and that is something that affects the women’s programme. We did tests and we found that six of the best players on the Under-17 Team were anaemic and three on the Under-20 Team. They have to focus on building up their iron and on their diet but, according to Dr Zaida Hassanali, it would take about three months (for us to see results from that).

Wired868: If the Italian contingent got about US$24,000 or US$27,000 a month, why could the TTFA not agree personal terms with Richard Hood?

Well, that is a question you will have to ask the administration; I can’t answer that.

Wired868: You understand that the public might feel the interest in this team and the investment from the TTFA seemed to fall away as soon as the Italians left?

The financial aspect of the TTFA’s dealings is not (within) my purview. I recommended Hood and he outlined some stuff and it didn’t materialise…

If we were able to get those friendly matches in December, I think the reality of the team would have been better served.

Wired868: You’d say your expectations when you accepted the job were not met?

I felt we would have gotten more resources but I was told the resources just were not there. So we continued to work. This is the difference between the local coach and maybe the foreign coach. I felt one of the reasons Morace left—this is my opinion; this may not be the fact—is that when they looked at the pool and the players they sidelined and the resources they needed (to succeed), I don’t think they were seeing it.

For me, it wasn’t about qualifying [when I accepted the job as women’s coach], it was about stability. It was about creating what we created back then, which was a framework for players to go on scholarship and develop.

[…] The public’s emphasis is they want the team to qualify. And I want that too but laying the framework with these limited resources and building that foundation again so we can produce players is the kind of stability [I can offer], getting coaches working together and, more importantly, developing a cadre of female coaches from among the ex-players who understand the passion and commitment.

Wired868: You mention developing a new cadre of coaches but I am seeing the same old names on your staff, like Marlon Charles…

Well, when a coach goes to work, he brings the people who he feels he is comfortable  working with. I didn’t hear anybody say anything when Simoes brought his people or Morace brought her people…

Wired868: But you spoke about developing new coaches…

Well, I can show you. We have Ayanna Russell, Dernelle Mascall, Janelle Noel, Ahkeela Mollon, who are working as developmental coaches within the elite programme. So there are a cadre of female coaches being developed and I have evidence of that.

I don’t see how we could question Marlon’s credentials as a coach. Are we basing it on the fact that he took a team that got 21 and 22 when any coach that took that team would have gotten the same results?

Wired868: Well, I am referring to your comment about bringing through fresh blood. But, as you mentioned Marlon, how do you think you complement each other and what does each of you bring to the team?

I think Marlon’s patience and his ability to improve technique is one of the pluses with the drills he uses and his insight into the game. I think I complement him by bringing a bit more aggression and animation in the exercise…

This is the relationship we have since 1984 when we travelled as players and shared a room together with ASL and the Alvin Corneal Coaching School. I marvel at what people say about him without seeing him work; it is hilarious for me.

[…] I think Marlon Charles has been ill-treated and disrespected by the former TTFA Administration but he showed resilience. He has not uttered a negative word and he shows a kind of patience that is admirable. I don’t have that kind of patience. I like working with him and I think we work very well together.

If people are going to judge us on the Under-20 and Under-17 teams not qualifying, that’s fine; they are entitled to that. But I am here to provide stability and that stability is to build the programme.

Wired868: So what should we judge you on? What would you consider success?

I think people could form their own…

Wired868: (Interrupts) No, what do YOU think is a fair way to gauge the success of your work?

The way to judge my work is (to see if we can) produce players that can play with A1 schools in the US and can get into professional teams in two or three years’ time. How we are able to narrow and deal with the deficiencies we see now and how it is addressed over that period of time before the next Under-17 and Under-20 tournaments.

I would judge myself and my work if we go to the next U-17 and U-20 tournament and are slaughtered. And also how many youth players now can go in the Senior Team and hold their place.

Everybody is saying now that (the France 2019 Women’s World Cup qualifiers) is another bite of the cherry. I am not saying that. I am saying the Maylees and Tasha St Louis and that crew are on the last of their legs. When Izler Brown and Ricarda Nelson and them were on the last of their legs in 2002, we injected Maylee and them and got a lot of criticism for bringing seven or eight youth players into the senior team and going to CONCACAF. I see this as a similar period here.

Wired868: Wasn’t the priority always to qualify for the France World Cup when we brought in Carolina Morace? We came within a whisker under Randy Waldrum, so isn’t the priority now to qualify?

The priority was that under Carolina but, under me, my priority is stability. I’ve to think beyond a foreigner. I’ve got to think about what happens when the tournament is finished.

Wired868: You talk a lot about development, would it have been better for you then to stick to the developmental side rather than to be head coach? You said before that you were not interested in coaching anymore, so what made you go back?

We need to provide that stability. There was a lot of uncertainty with the leaving of Ms Morace. And I felt my presence on the field would help because these—in particular the senior girls—were our girls. Of course I have no problem in being judged by the results. People like to say coaches need time but when a coach accepts a job he understands fully the implications.

[…] Time is important but the courage to start a process to me is more important always.

Wired868: Hood coached a lot of these women before and the women once mentioned Angus Eve as a coach they would like to have. You don’t think anyone else could have brought stability to the women’s programme and done the job?

Those questions are questions for the administrators. I was approached and I had to make a judgment call based on the scenario and I accepted. They didn’t choose to approach anyone else. So I think that question would be better for them…

Editor’s Note: See Wired868 on Friday 9 February for Part Two of this interview as Trinidad and Tobago women’s coach Jamaal Shabazz speaks more on the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship and the country’s upcoming France 2019 World Cup campaign.

Lawrence: I’m 100 percent sure of myself! T&T coach on axed players, Stern, Sol and Qatar 2022
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868)

Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence struck a bullish pose at today’s media conference at the National Cycling Centre in Couva, insisting that he had 100 percent confidence in his ability to steer the Soca Warriors towards success, despite a run of eight consecutive matches without a win—including six successive defeats.

Since he took over the Warriors’ reins in February, Lawrence, a former national stand-out turned rookie head coach, has rationed his availability to the local media. But, although the Warriors have dropped 15 spots to 99th in the FIFA rankings since his appointment, “Tallest” gave no hint of self-doubt or uncertainty regarding his job security.

“The only pressure I am under is the pressure I put myself under,” he told the assembled media. “As I have said before, when your work has direction and you know exactly what you’re gonna do, you don’t put yourself under pressure. When you become a head coach, you have to be sure about what you are doing and I am 100 percent sure.”

Lawrence revealed that he considered his own culpability in the Warriors’ returns—the team won its first qualifier under the head coach and lost the next five—before deciding to give himself the vote of confidence.

“We didn’t qualify for the Russia campaign for many obvious reasons,” said Lawrence. “The first place I start to look is [at] myself: what can I do better, what can I improve? I didn’t think [my inexperience as a head coach] was the reason why we didn’t qualify; I think it was because of our performances.”

Having failed to get the Warriors to the Russia 2018 World Cup, Lawrence has opted to make an early start to building for Qatar 2022.

“We selected the squad [to play Mexico on 6 October and the United States on 10 October] based on the fact that we’re looking forward to the future and, if you look at the squad, there are 10 players in there who are 24 and under,” said the Warriors head coach. “So the idea now is to try and get these players to understand what international football is all about and immediately refocus on the development of Trinidad and Tobago football and the pathway we are going to choose.

“Some of the players are going to be young and exciting… I think they are going to offer something that is going to bear well for Trinidad and Tobago’s future.”

Lawrence singled out 19-year-old St Ann’s Rangers winger Kathon St Hillaire, a former National Under-20 player, for special praise.

But could four days’ preparation time possibly be enough for a teenaged Pro League player to get ready to face Mexico at senior international level? Might a more measured learning approach—facing increasingly testing opponents from Grenada to El Salvador to Jamaica to Panama to Mexico—not prove more beneficial in the long term?

Lawrence was convinced by his own thinking.

“It is a good opportunity for them to come in and get a feel about what top-level international competition is going to be about,” he said Lawrence. “I think it is the best time. If you don’t do it now, then when will be the best time?

“Sometimes going into the deep end is the best way to learn.”

It is a debate in which there are pros and cons on either side. Lawrence’s own international career which started against the Netherland Antilles on 18 March 2008 went like this: Netherland Antilles (draw), Dominican Republic (win), Dominican Republic (win), Haiti (win), Haiti (draw), Canada (loss), Barbados (draw), St Vincent and the Grenadines (loss), Cuba (win) and Jamaica (loss).

By the time, Lawrence finally travelled to Mexico, he had 15 caps under his belt—including nine competitive matches. It probably made it easier for him to shake off what turned out to be a 7-0 massacre at the Azteca Stadium.

However, defender Radanfah Abu Bakr is one player who made his competitive debut in Mexico City and did not come out worse for wear. In Abu Bakr’s case, though, he had already had two friendly appearances under his belt and had been a non-playing team member for months before his break came—ironically because Lawrence skipped the trip to Mexico in 2009 because of an illness in his family.

Still, St Hillaire and 20-year-old Club Sando defender Josiah Trimmingham might easily be required to observe proceedings from the safety of the substitutes’ bench only, as Lawrence has selected at least one experienced player for each position.

Lawrence gave varying reasons for the 11 omissions from his last travelling squad. Defender Sheldon Bateau, who captained the team in their 3-0 loss away to Panama, was suspended for the Mexico fixture and the coach decided to allow him to remain in Kazakhstan and focus on club duties.

In the case of 32-year-old Honduras-based goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams, who captained the team against Honduras, and 30-year-old Lithuania-based defender Abu Bakr, Lawrence wanted to give a shot to some younger players.

That meant a call-up for Canada-born goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh, who plays for USL team Louisville City FC.

“I have been looking at Greg for a while,” said Lawrence. “I didn’t think at the time there was any need to push the button. The opportunity has come where we can look at him and see what he has to offer to Trinidad and Tobago.”

There was no such luck for 18-year-old Slovak-based left-back Keston Julien or 20-year-old USL box-to-box midfielder Neveal Hackshaw, who was capped under former coach Stephen Hart.

“They are both on the radar,” said Lawrence. “Keston has not played a competitive game since the 12th of August. [Cordell] Cato is in the same position and Jomal [Williams] too.

“If there is a player who is consistently playing in the Pro League and doing well, I think it is unfair for me to select players who are not actively involved in their clubs.”

It appeared to be a new position taken by Lawrence, who has previously selected even Pro League players like Keron Cummings and Isaiah Hudson who were not regulars in their respective squads.

Of course, it did not explain Hackshaw’s omission since he has been an ever-present for his club this season.

Lawrence said even less when asked to explain his general lack of interest in England-based midfielder Andre Boucaud.

“Next question,” said Lawrence, when asked about the popular midfielder.

Lawrence spoke sympathetically on right-back Aubrey David and forward Jamille Boatswain, who are both serving two-game suspensions after they were discovered to have played minor league football before the Honduras outing. The incidents happened before the Warriors went into camp but both players, according to the TTFA, have agreed to give up their match fees for the perceived infraction.

Lawrence stressed that David and Boatswain, who play professionally in Finland and Costa Rica respectively, were generally two level-headed and dependable young men.

“I think it very important that people understand Jamille and Aubrey are two of the more disciplined players in the squad,” said Lawrence. “Obviously the two players made a huge error in judgment [and] when you make errors like that there has to be consequences…

“[But] they are very much in the [team’s] plans for the future.”

Lawrence touched on an incident involving his assistant coach Stern John, who, while representing Central FC in a Pro League affair, was accused of taunting North East Stars defender Julius James about his inability to break into the national team and telling another, Keston George, that he had only got a call-up on account of his (John’s) say so.

“I’ve spoken to Stern and the North East Stars head coach Derek King,” said Lawrence, “and we both expressed our thoughts on the matter. And it is a matter that is being dealt with [as] private and confidential.”

Why, Wired868 asked, is the behaviour of David and Boatswain a public issue but not John’s? Were coaches not held to the same standard as players?

Lawrence said David and Boatswain both admitted their own wrongdoing. However, he would neither confirm nor deny whether John has confirmed the accuracy of the complaints about his own behaviour.

“I was not on the football pitch [and] anytime you are dealing with allegations, there has to be some sort of investigation,” said Lawrence, who gave no details on the ‘investigation’ beyond his own phone calls to both parties. “[…] I don’t think he will play in any more Pro League games because I think it is better he serves from the sidelines.”

And why, I enquired again, did Cato not also apologise to the public after he walked out of the team—before the World Cup qualifier away to the United States in June—only to be allowed to return to action once he made himself available in August?

“[Cato] never apologised to the public because it was a private matter between him and the team,” said Lawrence.

And what about apologising to his teammates?

Lawrence: “He did [apologise to the team]. This was before we played against Costa Rica.”

Wired868: “Did he go to the team camp? Was it in person? Was it an email?”

Lawrence: “He apologised to the team…. Maybe you should speak to Cordell Cato. All I can say to you is he did apologise.”

At least three National Senior Team members denied that Cato ever apologised to the squad.

“I think at one time one of the players passed on word in a What’s App group that Cato said he knew his decision affected the team but that was it,” said one player, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It was not even an apology and it did not come directly from him.”

When Lawrence recalled Cato to face Jamaica in a friendly at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 August, he said, at the time, that the winger had “recently” made peace with the head coach. The Costa Rica match, which supposedly followed Cato’s apology, was played on 14 June.

“Cordell phoned me [and] we had a conversation,” said Lawrence, on 17 August. “Cordell understands what I’m expecting of him. I think what happened is behind us now. As I said before, the door was never closed to him.

“We had a good conversation and Cordell is going to be here as part of the group. He is going to try to help us achieve what we [set out] to accomplish.”

The role of his assistant coach and ex-England and Arsenal legend Sol Campbell was another banana skin for Lawrence, who tried to explain why Campbell only showed up a week before World Cup qualifying matches and was not around for all but one of the team’s friendly matches when he could work with, in particular, the Pro League players.

“Sol Campbell was brought into the squad particularly to try to improve us for the World Cup campaign,” said Lawrence. “Sol Campbell was not brought into the set-up with the vision of […] improving Trinidad and Tobago in the long term. Sol Campbell has a wealth of experience and I thought it would be best used in the short-term period, which is to try and achieve this goal of qualifying for Russia…

“In terms of the long-term development, it is a discussion I am going to have with Sol [about] whether or not it is something he will be interested in doing… There has been no decision made yet on the path of the staff and what we are going to do.”

Incidentally, Campbell is listed on a FIFA technical study group for the India 2017 Under-17 World Cup, which kicks off on 6 October. If the former England stand-out is serious about his Trinidad and Tobago post, we will know soon enough.

Lawrence said he is already in the second part of the two-tier plan that he unveiled to the TTFA during his job interview earlier this year—he was the TTFA technical committee’s third choice after Stuart Charles-Février and Terry Fenwick but got the nod after the Board overruled its committee.

“[We gave] Russia our best, best shot, [so now it is about] how do we move forward in terms of developing a football philosophy for our country and in terms of how we are going to develop players,” said the Trinidad and Tobago coach. “We have not won anything for the last 16 years, including the Caribbean Cup, and I think that is where our development process has to start.

“We have to become more competitive in the Caribbean by winning things [there] before we start branching off to the Gold Cup and World Cup.

“[…] So the focus at the moment is to become number one in the Caribbean again and then we can build from there.”

Lawrence said there have already been discussions with technical director Anton Corneal and the various national youth team coaches about a common philosophy through the ranks.

He was encouraged by the talent and enthusiasm on show in the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL).

“The only way you correct these things is by work on the football pitch,” said Lawrence, “not by going about trying to find a player with a Trinidad and Tobago passport. We have to work; that is the only way we are going to get results [and] go forward…

“I have been to a couple of the Secondary Schools Football games and it is really, really exciting… Some of those games are like blood and thunder and it is something we need to […] find a way to harness and take [it] into our national set-up.

“[…] I now need to build a team that will be surrounded with discipline, surrounded with passion and surrounded by dedication. That is the only way you are going to achieve anything.”

The new journey, according to Lawrence, starts against Mexico on 6 October and the Warriors will travel to that country four days early. There are many different schools of thought about preparing to play at altitude and Trinidad and Tobago have tried them all without success where Mexico is concerned.

Before the Costa Rica match, the Warriors were about to spend nearly two weeks at altitude, which is the recommended time frame but is impossible now.

The next best thing, according to most doctors, is to travel to higher ground on match day and play before your body catches on to the new conditions. But that was what Trinidad and Tobago did in 2000 when they lost 7-0 at the Azteca.

At that time, Mexico were thirsty for revenge after having lost 1-0 in Port-of-Spain. It is, however, hard to guess the current frame of mind of “El Tricolor.”

Mexico have already qualified for the 2018 World Cup and the country is grieving after two massive earthquakes hit them within two weeks. Potentially, that could turn the game into an emotional affair.

For Lawrence, there are no life or death problems but his are tricky ones too.

“The biggest challenge I’ve had is that so many of our players who play abroad have had inconsistent seasons,” he said, “in regards to playing for 90 minutes and then not playing for a [long] period. And that has been an issue in terms of selecting a squad with the right balance.”

After the Warriors produced disappointing performances in their last two matches, Lawrence moaned that he felt let down by his senior players.

So was his selection of playmaker Kevin Molino and flanker Joevin Jones—two players who have had their difficulties on and off the field during this campaign—a vote of confidence and an indicator that the coach was happy with what they brought to the table?

“I needed to put some senior players in and around the younger group,” said Lawrence. “The senior players that [I selected] for me are the senior players that, from the time that I have been working, have showed good leadership qualities; they showed good responsibility in being able to lead the younger ones.”

Lawrence said he already has a new captain in mind although he won’t reveal the name until he speaks to the players. Despite the issues around the team, the Warriors coach fully intends to march on.

Team manager Richard Piper, who was present but not on the head table, faced just one question.

Wired868: “When will the TTFA pay the players their outstanding match fees [the debt stretches back to June and to as many as six games for some players]?”

Piper: “It is supposed to be by the end of the month.”

Couva calamity: Unpaid players, uncaring TTFA, uneasy SPORTT and an unfulfilled World Cup dream.
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868).

Proper management, irrespective of the industry in question, ought to be about the removal of excuses for poor performance.

It is ensuring, for example, that a student has books, tutors and study time, the taxi driver has a well serviced vehicle and employees have a safe working environment and receive clear instructions.

By that simple reasoning, Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence and his players were in trouble long before the kick-off of the decisive Russia World Cup 2018 qualifier against Honduras at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva last Friday evening.

It was, by consensus, the worst organised local sporting event in recent history. And yet the chaos that faced fans trying to access the Couva venue and the largely shambolic performance from the Soca Warriors represented barely half of the story.

In a bottom -of-the-table CONCACAF Hex clash, Trinidad and Tobago lost 2-1 at home and it would strain credibility now to believe that, in the remaining  away games to Panama and Mexico and a home fixture against the United States, the Warriors can amass the seven points necessary for a shot at a FIFA play-off.

As hard as the individual errors on Friday night were to swallow, the most costly blunders arguably came, yet again, from the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association’s headquarters.

On 13 July, 2017, TTFA president David John-Williams confirmed that the do-or-die clash would be moved from the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain to the Couva venue. The Warriors played in front of 10,000 and 12,000 spectators against Panama and Mexico respectively in their last two home qualifying matches at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, which seats 23,000.

John-Williams, supported by Lawrence, reasoned that the team would be better off stuffing those patrons in the 10,000-seater Couva venue and the TTFA went to the trouble of erecting temporary stands, which allowed for another 2,000 fans.

The TTFA president pointed out too that a sizeable portion of the team’s support came from south and central Trinidad and they should not be inconvenienced by a Couva fixture.

But John-Williams failed to consider that the reason the Ato Boldon Stadium is such an awkward venue is not merely because it is not in the capital. There are no direct taxis to Couva from most cities—fans from east Trinidad, for instance, need four taxis to get to the ground—while the lack of multiple access routes means awful traffic pile-ups as well as a shortage of parking options. A stroll across Ariapita Avenue to get to your car on a Friday night, it needs to be said, is a far less daunting prospect than trudging across the desolate Couva Main Road or Rivulet Road without even the security of a sidewalk.

And, crucially, the evening kick-off—gates were due to open at 5pm but the ticketing scanners were not ready up to half hour after that time—meant spectators were driving into peak rush-hour traffic, which made the venue far less attractive than if it were a weekend match.

It is now a matter of fact that there were barely 3,500 spectators inside the Ato Boldon Stadium when the players sang their national anthem. Another 1,500 managed to get inside before the final whistle but many others turned around and left in frustration.

It is ridiculous for the TTFA to point fingers at “fair-weather supporters” after they made it so difficult for people who were willing to pay good money to see an under-performing team on the way to their fifth successive defeat.

On the last day of the school vacation, the John-Williams-led board had not offered discounts for children either. In fact, there was little evidence that the TTFA considered the needs and match-day experience of football fans at all.

Remarkably, we are not yet halfway through last Friday’s issues.

A lighting tower went down before kick-off and remained non-functional for the entire match while there were also non-functioning lights on some of the other towers. The Ato Boldon Stadium, unlike the Hasely Crawford venue, has its own generator and should have been much better prepared to deal with any issues.

The problem, however, is that Sport Company facility manager Anthony Blake and Raj Ramtahal, senior manager facilities maintenance, are both on suspension—along with SPORTT CEO Adam Montserin and six other managers—due to a ongoing investigation by the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs.

The government’s mysterious probe has left multi-million dollar facilities improperly supervised, with the Warriors and TTFA feeling the brunt of it at the worst possible time.

Closer to the camp, there were other issues.

The TTFA has not paid its players since their 28 March qualifier against Mexico. The Warriors have played five times since then; it is noteworthy that  they have failed to win a single one of those games.

The John-Williams-led board promised to pay for two of those five matches—the friendly against Grenada and World Cup qualifying loss to the United States—before their decisive clash with Honduras. But, two days before Friday’s match, the Warriors were told they would be paid those outstanding fees on 12 September instead.

There is not even a date set for payment of the other outstanding match fees, including the crucial 1 and 5 September qualifiers.

Matters were not improved when the TTFA informed the players that their complimentary tickets for the Honduras match had been cut from eight (four covered and four uncovered stands) to five (three covered and two uncovered stands).

The individual Warriors must have blinked when they stared into the stands before kick-off and saw over 6,000 empty seats.

Sacramento Republic forward Trevin Caesar, who is Lawrence’s only in-form attacker at the moment with six goals from 20 matches in the US Third Division, was absent. A TTFA release said he could not make it out of the United States owing to the disruption caused by Hurricane Harvey.

Yet, Honduras had three players from Houston in their squad—Romell Quito, Alberth Ellis and Boniek Garcia. And, as if to rub it in, Ellis scored what proved to be the match winner while Quito had a hand in both of the Central American team’s goals.

Wired868 tried, unsuccessfully, to find out why the TTFA could not get one player out of the hurricane affected area while Honduras managed to move three.

Another notable absentee was AZ Alkmaar winger Levi Garcia, who is playing in the most competitive division of anyone in Lawrence’s pool.

Alkmaar could not prevent Garcia from linking up with the national team and the winger featured in his team’s last two domestic outings and was in good health. But, according to sources, the teenager wanted assurances that Lawrence valued his presence—after playing for 30 out of a possible 180 minutes during his only stint under the current coach.

Lawrence told the media that Garcia was “[not] mentally ready.”

Arguably, Lawrence might have had an easier time of claiming the moral high ground if he had not allowed Cordell Cato to waltz back into his squad without a public apology after he abandoned the Warriors for their qualifiers against the United States and Costa Rica.

Curious too that, with a World Cup place on the line, Lawrence did not pull out all the stops by travelling to see overseas-based professionals like Keston Julien, Ataullah Guerra, Neveal Hackshaw, Aikim Andrews, Jamal Jack and Noel Powder play live before deciding on his best possible team to face Honduras. In his defence, TTFA funding might have been an issue where that is concerned.

Instead, Lawrence gave 71 minutes in his most testing friendly to date—away to Ecuador on 26 July—to WASA employee and TTSL forward Keron Clarke, who had already said he would not make himself available to play Honduras since he was a Seventh Day Adventist.

India-based forward Willis Plaza got only 19 minutes playing time in Guayaquil as a result and, judging by his lively cameo off the bench against Honduras, he might have deserved more time to find his rhythm before last Friday.

The Ato Boldon Stadium surface was another story.

Repeatedly, former coach Stephen Hart pleaded with facility staff to cut the grass to help rapid ball movement and penetrative dribbles, which he felt could be an asset for the hosts.

On Friday, the grass was longer than ever and players from both teams were seen struggling to keep their feet. Defender Sheldon Bateau, who only returned from Kazakhstan 42 hours before kick-off owing to a ticketing issue, slipped in the build-up to Honduras’ opening goal.

That slip came during a horrific 45-minute spell for the Warriors, who could easily have been three or four goals down by the interval.

Everyone was at fault on Friday—the TTFA, the Warriors, the head coach, the Sport Company. And, when everyone is culpable, nobody is. Because each person can point the finger of blame at someone else.

It was the perfect storm of absurdity. And it blew Trinidad and Tobago’s World Cup dreams right away with it.

Unlucky break: Glen ruled out Panama, Mexico WCQs but vows to return; opens up on Saintfiet era
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868.com)

Trinidad and Tobago forward Cornell Glen looks set to miss out on the Soca Warriors’ Russia 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Panama and Mexico next month, after his long-awaited return to international duty ended with a broken arm and another injury-forced spell on the sidelines.

Glen, who is one of just three survivors from the Germany 2006 World Cup squad, was summoned by former National Senior Team coach Tom Saintfiet to replace Willis Plaza, just before Christmas.

It was Glen’s first international call-up in three years and the skilful forward made an immediate impact with a goal in his only start under the Belgian coach in a 3-1 win over Nicaragua on 30 December 2016.

But it was all downhill from there, as the 35 year old forward strained his hamstring during the warm up for Trinidad and Tobago’s Gold Cup play off match against Suriname on 4 January before suffering a broken forearm against Haiti in 8 January.

The Warriors lost both games and failed to progress for the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Glen came out worse than most from the campaign, as his injury meant he was ruled out for the season by his employers at Ozone FC Bengalaru in India. And he is unlikely to regain match fitness in time to join new coach Dennis Lawrence’s squad to face Panama and Mexico on 24 and 28 March.

“I was advised by the doctors at the San Fernando General Hospital to do surgery,” Glen told Wired868. “[Dr Terence] Babwah said after three or four weeks I can play with it [using] a soft cast. I saw doctors [in India too] and they decided I needed surgery.

“So I will basically be out for the season because this season [in India] is short and finishes in April.”

Glen agreed a financial settlement with Ozone FC, which allowed the club to pay him off and sign another foreign player. But he does not know when or where his next job will be.

The Indian league is in a state of flux due to financial issues and administrators there are looking into merging the top and second tier competitions. And it is much the same in Trinidad where uncertainty regarding government subventions looms over the Pro League, which also struggles to pay players.

To add insult to injury, Glen still has not been paid for skipping Christmas and flying across two continents to represent his country. None of the 22 players used by Saintfiet were paid for any of their four outings.

“The players have not been paid as yet but they will be paid in the coming weeks,” said Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams breezily, while unveiling Lawrence and Sol Campbell as head and assistant coach respectively on 30 January 2017.

Glen did not discuss the TTFA debt and said he had no regrets about his return to national colours but admitted that he should not have played against Haiti, due to his physical condition at the time. Ever the maverick, the former North East Stars and San Jabloteh attacker said he will defy doctor’s advice and not return to the operating table.

“I did two surgeries in my career and I don’t want to do a third one,” said Glen. “It takes two to three months to heal with surgery. Instead, I will leave the cast on for the full six to eight weeks. Surgery is the last option.

“It is a risk I am taking because doctors said it isn’t bound to heal properly and I might not get full functionality back and won’t be able to rotate my arm as before and so on.”

All Glen’s major injuries came while he was representing his country. He tore ligaments in his ankle while playing against Guatemala on 10 August 2004 and missed most of the season for New York/New Jersey MetroStars.

Then he had serious ligament injuries in either knee against Paraguay at the 2006 World Cup and against the United States during the 2010 World Cup qualifying series. Both knee injuries required operations. The first injury led to his departure from LA Galaxy—who opted not to renew his contract—while the second meant that he spent a third of his time at San Jose Earthquakes on the sidelines.

But Glen was philosophical about his current misfortune. He is still desperate to end his career on a high and has designs on the Russia World Cup.

Despite long spells away from the national team due to injuries and his three-year exile under coach Stephen Hart, Glen is Trinidad and Tobago’s fifth all time scorer with 24 goals—one more than current talisman Kenwyne Jones, five more than ex-Manchester United hot shot Dwight Yorke and three and four goals less than Arnold Dwarika and Russell Latapy respectively.

“I’m trying not to take it on,” said Glen. “I’m just tired and want to come home and be around my kids and family. Maybe this [injury] is a sign. I will see how it goes…

“The only thing I am upset about is that I am missing my national team’s next set of games [against Panama and Mexico]. I probably won’t be [match] fit by then.”

There was some skepticism when Saintfiet recalled Glen—on the advice of his assistant coach Jamaal Shabazz. But the veteran made an immediate impact off the bench in Manama on 27 December, as the Warriors clawed a goal back in an otherwise disappointing 2-1 away loss to Nicaragua.

And, in his first start, Glen scored a neat volley to erase an early Nicaragua lead and won the free kick that saw Trinidad and Tobago take the lead in an eventual 3-1 win.

But, on what should have been his glorious return in front of his home fans, Glen ended up in tears after straining his hamstring during the warm-up.

“I went into the dressing room and started to cry,” said Glen. “It was really heartbreaking. I never got injured during a warm up in my entire career. But I felt it coming because we trained really hard coming up to the game and I was telling Carlos [Edwards] that I could feel my hamstring was really tight…

“I think the way we practiced [before facing Suriname], the intensity was a bit too high and the pitch was heavy and the grass was thick. We had travelled a few days before [from Manama too]. It was a combination of things.

“It was not just me because Carlos pulled up, [Hughtun] Hector had hamstring problems and there were a whole lot of other guys [like Maurice Ford and Carlyle Mitchell] with quad and muscle injuries too.”

Trinidad and Tobago lost 2-1 to Suriname in extra time on that night and, four days later, Saintfiet’s job was already under threat as they prepared to face Haiti. The Warriors needed a two-goal win to stay alive in the competition and, according to Glen, the Belgian begged him to play—despite not being fully recovered from injury.

“I wasn’t supposed to play [against Haiti] in the first place,” said Glen. “The coach begged me to play… To strain your hamstring and play three or four days after is seriously unheard of. I regret playing that match. I was not fit to play.”

Ironically, Dr Terence Babwah, who claimed to have resigned from Hart’s technical staff because the then head coach allegedly used goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams while he was carrying an injury—a claim that much of Hart’s technical staff and the player himself denied—sat on the bench and is not known to have complained about Saintfiet’s use of Glen for that match.

The Belgian coach also sent defender Carlyle Mitchell back on to the field against Suriname while he was clearly injured, since the Warriors had exhausted all their substitutions.

Saintfiet, according to Glen, was a mixed bag. The forward appreciated the coach’s no-nonsense approach to discipline and his general stewardship.

However, he disagreed with Saintfiet’s tactical approach, which was to play reactive, counter-attacking football against mediocre opposition, and felt the journeyman coach did not respond well to the pressure of the job.

“Looking back at it, there are two sides to his coaching methods. In terms of his discipline, I totally agreed with that and accepted it. That is part of what is seriously lacking in Trinidad and Tobago’s football. Some of the things that some of the senior established players get away with over the years, under a serious coach like [World Cup 2006 coach Leo] Beenhakker they would never get away with it.

“I remember in 2005, I was dropped for most of the qualifiers just for sulking because I wasn’t playing during the Gold Cup. I only got called up for the [FIFA Play Off] against Bahrain and, when I met up with him, I apologised and we moved on.

“Some of the things these guys did like asking for time off but then playing charity matches. No serious coach would stand for that… But his biggest problem was letting the media get to him… In almost every practice [session], he would mention you [and Wired868] and it affected his job and the pressure from the [TTFA] got to him.

“His football philosophy, I absolutely didn’t agree with. In the Caribbean, we are a powerhouse and teams like Suriname are afraid of us. But he wanted us to play deep and try for the counter attack. That is why the Suriname coach said after the game that he was surprised and expected more from us.

“Discipline-wise, he did a good job. But, in terms of football, I didn’t agree with his philosophy.”

Glen is far from finished. He hopes to return to the playing fields soon and is open to starting the 2017 season in the local Pro League. From there, he would like to catch Lawrence’s eye and wear red, white and black strip again in competitive action.

“It is unfortunate that I couldn’t show what I could offer the team at home in the Haiti game but I am still not retired yet!” Glen said. “Hopefully I can get back in the team and show Trinidad and Tobago what I can still contribute.

“I just want to get over this [injury] and get back playing and then maybe see what opens up…”

Trinidad and Tobago’s top international scorers

Stern John 70 goals

Angus Eve 34 goals

Russell Latapy 29 goals

Arnold Dwarika 28 goals

Cornell Glen 24 goals

Kenwyne Jones 23 goals

Nigel Pierre 22 goals

Leonson Lewis 21 goals

Dwight Yorke 19 goals

Devorn Jorsling 18 goals

Football is my life! One on one with Police FC’s winged wizard, Christon Thomas
By Carlotta Rivas (Wired868.com)

“I gave up any big dreams of playing for an international team when I broke my ankle a second time. I was playing for [Superstar] Rangers when it happened the first time [and] I didn’t get the right therapy after the cast was taken off. So I had to take care of it for myself.

“I couldn’t afford the proper physical therapy, so it didn’t heal right. Then when I got the second break in the same place the doctor informed me that if I broke it a third time that would be the end of my football career.”

Clever, versatile and a fine dribbler, Police FC utility player Christon Thomas is one of the TT Pro League’s stand-out players. In truth, every time he crosses that white line, Thomas is risking his own health for the sport he loves.

The 29 year old former Trinidad and Tobago youth team international spoke one on one with Wired868 about how he is getting on:

When were you born?

I was born on the 5th of December 1987.

What is your home town?

I am from St Ann’s.

What school did you attend?

My first school I attended was St Ann’s RC, then I went on to Belmont Secondary and after to Mucurapo Senior Sec.

How do you describe yourself as person?

I am a very quiet person who loves my family, especially my daughter. I don’t talk much and I am very respectful of others.

What is something most people do not know about you?

I am a police officer and in my life I never disrespected anyone. I have a great sense of self-control and I am not easily distracted. This is so  because life taught me a very important lesson: that you never know who is who, so respect everyone.

What do you enjoy doing in their free time?

Playing with my daughter and playing and watching football with my friends in the community.

Who is your favorite player?

Lionel Messi of course. (Smiles) He is such a great dribbler when he has that ball, it is like magic.

What pushes you to succeed?

Football is who I am. It defines me and that’s what pushes me to succeed. I have never played football to gain fame nor an international contract. I play because it is my life. I grew up in a communal home with several other family members [and] football gave me the freedom and the space I needed to breathe. So when my parents went to work, I played football in the St Ann’s grounds across the road from us. And I still do actually.

What was your earliest football memory?

It was playing with my Uncle’s team called The Patriots. His name is Curtis Bateau. I was about 12 and if you saw me that day: this little fellas dribbling though all of the other team. (Smiles) It was great fun.

My first contract in the Pro League came with [San Juan] Jabloteh. I was too young to sign so my parents signed [and] I got a stipend for playing. I also played for Superstar Rangers [and] we won out our division in the North Zone that year.

Who was your most important coach?

That would be my football coach in Mucurapo, Mr Selris Figaro. The last thing he said to me was “stay healthy.” I didn’t understand it at first but, now I am in the Pro League, [I know personal health and diet] it is very important.

What makes you stand out as players?

My dribbling skills with the ball is what make me unique. There are others who can dribble the ball but I have my own style.

What is your ambition in the game?

I gave up any big dreams of playing for an international team when I broke my ankle a second time. I was playing for Rangers when it happened the first time [and] I didn’t get the right therapy after the cast was  taken off. So I had to take care of it for myself. I couldn’t afford the proper physical therapy, so it didn’t heal right.

Then when I got the second break in the same place, the doctor informed me that if I broke it a third time that would be the end of my football career. But I play on because I love the game so much… When I am not playing, I feel lost. (Pauses) I know the risks and I am putting thing in place [for that].

What was your best moment in football so far?

That would have to be when I was playing for Rangers and we played against Caledonia at the Hasely Crawford Stadium and within seconds of the start of the match I scored the first goal. We ended up drawing the game but I cannot forget that moment.

Why must we suffer so? Warriors fans and security consultant discuss issues at Guatemala game
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868.com)

There were barely 9,000 spectators in their seats for kick off last Friday, as the Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team squared off against Guatemala in a vital Russia 2018 World Cup qualifier.

The Soca Warriors “12th man”—the fans—could not get in. By the restart, there were double the number of supporters, although roughly 2,000 ticketed fans simply gave up and went home.

Security consultant and former National Security Minister Gary Griffith—who was in charge of stadium operations for Trinidad and Tobago’s last home qualifier against St Vincent and the Grenadines—blamed the furore on an unnamed Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) official who supposedly overrode his instructions.

TTFA vice-president Ewing Davis is the football body representative with responsibility for match security.

“They foolishly decided to override what I directed and have the ticket scanning done at the main entrance point, which was absolutely ridiculous,” Griffith told Wired868, “as you cannot expect to scan 20,000 tickets by four persons at one point. I specifically stated that the scanning of tickets would take place at the 12 odd entrance gates to get into the Stadium, as per the Policy, and only scanning for persons would be done at the main entrances to get into the compound…

“Ten minutes into the  game, and with nearly 10,000 persons stranded outside, I made a judgement call and directed that the tickets should just be taken from each patron, and allow them entry and scan the ticket after.

“This system ensured that over 8,000 persons got into the Stadium in 30 minutes… Had I not done so, many would never have entered before the game ended.”

So what did Soca Warriors fans who attended the match think of the whole affair?

Wired868 asked Kirwin, Savitri, Brian and ‘Mango’ to share their experience with us.

Wired868: What was the experience like for Trinidad and Tobago’s World Cup qualifier against Guatemala?

Kirwin: Sigh, unfortunately the experience was not a pleasant one again. Firstly, the traffic and parking situation was stressful. I chose to walk from the Fire Station on Wrightson Road to get to the venue quicker. To enter the stadium was even more tedious. I took it for granted that we truly learnt something after the St Vincent and the Grenadines game where [everything was] very good. Hence, I got into the line [for the Guatemala match] at about 6:30pm and was in my seat at 7:21 pm.

I took the entrance adjacent to the Hasely Crawford Stadium Training Field. The line there was about 40-50 feet long and about 10 people wide. Problem was there existed only two lanes to get your tickets scanned. Nonsense! To make matters worse, people kept skipping the line. There were some guys with florescent green jackets written ‘steward’ on it. They served little purpose as they just observed the line skipping taking place. No attempt was being made to keep some semblance of order there.

The stewards did not appear to be Trinis either. One even got into an argument with a patron.

I’ve attended other games, some with as much as 80,000 attendance and entrance to the stadium took no more than five minutes. The difference is the number of entry points… I don’t think it requires much thought into finding a solution for the problems we encountered. I must mention that there was a bottleneck to exit the stadium, which is another unnecessary security risk.

Savitri: Every single time I attend a game at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, it’s been a nightmare. Friday was no worse than any other, except that they were scanning tickets at the gate instead of the turnstiles.

It took us about 30 minutes to get through the gates. The security and bag check personnel were situated too close to the scanners, so everyone with bags were crossing those coming in. There were two gates opened to the uncovered stand—both before and after the game. This was amazing, since the crowd leaving was more concentrated. We eventually found seats right over the tunnel. I thought, for security/safety reasons, they could’ve opened more exits to allow a faster flow out of the stadium.

By the way, I never left my seat once the match started. There were just three out of six toilets operational in one of the ladies’ sections.

Brian: Well I had issues with how it was organised.They said that the gates were opening from 4pm and that didn’t happen. I got through due to a partner working with [a company associated with the game] and they hadn’t even set up the ticket scanner yet!
I saw that a lot of people didn’t get a chance to see the entire first half due to the stupidity of the organisers and some even got soaked in the rain waiting to get in.

There should be more turnstiles available for easy access. And if they are saying that the games open at a particular time, well then they should be ready at the time given.

To be honest, it was a joke. They didn’t even check me as I walked in. I could have had a gun in my pocket.

And guess who was sitting in front of me? [National Security Minister Edmund] Dillon!

Mango: Well back in the days it was really easier to get into the stadium to see the games. Most of the ticket entrances used to be open compared to now. I was really happy that I didn’t attend the game against, I think it was either St Vincent or the USA, because I heard getting into the stadium was horrible.

But this time I decided to go because I was told that it would be much better. When we got there around 5.30pm, it wasn’t too bad and I think that it took us about 30 minutes to enter the stadium. And while I was taking pictures of the crowd [from my seat], I realised that a lot of the stadium was still empty including the covered stands and, about 33 minutes into the game, the empty seats began to be filled. So I guess the reason for this was that the entrance to come in was really backed up and this is also because of the searching of [patrons] at the gate.

The other thing I noticed as a security expert is that the screeners were beeping when individuals went through them but no one was checked to see what items they had on their person. So I don’t know how they determined if folks had weapons on them.

And of course on exiting after the game, we went through the same entrance that we came in, instead of some other gates being opened. I guess they don’t get a lot of volunteers like back in the days or they are just about cutting cost and don’t really care about the patrons anymore. They know that our people will always complain and rant about things and, when another event or game is coming around again, it is right back to go through the same madness. Them really good yes.

Wired868: What will be going through your mind when the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) advertises its next home game?

Kirwin: To be honest, I would be attending no matter the situation. But it’s somewhat of a mental toll knowing there’s a possibility you have to endure the same drama again. It sucks a bit of the anticipation and energy from supporters because the focus drifts from football and the players and the support you’ll give, to how horrible the management is to enter the stadium and about trying to recover from that turmoil.

It makes you question your worth as a fan, because your getting into the stadium is not prioritised.

Savitri: I promise not to go to any match again. The worry of my car being towed was too much and instead of ticket scalpers it was TT$50 to park in a soggy, grassy spot. The Hasely Crawford Stadium has outgrown it’s usefulness.

Brian: I would definitely be thinking about their lack or organisation skills for our next home game because it was piss poor. But to be honest, I’m enjoying what [Soca Warriors coach Stephen] Hart has done so far. So I would go [to the game] no matter what.

Mango: That was my last game going to the Stadium unless they make it much easier to enter and exit when the game has concluded. Them really good yes.

For whatever it is worth, Griffith promised a better experience for fans at the next football event.

“Yet again there are over 8,000 persons very upset and rightfully so,” said Griffith, “and simply because some decided to do their own thing, override what I had drafted, and cause havoc.

“I can promise you that this would not take place again, and all relevant personnel would adhere to what is drafted in the Operational Policy, and not try to ‘do their own thing’.”

Editor’s Note: The TTFA’s security consultant, Gary Griffith, responds to Mango’s concern about the body scanners:

“The scanners are designed to trigger from the smallest object to a heavy massive metal object, with five colour coded signals above the scanner. It makes no sense to stop and then search every person anytime the scanner triggers off, as almost every person has  car keys, a cell phone, etc. So those were the individuals that would be allowed to enter.

“It is only when it triggers above three lights, that the persons are then stopped, as it is a metal object above car key/ cell phones, so this is the  alert to then search those persons.

“If we were to search everyone at every signal of the scanner, then each person would be searched and they would then probably have entered an hour or two after the game.”

Open Hart: Warriors coach discusses Guatemala threat, his football philosophy and sack rumours
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868)

“I have come to the conclusion that I am just going to go on the field, work with the players, do what I always do,” Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart told Wired868. “Hopefully with all things and a bit of luck, things go well for us and we get in to the hex.
“And then if decisions are made one way or the other, I will have to accept it.”

The Soca Warriors are fighting for their Russia 2018 World Cup dream. On Friday 2 September 2016, the national football team hosts Guatemala in a vital qualifier at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.
A win or draw will assure the Warriors of a berth in the final CONCACAF six-team qualifying phase—known as the hex—but a loss means Trinidad and Tobago would be in a must-win clash away to the United States on Tuesday 6 September in Jacksonville, Florida.

It is uncertain what bearing the results may have on the current senior Warriors staff of: Hart (head coach), Hutson Charles (assistant coach), Derek King (assistant coach), Dave Isaacs (physio), Michael Maurice (goalkeeper coach), Saran Joseph (massage therapist), Tobias Ottley (trainer/conditioner), William Wallace (manager) and Shaun Fuentes (press officer).

New Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams has already replaced the head coach of every other national football team as well as technical director Kendall Walkes. And the local football body advertised the positions of team manager and press officer last month.

It is in this atmosphere that the Warriors go into battle for the “Red, Black and White”.

Hart discussed the upcoming game with Wired868, just before the team entered camp:

Wired868: So what are your thoughts on how the Pro League teams are getting on in the CONCACAF Champions League so far?

(Both W Connection and Central FC had a loss and a draw each at home).

Stephen Hart: You always know they are going to struggle with the fact that they are not playing a lot of games. Match fitness is something that is very difficult to achieve if you are not playing a lot of games… Sometimes they started they game well but in the later parts of the game, they started to lose shape and became individualistic, etc. But overall I think the national team selects did fairly well.

Wired868: Daneil Cyrus plays exclusively in central defence for W Connection but you use him at right back for Trinidad and Tobago. Would you prefer if he played right back for club too?

Hart: Of course. But I can’t tell any professional club how to utilise their players. They said they need him at centre back and they made their decision to play him there… I have casually mentioned in discussions that he is more suited to right back. But it is entirely their decision.

Wired868: Eight players from Trinidad and Tobago’s tour of South America and China got into your 24-man squad. Does that mean it was a worthwhile exercise?

Hart: It is always good to be working with the players on a consistent basis. That tour had all the stresses that international football has to offer. You are playing against teams that are trying to peak for a major tournament, you have a lot of travel issues, hotel, etc, etc. It was good in that respect. The four days we had together was not sufficient preparation to play games at that level. But it taught me a lot and it taught the players a lot of things.

Wired868: What were those lessons?

Hart: First, on an individual basis, I learnt more about the attitudes, playing behaviour, etc [of those players. Then how we defend in wide positions and our collective pressing. [I learnt more about] the players’ understanding, reading of the game situation and then the speed of execution. It should serve the players well.

Wired868: Why wasn’t there a pre-Guatemala friendly as was initially promised?

Hart: The [TTFA] President and I went over it with the staff. We looked at when we could get the bulk of the players in and we couldn’t get the players in before the morning of the 28th [of August]. So it didn’t make sense.

Wired868: And what about our warm-up schedule for the Caribbean Cup? Are there any friendly games planned and do you know what players you will use?
(Trinidad and Tobago play Caribbean Cup qualifiers on 5, 8 and 11 October).

Hart: You are assuming I will be the coach? No, my mind is not on that. Believe you me, I am completely occupied with all the details of the two upcoming games. I will think about the Caribbean Cup when it is time to think [about the Caribbean Cup].

Wired868: Well, this is your third year as Trinidad and Tobago coach and you made it on the CONCACAF Coach of the Year shortlist… Was it twice?

Hart: I think so. I don’t pay attention to those things.
(Hart took Trinidad and Tobago to the 2013 Gold Cup quarterfinal round and was named on CONCACAF’s Coach of the Year shortlist for 2014 and 2015).

Wired868: Is it weird for there to be rumours about whether you will be fired despite everything the Warriors have accomplished with you?

Hart: Well, those sort of things are out of my control. Of course you hear it and it worries you. You think have you done enough to warrant faith in you. But those things come with the job really. You are at the mercy of those who make those decisions.

And, to tell you the truth, I have come to the conclusion that I am just going to go on the field, work with the players, do what I always do. Hopefully with a bit of luck, things go well for us and we get in to the hex. And then if decisions are made one way or the other, I will have to accept it.

Wired868: There were advertisements too for the position of your team manager and press officer. Have those things had any impact on your staff?

Hart: I think it does have an impact but I think the President understands that any national coach will want the right to choose their own staff. I have had an opportunity to work with this staff for two years and what we have achieved so far was certainly not down to Stephen Hart alone but the support team behind the team.

For me, that is extremely important. Your team has to be unified both on and off the field.

Wired868: You have had some success as Canada national coach and then in Trinidad. You surely would be able to work elsewhere in CONCACAF. What motivates you to stay here?

Hart: When I took the Trinidad and Tobago job, the program was not in its best of health I think. People were losing a little bit of faith and I felt it was the right time. First, for my own self of course—to prove something to myself—and, two, to fulfil a sort of ambition or dream of coming home and contributing in some small way to our football.

Wired868: Surely your dream must have been bigger than just ‘contributing’…

Hart (takes a deep intake of breath): Well, it always is. Because the dream gets bigger and bigger as you watch the progress of the team and the progress of the program. I knew there was going to be a lot of difficulties but if you let that distract you, you probably would not have taken the job in the first place.

For me, the dream is still living on. We have a president now that promises to raise the level of the national team programs or programming. I will just do my part on the field and hopefully it is enough.

Wired868: What do you think this team is capable of?

Hart: I have to be honest with you, I think this team has players with a lot of potential. It has a high capability of doing well in the hex. But sometimes I worry about the confidence of the individuals on the squad. Though they might present themselves as having a confident image, we have to face certain facts that at certain times we have a tendency to struggle. But we also have a tendency to raise the level very high, which shows you the capacity is within them…

I don’t think it is a lack of leadership because we have some strong personalities on the team. I think sometimes there might be the feeling that they don’t get the support that they deserve in terms of what they have gone through in the last two years… I think there is a general feeling that, hey, give us more tools so that we can be even better. But that would probably be better answered by the players.

Hart: The players tend to talk about the general environment around the camp because of course they are accustomed to certain standards. A lot of them are anyway. They are not asking [the TTFA] to duplicate those standards but they would like to be in a situation that puts them in the best possible environment with the program we offer, such as a more science-backed team behind the training, more measured data, etc. And small things like things that present more professionalism when we travel.

Right now, you have players coming in to play a big game travelling over 15 hours in economy. Airplane travel for an athlete is not rest and you really feel it if you are over six feet tall and sitting down in economy for over 11 hours, with a three hour lay-over at the airport before catching another flight, etc, etc.

(When former national coach Leo Beenhakker took over the job in 2005, one of his conditions was that the players were to travel only in business class. His squad became the first Trinidad and Tobago team to qualify for a senior World Cup tournament).

Wired868: Is there any way we can improve without spending more?

Hart (smiles): The bottom line is you need money. I am not sure that there is more we can do with the available resources we have now. When you look at the international scheme of things and the teams we are competing against, they are operating on a much bigger budget than we are. And, quite frankly, we have done as best as we can with the resources that are available to us…

More money would also mean we are in a position where we can have everything ironed out in terms of travel, accommodation, training facilities, in the places we are going to, etc, weeks or even months in advance. Now you have to wait for funding approval and you are not in charge of your budget, so you can’t say we will get this bus or rent this facility. You are constantly waiting for things to be done at an eleventh hour.

We miss out on a lot of opportunities because of this and it is a stress on the staff. Players need to be able come in and know that everything is done for them.

Wired868: And what about the Guatemala game? Is everything in place for that?

Hart: I don’t know what is going on with the players and administrators in terms of compensation, etc. They are having their meetings. But I think everyone is coming in the right frame of mind. They know the importance of the game. And, as I said, we will take care of things around our environment as best we could.

You know there is always some difficulty because of the funding structure of Trinidad and Tobago sport. That needs to be professionalised even more. But as far as everything else, we will close ranks and hopefully make everybody feel as comfortable as possible.

(Despite the discomfort experienced by the staff, the Soca Warriors have been paid all outstanding bonuses by the TTFA and are understood to be negotiating bonuses for getting to the hex).

Wired868: What should we expect from Guatemala on Friday?

Hart: They will do everything within their power to win this game. Simple as that. They need to win the game and they know if they get the result, they will more than likely get the result in their next game [against St Vincent and the Grenadines] and then they’re sitting pretty.

Their strength lies through their middle. [Carlos] Ruiz is a handful and he can still do a lot of damage. And then they have their number 10, [Jose] Contreras. He is very mobile and very tricky and combines well with Ruiz. So we will see how we can cope with that.

Ruiz winds people up, he antagonises defenders. He is one of the nicest men you will meet off the field but on the field he is a serious antagonist and referees have to be aware of that.

Wired868: We have beaten Guatemala twice last year and done really well against them physically and with set pieces…

Hart: Yes, but we have also shown a lack in concentration at times. Good players make the least amount of errors. Great players hardly make any errors at all. So the game comes down to some simple decisions or lack of decisions [made by our players] when it is tight. And we need to always be better in terms of concentration which, for me, is always a problem for Trinidad and Tobago players—now I am generalising here!—because a lot of them don’t play at a level where they are fighting to win the league or fighting not to get demoted. A lot of them play in comfortable middle of the table teams and they just ride out the season after a while.

(Neither the Pro League nor the United States Major League Soccer competitions relegate their worst clubs).

Wired868: A draw is enough and, for once, Trinidad and Tobago seem to have a team that can grind out a result, right?

Hart: Well, I think we have showed that in the past… This is international football. You can look at one team that starts a competition poorly and rises as the competition goes on with a little bit of luck. Or you have teams that play poorly throughout the competition and win it, just based on sheer determination, fight and luck. And that’s how international football is because it is not a week in, week out calculated thing.

I think the strength of this team is in its unity. And I have more or less stuck with a core of players that understand what I am looking for. Yes, we know we can improve in certain aspects of our game but that is something we are doing gradually.

The players try. I talk to them and I show them [what they must do better] on video and they work hard at it. But in international football, you just don’t play enough [games] and the way we are going it always seems as if we are always in tournament mode in Caribbean football. Mexico, USA and Canada don’t have to qualify for the Gold Cup, so they have time to prepare. But we always seem to be in tournament mode.

If we get through these two games and getting into the hex, you enter another stress situation [with the Caribbean Cup]. (Laughs). It just seems to be ongoing…

The Caribbean Cup is not just the Caribbean Cup, it is also a competition to get into the Gold Cup… If you were to go in the Caribbean Cup to experiment, you are running the risk of not qualifying for the Gold Cup and then of course the coach will be put under the microscope and scrutinised for his decision. So it is a Catch 22.

Judging from the last CFU tournament, nobody went there with an experimental team. And I doubt it is going to happen this time. And when the Caribbean Cup finishes, it is straight to the hex.

(Cuba and St Vincent and the Grenadines are two respected football nations that have already been eliminated in the first two qualifying rounds of the Caribbean Cup).

Wired868: What style of team are we developing with the current Soca Warriors?

Hart: We have a team that can do two things. We can counter attack because of our team speed and we do have the ability to possess the ball better. It is just a matter of finding the right moments. We can still play faster technically and when we get on good pitches we usually do.

People ask me how come when we go abroad we play better and I explain that it is because the ground is damp or wet and the surface allows you to play faster.

Wired868: Can you tell us more about your philosophy as a coach?

Hart: I am afraid of the word ‘philosophy’ because I have never believed in short passing or long passing. It is whatever is the right pass, make that pass. I believe in game intelligence. I like my teams to dominate ball possession, I like my teams to know when to speed up a game and when to slow down a game. And, if possible, I like my team to know how to kill off a game, which is very difficult.

When you have a national team in which the bulk of the players come from one team it is easier to [implement ideas]. But when you have 11 players playing for 11 different teams, it becomes a little more complicated.

Wired868: Well, John Bostock has not played for Trinidad and Tobago yet and, even now, we are not sure whether he will be available against Guatemala and how he will cope. Is that uncertainty a concern for you?

Hart: I think he is a professional. It is not like he is a young player. And I think his mannerism and his approach is one that will allow him to settle with the team quite nicely.

Wired868: What do you mean by his ‘mannerism’?

Hart: Well, he has a way about him of taking in what you want and trying to adapt as quickly as possible. He is not an antagonistic type of person who complains that ‘you are not allowing me to play my game’, which I don’t usually do. Yes, there are things you have to do when you don’t have the ball and there is space to fill when you do have the ball. Those are normal [requirements from a coach]. But in terms of ‘you have to do this’. I’m not that type of coach.

Wired868: Is Bostock a deep lying playmaker?

Hart: He can be. He can also play the ‘10’. And he is very good at dead ball situations.

(Bostock subsequently ruled himself out of the squad on 29 August due to ‘passport issues’ and the FIFA delay in granting him clearance).

Wired868: So you have all your midfield options available with Kevan George back?

Hart: Yes. And doing quite well. I saw a few of his games. [George] is the type of player who in Trinidad and Tobago doesn’t get a lot of praise. But he does the ‘roll up the sleeves’ work.

Wired868: And why did you send for [Canada-born and United States-based goalkeeper] Greg Ranjitsingh and give him the nod over [Ma Pau Stars and 2009 Under-20 World Cup goalkeeper] Glenroy Samuel?

Hart: I saw three of Ranjitsingh’s games and he looked the part. He is very good at shot stopping. To be honest, it is hard to assess goalkeepers because you might go to a game and he deals with [just] five crosses and two shots. But he is playing, his team is on top of the league [in the United States second tier] and he has had a number of shut outs… It would be very difficult for me to go with three goalkeepers none of whom are playing football.

(The Pro League is still in pre-season and none of the available local-based goalkeepers have played any competitive football in over four months).

Wired868: Kenwyne Jones said one of his reasons for returning to the Pro League is he will be closer to the national side. Do you appreciate having him here?

(Jones is on loan at Central FC until he begins pre-season training with new MLS franchise, Atlanta United FC, in January 2017).

Hart: Not really. I would say no but yes because he would have been doing nothing otherwise. For me, it would have been much better if he was playing regularly in the MLS. Of all the criticism people have of the MLS, if he was playing there it would be a big bonus. If you look at the strikers in CONCACAF who are playing in the MLS, like [Clint] Dempsey, Blas Perez, etc, they are doing the job at international level.

Wired868: Kenwyne has had a love-hate relationship with local fans. Can you tell me what he brings to the team and what we will miss about him when he is gone?

Hart: I always felt the criticism of Kenwyne was a bit unfair, just like I felt the criticism of Stern John was a bit unfair. They would say ‘all Stern John does is score goals’, which is a ridiculous statement. Would you prefer for him to beat some men and make a pretty pass and there is no outcome?

Kenwyne occupies a lot of attention when he plays in and around the box. And because of that he frees up space for the ‘11’, the ‘7’ the ‘10’—the left and right winger and attacking midfielder—to play. Because you have to be always aware of him. If you look at the video footage, he is marked by two or even three guys.

Look at the game against the US, they put [Jermaine] Jones in front of Kenwyne and they had the central defender [Geoff Cameron] behind him and they made him play in a cylinder. And sometimes the other defender covered just in case. I mean it took a lot of mental energy from the other team to keep an eye on Kenwyne.

Wired868: Sometimes he seems to spend a lot of time outside the opposing penalty area. Is that some sort of strategy or is it that a problem?

Hart: No (it is not a strategy). I think that is something he needs to do more. But it is hard as a striker because you play for such long periods without the ball and unless you are a (former Brazil World Cup winner) Romario—who doesn’t care if he touches the ball unless he is putting it in the back of the net—it is hard to be patient and wait for that moment… It’s tough but it is what modern strikers need to do and they need to be the first line of defending as well.

Wired868: You have said fans should not come out expecting to see ‘pretty football’ against Guatemala. So what should they expect?

Hart: I didn’t [exactly] say don’t expect pretty football. I said don’t expect it to be pretty. It is going to be one of those games that has an edge to it and it will require a very strong referee. We will not alter how we play significantly. We want to dictate the pace of the game. What we need is for the fans to push us on regardless of what the score is at the time. You have to push the team and support the team. Too many times when I go to the games, the fans watch [on passively] like they’re watching television.

Wired868: Any closing words for football fans and Wired868 readers?

Hart: I just hope we can deliver on the day and I want to say thanks [to the fans] for all the support since I’ve been here. And thanks for supporting the team.

St Mary’s fails Shiva Boys exam; Penal pupils star in St Clair
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868.com)

First, the good news for St Mary’s College football fans. The Shiva Boys Hindu College team eventually gave the “Saints” their ground back this evening.
But, just to be on the safe side, perhaps CIC coach Ryan Shim should have a priest and trauma counsellor on hand for their next trip to Serpentine Road, St Clair.
The final score read 3-1 to Shiva but, for those who witnessed the affair, it was so much worse.
“It was very very difficult for us today,” Shim told Wired868. “Once we got behind, we chased the game a bit but it just didn’t happen for us in the end…
“We did all we could do today.”
St Mary’s striker Chinua Bernard put in a good shift and, fittingly, got the lone goal for the hosts. But they lacked the poise and purpose of a Shiva team that is (top of the table).
“We have a lot of work to do,” said Shiva coach Hayden Ryan. “We are seeing in spurts what we can do. And sometimes things just falling apart.”
There are indeed occasions when the Shiva Boys outfit looks like a make-shift, extempore band of liming partners.
But the beauty of Ryan’s outfit, which was crafted over the years by former “Strike Squad” defender Dexter Francis, is that, on the ball, his troops play with a single philosophy.
Their style of play could be summarised as: pass, pass, pass and wait for a winger to get possession while facing his marker. And then Shiva goes from zero to 100 really quickly.
Quinn Rodney, who started on the right flank but ended the match at centre forward, was decisive today although he did not get on the score summary. Tyrell “Pappy” Emmanuel, as always, was peerless in central midfield. And the two combined for the opener in the 26th minute.
Rodney zipped past two opponents on the touchline and whipped in an inviting cross at the far post where Pappy steered his header past St Mary’s custodian Kristopher Donaldson.
“They looked a well knit unit,” said Shim. “They had a lot of pace and power in wide areas and they look good in the middle of the park also.”
St Mary’s did respond though. Bernard was a whisker away from the opener himself, just seconds before Pappy struck, and the versatile 17-year-old attacker conjured up an equaliser for the Saints in the 38th minute.
There seemed to be little on when Bernard glided away from an opponent on the left side of his opponents’ penalty area. But Shiva goalkeeper Denzil Smith’s mind was elsewhere and the St Mary’s student surprised him at his near post.
The scoreline flattered the hosts, though, and Tyrell “Sexy Man” Baptiste corrected that, three minutes before the interval, as he spun between his markers and drove Shiva back into the lead with a finish into the far corner.
Baptiste started the season on Shiva’s bench but yesterday’s strike was his third in as many matches. Maybe Ryan has found his ‘number nine.’
The Saints were a shell of their old selves in the second half as Shiva players strode around the St Clair ground as though they had just bought the place.
Read more: http://wired868.com/2015/10/03/st-marys-fails-shiva-boys-exam-penal-pupils-star-in-st-clair/

Football / De Silva delight for Central; Sharks cruise past Point Fortin
« on: September 27, 2015, 02:33:49 PM »
De Silva delight for Central; Sharks cruise past Point Fortin
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868.com)

Central FC midfielder Sean De Silva notched an opening day double at Mahaica Oval yesterday as the defending Pro League champion club got its 2015/16 season off to a flawless start with a 3-0 win over Point Fortin Civic.
“I think coming off the CONCACAF performance this was a little bit lower,” Central coach Ross Russell told Wired868. “Our opponents did well and made things difficult, so this wasn’t as smooth as we wanted it to be. But it is a win.”
Difficult is clearly relative. Apart from keeping a leash on his enthusiastic and talkative right back, Kaydion “Drogba” Gabriel, Russell surely enjoyed his calmest day in charge at the “Couva Sharks” to date.
Point Fortin did not roll over. But it is too early in the cycle of coach Leroy De Leon’s young team for them to pose much threat to a Central team that is already a month and a half into its competitive season.
“I am still mixing and matching to see who can do what,” said De Leon. “But we will get there.”
De Leon got no sympathy from the Central club that poached his most potent attacker, Marcus “Lobo” Joseph, and his captain and defensive lynchpin, Andre Ettienne.
And, if you believe the champion club was too sophisticated to taunt its struggling rival, think again.
“Ross Russell went down south, in an army van,” sang the “Central Choir”, “came back with a defender, Andre Ettienne.”
Ettienne, as it turned out, was absent through injury while playmaker Ataulla Guerra and tricky winger Jason Marcano were also missing from Russell’s 18-man squad. But the Sharks still had ample firepower to handle their host team.
There were over 800 supporters at the fixture in Mahaica Oval, which is sizeable by Pro League standards but tame compared to when Joseph and Andre Toussaint, now at DIRECTV W Connection, were in Point Fortin’s first team.
De Leon, an all-time Trinidad and Tobago legend, still has talent within the team’s ranks although, by his own admission, he is still in the experimental phase.
Yesterday, Shackiel Henry, who starred as an inverted winged attacker for the Trinidad and Tobago National Under-23 Team at the July 2015 Pan American Games, was used as a fairly orthodox right side midfielder with the inventive Akeem Redhead on the other flank.
De Leon said he asked both players to stay wide. But, at a glance, their movement seemed far too predictable for the Central defence and surely Civic would need them to be much more involved if the proud but financially-strapped club is to have any joy this season.
Henry’s and Redhead’s tame performances yesterday made the result inevitable. Although the main problem was the centre of the park, where Central veteran Marvin Oliver was imperious and his partner, Elton John, was tidy and efficient.
Civic’s central midfielders, Kelvin “Supers” Modeste and Jayson “Mouse” Joseph, snapped and snarled but could not throw them off their game.
Read more: http://wired868.com/2015/09/27/de-silva-delight-for-central-sharks-cruise-past-point-fortin/

Stay away, Sancho! Central FC players protest possible Sancho and Harrison returns
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868)

Former Sport Minister Brent Sancho and his advisor Kevin Harrison were subjected to a new low today, as 24 of Central FC’s 29 football players signed a petition that urged their board of directors not to allow them back to the Pro League club.

The petition, which was addressed to “the management of Central FC”, stated that: “We, the players of Central FC, are not in favour of the former management team of Brent Sancho and Kevin Harrison returning to the club with so many allegations outstanding against them.”

The letter was signed by the majority of the squad including: Trinidad and Tobago international senior players Jan-Michael Williams, Willis Plaza, Marcus Joseph and Ataulla Guerra, national youth team players Nicholas Dillon, Nathaniel Garcia and Javon Sample and stand-outs Marvin Oliver, Jamal Jack, Elton John and Jason Marcano.

Sancho and Harrison were founding members of Central FC, three years ago, and continued to be involved in the club’s affairs over the past eight months, despite also working for the People’s Partnership Government as Sport Minister and Advisor to the Sport Minister respectively.

However, a series of exclusive articles on Wired868 showed suspicious behaviour by the pair, which was directly related to their stewardship at the “Couva Sharks.”

In one email from Harrison on 27 August 2014, the Englishman asked British football agent Steve Davies to “slip in a personal payment” related to the transfer of Trinidad and Tobago international forward Rundell Winchester to Belgium lower division club, CS Visé, which was to be split between Harrison and Sancho.

Davies rebuffed the request.

CONCACAF also confirmed to Wired868 that, on 16 June 2015, Harrison asked the football confederation to wire money due to the Sharks to Sancho’s personal bank account. CONCACAF’s statement directly contradicted assertions by Sancho, Harrison and Central that the request was made before his appointment as Sport Minister.

The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) has opened a probe into both matters and also asked Sancho and Harrison to explain their behaviour in the signing of then 16 year old attacker Levi Garcia and the alleged non-payment of promised bonuses to Central players.

Sancho and Harrison were given a deadline of Friday September 18 to respond to the local football body.

“(The players) don’t want Sancho and Harrison back for the reasons that they are unscrupulous and dishonest,” a Central source told Wired868, on the condition of anonymity. “We are hearing that even potential sponsors are concerned about them being involved with the club. The players definitely want no part of them.”

In their petition this morning, the Sharks also hinted at a concern over contracts as they vowed not to be pressured into replacing their existing deals: “The players of Central FC are not prepared to sign new amended contracts to replace our existing agreements with the club.”

A well-placed anonymous source explained that Central players have been asked  by club management to sign new contracts, which make them responsible for paying tax on their income. Thus far, the players have refused.

Central FC is owned by SIS officials Daren Mohamdally and Ronald Ramlogan and Wired868 was reliably informed that they have been trying to sell the club for the past month.

It is uncertain whether SIS’ apparent haste to abandon the Sharks is due to the September 7 election results—SIS is a major financier of the United National Congress (UNC)—or the recent revelations about the conduct of the club chairman, Sancho. Or a combination of the two.

But Sancho, who was said to be in a precarious personal financial situation at the start of the year, is now believed to have put together a bid for the club. Central officials remain tightlipped on the matter.

Central manager Kevin Jeffrey said he could not comment on the possible return of Sancho and Harrison or the sale of the football club. He did not know about the players’ petition either.

“I’ve been busy with our (CONCACAF) Champions League business whole day,” Jeffrey told Wired868. “I don’t know anything about a petition signed by the players. But I will definitely call now to find out.”

Jeffrey asked Wired868 to ring him back in 10 minutes. However, he did not answer subsequent phone calls or return our calls.

Wired868 also tried unsuccessfully to reach Mohamdally.

The Sharks, who are the reigning Caribbean and Pro League champions, will face Guatemalan outfit, Comunicaciones, from 8 pm tomorrow in a decisive CONCACAF Champions League fixture at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain.

Fellow Pro League outfit, DIRECTV W Connection, hosts Costa Rican champion, Deportivo Saprissa, from 8 pm today at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.

Central FC, in an unusual move for the club, did not put its players in a live-in camp before the Champions League fixture. And there is internal suspicion that SIS is trimming its budget, as Mohamdally and Ramlogan prepare exit strategies.

Sancho and Harrison always maintained their intention to return to Central if defeated at the polls and the former Sport Minister said as much in a phone-in to Andre Baptiste’s sport programme on I95.5 FM on Saturday 12 September 2015.

Harrison watched Central FC edge W Connection 1-0 last Friday to win the Charity Shield at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva. But it is now clear that the players do not wish to see much more of them.

The Central players’ show of disgust continues a remarkable fall from grace for Sancho and Harrison, who were key figures behind the now defunct Football Players Association of Trinidad and Tobago (FPATT). Sancho was a founding member of FPATT while Harrison, a former voluntary member of Britain’s Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), was its “special advisor.”

It is uncertain if either administrator will watch the Sharks play Comunicaciones tomorrow, although Harrison rarely misses games.

Arguably, the TTFA probe might be of more concern to Sancho and Harrison. If the two men are found guilty of improper conduct, the local football body can impose a range of disciplinary measures, which range from warnings to being banned from entering any football stadium and taking part in football-related activities.

Wired868 understands that the pair’s response—or non-response—to the TTFA’s questions will be forwarded by general secretary Sheldon Phillips to his executive committee for consideration.

The TTFA executive committee could then choose to send the case to its Disciplinary Committee, which is chaired by Newton George. Or it can put the issue before its Ethics or Player Status Committees, which are to be implemented soon under the new constitution.

Sancho is a former litigant against the TTFA and, as Sport Minister, repeatedly criticised the football body for a lack of transparency and empathy for its football players.


Editor’s Note: Brent Sancho and Kevin Harrison have both written blogs for Wired868 and participated in Wired868’s annual football festival.
However, Wired868 will not waver in its goal to provide honest and pertinent news to its readers, regardless of the personalities involved.

FIFA freezes TTFA funding; KPMG suspends services while football staff unpaid
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868.com)

The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) is in the midst of another financial crisis after FIFA confirmed that it has frozen its annual US$250,000 (approximately TT $1.5 million) subvention to the local body while the TTFA’s auditor, KPMG, has also suspended its services.

As a result, the TTFA’s administrative staff has not been paid since June. And, worse, without KPMG’s assistance, the football body has no chance of meeting the criteria for funding set by FIFA or the Ministry of Sport.

Yet, on the surface, TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee and general secretary Sheldon Phillips present a facade of calm and progress, as they recently embarked on a media tour to boast of their leadership.

Last Friday, the football body announced a marketing deal with Clever Advertising and the launch of their “Being a Warrior begins here” campaign. No financial details were provided and media personnel present were not allowed to ask questions during the “interactive segment.”

Phillips confirmed to Wired868 that the TTFA has not paid its office staff since June.

“Yes, we have not been able to pay the staff for July because our funding has not come through from FIFA as yet,” Phillips told Wired868. “Also we were forced to spend $650,000 that we had not budgeted for as the Ministry was supposed to have paid for our travel… And also the remainder of the subvention is to be discussed.”

Phillips refused to give details regarding FIFA’s actions, though.

“Raymond (Tim Kee) is the best person to get details on that particular issue,” he said. “I will have him call you.”

Tim Kee did not return any calls to his mobile phone or respond to a presumed prompt by Phillips.

However, Wired868 can confirm that the TTFA’s problems are directly related to its own accounting issues.

FIFA releases just over US$250,000 (approximately TT $1.5 million) annually to its member association under the Financial Assistance Programme (FAP), which is paid in four tranches. However, that payment was not wired to Trinidad in July.

A FIFA spokesman told Wired868 that it had turned off the tap due to the TTFA’s failure to provide audited accounts.

“As mentioned to you previously, in accordance with the General Regulations for FIFA Development Programmes, all member associations including the TTFA have to comply with certain standard procedures,” stated FIFA, via an email, “such as internal financial audits in order to receive funds corresponding to the Financial Assistance Programme (FAP) and other FIFA development programmes.

“Financial assistance and approval of new programmes to the TTFA are currently on hold awaiting full compliance.”

According to the General Regulations for FIFA Development Programmes, Tim Kee and Phillips were duty-bound to provide audited financial statements approved by the TTFA executive and presented to its general assembly.

The TTFA audit, according to FIFA, should have been up to December 2014 and ought to have landed in Zurich by 31 March 2015. But, up until 22 May 2015, the football body had only done audited statements up until 2008.

Ironically, Tim Kee blasted Sport Minister Brent Sancho for his initial refusal to release taxpayers’ money to the football money without the proper audited statements. After a two-month stand off, Sancho relented and resumed State funding for the TTFA.

FIFA has so far refused to be as lenient and, with president Sepp Blatter on the way out, there is no more patience for the excuse that it is all the fault of ex-FIFA vice president Jack Warner.

It has been four years since Warner quit all his football posts and three years since 13 World Cup 2006 players took several accounting documents out of the TTFA’s headquarters during a court ordered levy.

Tim Kee has repeatedly said he inherited a financial mess at the TTFA that was not of his own making. Arguably, the TTFA’s constitution says otherwise.

Under the current constitution, which should be formally replaced within the next two months, the TTFA’s vice presidents are assigned specific responsibility for one of three areas: Technical Matters and Development, Funding and Finance, and Competitions and Tournaments.

For more than a decade, Tim Kee had direct responsibility for “Funding and Finance” at the TTFA, including the controversial period before and after the 2006 World Cup.

And, although Tim Kee claimed he did the 2006 “Soca Warriors” a favour by helping them to receive a settlement for money owed through a World Cup bonus agreement, he had more than a passing responsibility for the football body’s finances at a time when the TTFF gave the players bogus income statements related to the prestigious FIFA competition.

Tim Kee is also the PNM treasurer and Port of Spain Mayor. And, with Trinidad and Tobago’s general elections looming in 2015, there is concern that, should the PNM replace the People’s Partnership, the TTFA president might hope to use taxpayers’ money to cover for the financial irregularities within the football body.

Still, Tim Kee and, by extension, the TTFA are not the only culpable parties.

FIFA violated its own FAP rules for over a decade as it continued to fund the TTFA despite the local body’s failure to fulfil its accounting obligation to the Zurich-based governing body.

And, even after Warner’s controversial departure in 2011, FIFA continued to send cheques to Trinidad. The FAP money is used primarily to pay the TTFA’s office staff and general secretary, Phillips.

Phillips, despite the TTFA’s failure to raise money from the private sector, receives a salary of just over TT$23,000 per month plus a housing allowance of around TT$21,000 and a company car.

On 30 November 2014, after Wired868’s exclusive report about a missing TT$400,000 TTFA licensing fee, Tim Kee restructured Phillips’ portfolio and hired football manager William Wallace to “lead government relations and team managements.”

Yet, although the TTFA agreed to pay Wallace to absorb some of Phillips’ key duties, the general secretary’s salary remained untouched.

And, although Phillips’ contract expired in May, he continued to operate and be remunerated as general secretary.

The TTFA’s new crisis started with the United States Department of Justice’s swoop on FIFA, just before Blatter’s re-election in May.

As US law enforcement agencies started faxing extradition requests to Zurich, FIFA officials were apparently no longer willing to turn a blind eye to errant football bodies. And the TTFA’s pleas for leniency fell on deaf ears.

Crucially, KPMG was also spooked. After the DOJ’s arrests, the global auditing firm took a battering for its role as auditor for FIFA and many of its member associations.

KPMG’s audit, according to MarketWatch.com, is intended to express an opinion on whether the financial statements, prepared by FIFA personnel according to International Financial Reporting Standards, are free from material misstatements.

KPMG reviews the organisation’s internal controls when deciding which audit procedures to perform but did not, in FIFA’s case, express an opinion on the effectiveness of their internal control system.

The international auditing firm should select activities and transactions to be tested “based on their risk of causing a material misstatement of financial reports.”

“With all the prior allegations of corruption and bribery levelled against FIFA and some of its member associations over the years, KPMG should have been on high alert to the potential for corruption,” said Jerry Silk, a partner at law firm Bernstein Litowitz Berger and Grossman that represented investors in lawsuits against the global audit firms. “Auditors are supposed to do more and be more vigilant when there’s clearly higher risk.”

Did KPMG decide, belatedly, that the TTFA was not worth the trouble?

The auditing firm declined comment on its relationship with the local football body. However, Wired868 was reliably informed that KPMG’s international body suspended its services to the TTFA soon after the FIFA Congress in May. And there is no timeline for a resumption of the relationship between the two bodies.

Phillips insisted that the TTFA was not responsible for the KPMG suspension of services although he said the local football body was trying to “sort things out” with the international auditing firm.

“Yes, there are issues (but) the KPMG thing has nothing to do with us,” said Phillips. “It is about the international branch calling the local branch and it is to do with the FIFA investigation and the DOJ investigations, which swept us up into the whole mess.”

Was KPMG, like FIFA, guilty of turning a blind eye to the TTFA’s or TTFF’s shenanigans?

It is worth noting that, while KPMG was responsible for auditing the TTFA, the auditing firm had no such authority over the football body’s various Local Organising Committees (LOC), which never seemed to close.

On 4 May 2008, a TTFF letter instructed committee members and companies seeking tickets for an international friendly against England to make all cheques “payable to LOC 2006 Ltd.”

Tim Kee, the then TTFF vice president, was copied in on the statement.

The letter, which was dispatched a full two years after the 2006 World Cup, not only implicated Tim Kee in the possible diversion of funds that should have gone to the football body.

It might also explain why the TTFF repeatedly refused, even under the threat of contempt of court, to hand over the LOC’s accounting statements to the Trinidad and Tobago High Court, during the bonus dispute.

For instance, in 2010, Warner instructed the South Korea FA and FIFA to wire a combined US$750,00 (approximately TT $4.5 million) in aid relief for Haiti to the LOC rather than the KPMG-audited TTFA.

For years, the TTFA pointed to KPMG’s reputation as a defence to accusations of fraud and misappropriation of funds while Tim Kee claimed that the football body’s scandals had nothing to do with him.

It appears that nobody is accepting either excuse anymore. And, without FIFA money and a cool response from the private sector, Tim Kee would be desperate to benefit from State funding if he is to have any chance of retaining his post at the TTFA’s election in November.

In the interim, the TTFA has used 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup prize money and funding for different programs to keep the national teams afloat while Tim Kee continues his standoff with the Sport Minister.

The football body will also play Mexico in an international friendly in Salt Lake City, Utah on September 4. In keeping with tradition under the current TTFA leadership, details of the match contract were not only hidden from the media but from its own executive as well.

According to one London-based football agent, who operates in the Caribbean, match agents usually charge the host nation a minimum of Ł5,000 (approximately TT$50,000) per game plus “full affair costs”, which means all expenses such as travel costs and match fees.

On top of those fees, agents usually demand a percentage of gates and television revenue as well.

An agent with a commitment from an international team to arrange a game on a particular day, for instance, can hawk around the world until he or she finds a suitable football association that will pay the most for the match.

Trinidad and Tobago, according to the agent who spoke on condition of anonymity, is an attractive proposition for match agents as it is one of the few international teams that generally has all its affair costs paid for by its government.

So, in theory, a match agent could charge the Romania or Jordan FA for the cost of airline tickets and match fees for the Warriors and then pocket that money once the trip is written off by the Ministry of Sport. On top of that, the agent would still benefit from a booking fee and cut of the gates and television rights.

Phillips was a match agent and ran his own company, Element Agency, before he took up the position of TTFA general secretary in May 2013. He claimed to have closed the company then.

However, more than a year later, Wired868 received documentation that showed Phillips using his Element Agency email account to conduct TTFA’s business for a high profile friendly away to Argentina.

Phillips claimed it was an honest mistake.

“I have a glitch in my email where sometimes emails that go out go out with my Element address,” Phillips told Wired868. “I’ve tried to fix it and even disabled the address but emails still go out. I have to get that fixed.

“Element has never been a part of anything since I got involved in the TTFA.”

Hart exam: T&T coach talks football philosophy, squad selection and the 2018 W/Cup
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868.com)

“I think football is about creating a balance,” Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart told Wired868. “The first thing you need to know is how you are going to recover the ball. If you cannot recover the ball, then you are in trouble.

“And when you recover the ball, depending on the part of the field you are, knowing how to play. Do you keep it or do you look to launch a counter-attack?”

Hart sat down with Wired868 for a wide ranging interview into the state of the “Soca Warriors”, the 2013 and 2015 Gold Cup tournaments, his tactical and player selections and the Russia 2018 World Cup campaign.

This is the second and final instalment of our Hart-to-heart:

Wired868: What was the trick with Kenwyne Jones? He seemed to have worked with you better than any other coach…

Hart: I think you would need to speak to Kenwyne about that. I try to always advise Kenwyne along certain lines and let him know if I am happy with what he is doing or if I am not happy with what he is doing. But I am also aware of the enormous strain he is under from the Trinidad public, which I think is unfair.

People don’t take into consideration the kind of attention other teams pay towards him. And what I’ve found is it has been very difficult to find a partner for Kenwyne who could create the type of service he would require.

He is not the typical Trinidad and Tobago striker who could pick up and make room for himself or beat his man. He requires service. So the difficulty was to create situations where the service was close enough to him to exploit the space he creates by being double marked and/or to feed off things that come off of him, which is what (Kevin) Molino did so very well.

Wired868: You think Kevin Molino is by far the best partner for Kenwyne?

Hart: Yes. Because Kevin played close to Kenwyne. The other ‘number 10s’ (attacking central midfielders), so to speak, have a habit of playing close to the midfield. And, quite frankly, if a team is defending and the (opposing) ‘number 10’ is playing in the middle of the park, they have done their job.

But if the ‘number 10’ is finding room on the top of the penalty box, then it creates a problem. And Kevin has the ability to find room on the top of the penalty area.

Wired868: Jonathan Glenn didn’t play a minute at the Gold Cup and I think he only played 10 minutes in the Caribbean Cup. What is the value that you think he brings to the team?

Hart: He is an excellent finisher. His finishing ability is probably the most composed in the squad. I think he will get his chance but Kenwyne was playing so well…

Glenn is a ‘nine’. He said he rarely ever plays wide. It is just a matter of biding his time and when he gets the opportunity…

Wired868: The younger players, Rundell Winchester and Kadeem Corbin, didn’t get a look in. Is it harder for new players to grow on you?

Hart: No. It was unfortunate but the way the team was playing at the time, it didn’t make sense changing up the squad for the sake of giving them experience in a tournament.

That is what happens with Trinidad and Tobago football at every level. We are going to tournaments for experience and the (part where we properly prepare players beforehand and provide them with the) experience so they can play in a tournament is severely lacking.

So it is very difficult for me at that point to know what would be coming off the bench with those younger players, even though Rundell is not so much of a risk as Corbin.

Wired868: And what about another newcomer, attacking midfielder Keron Cummings, who got into the team after injuries to Molino and Hughtun Hector?

Hart: I think his attitude was good in that he came in listening… I told him there are  two potential positions you could play and if you do this you would have a very good chance of playing.

But even in the first half of the Mexico game, he started off doing what I told him I didn’t pick him in the past for. Which is he was getting comfortable with the midfielders (and playing too deep). (He would) bounce a ball and get it back but really not do anything (to effect the game).

At half time, the basic knowledge passed to him was get close to Kenwyne and feed off anything that comes to him. (Cummings went on to score twice in the second half with both goals coming from assists by Jones).

Wired868: What do you think of the composition of the squad?

Hart: I think there is a lot of room for improvement and the fact that we had two centre backs playing full back speaks for itself. In my opinion, Aubrey David has the option to be a very good centre back.

I like Cyrus a lot at full back because he gives you so much. But he still has a lot to learn about being a full back. His positioning can be better.

Mekeil did his best but it was a huge learning curve for him. He was put in the left back position (although he is) a centre back (for his club)…

Soon we will get the Hoytes (Justin and Gavin) back, who can both play full back. Especially Gavin. Their In Stats ratings are very high. Gavin in particular has the ability to play stopper.

Wired868: What type of player do you think is missing on the team or you feel you can do with more of?

Hart: I think people underestimate the kind of tournament Kevan George had but he was outstanding. He broke up so many players by taking away passing lanes. (And) he kept popping up with the ball in crucial times.

His energy in the midfield and his ability to cover the attacking partner in the midfield and protect his two centre backs was outstanding. A second player to do that job with the same sort of physical qualities would be a big asset.

Wired868: Isn’t that what Dwane James is supposed to be?

Hart: Yes but to be fair to Dwane he is still learning the midfield position at North East and the international learning curve seemed to be a bit fast for him to adapt. He looked far more comfortable in training as a full back.

Wired868: And what about a playmaker who can help us keep the ball better?

Hart: Well that search will continue. Certainly Cummings can do that and Ataulla (Guerra) has the ability to do that but they both have the habit of doing it on the wrong part of the field.

If you look at the other ‘10s’, they come off the defence looking for the ball in pockets like the Mexican (playmakers).

(He explained that Mexico employed a floating ‘10’ rather than one particular player, as Andres Guardado, Carlos Vela and Giovani Dos Santos all played the role at times).

And look how much damage (Michael) Bradley did popping up as a sort of quasi-10 for the US.

Our ‘number 10s’ play too far away from the ‘9’, ‘7’ and ‘11’ (centre forward, right winger and left back). And they play closer to the ‘8’ and the ‘4’ (holding central midfielders) which is not what we want.

Wired868: And what about the deep-lying playmaker that we had before like David Nakhid or even Densill Theobald? Is there a role for that kind of player now?

Hart: Yes. If you could find one for me. But I don’t think we have anything in that mould so to speak.

Andre Boucaud is one who helps us keep the ball very well and every time he came on in this tournament, he settled us down. Because he always tends to be available and, if you look at his passing statistics, he was exceptionally good.

He also has the tendency to make the forward pass rather than the square pass. But his passing range is not like Nakhid’s.

Wired868: So you would like an athletic, combative midfielder?

Hart: No. Not necessarily. I would like a bit more variety in the role of ‘10’ and in the position of the midfield (anchor) so it gives me a bit more tactical variation that I could work with.

So if I need two out and out holding midfielders so I can release four or five players up the field and feel comfortable I can defend, then fine. There are games I would gladly go in doing that.

And if I can get a ‘10’ that can create opportunities for ‘7’, ‘11’ and ‘9’ (right winger, left winger and centre forward) and score some goals, I would gladly accept that…

I think both my goalkeepers (Jan-Michael Williams and Marvin Phillip) are highly underrated by the way. They are two very good goalkeepers and, by goalkeeping standards, they are young.

Wired868: Apart from Corbin, any other national youth players you can see being fast tracked into the senior team for the 2018 World Cup campaign?

Hart: Given the right situation, if they are playing regularly with their clubs.

(He named five National Under-23 players that he is watching closely. But he did not want their names published as he felt it might put additional pressure on the young men).

Wired868: Will we go back to the 4-3-3 formation that you tried to implement at the Gold Cup? Or has that been scrapped?

Hart: Let me just say that the adaptation to the 4-3-3 seemed to be a bit too complex for the players in the time frame that we had. We were losing shape way too easily…

(He gave a detailed breakdown of the two main variations of the 4-3-3 he attempted to use and explained how each would affect the shape and responsibilities of his midfielders, attackers and full backs. However, he preferred not to reveal those ideas publicly).

With the 4-3-3, I could have gotten the best technical players, on paper, on the field. But somehow I think some of those players don’t want to hear anything with the word ‘tactic’ in it.

(He explained how the movement of some players in key roles could cause the collapse of the 4-3-3 system and why he felt it became too much of a risk).

Wired868: Would you say you are pragmatic coach? Do you set up your team not to be beaten and then anything else is a bonus?

Hart: I think football is about creating a balance. The first thing you need to know is how you are going to recover the ball. If you cannot recover the ball, then you are in trouble. And when you recover the ball, depending on the part of the field you are, knowing how to play.

Do you keep it or do you look to launch a counter-attack? What is required?

But the first thing is creating some sort of balance.

Wired868: Do you see Trinidad and Tobago primarily as a counter-attacking team now?

Hart: I would say in the timeframe I had to work with the team, it was easier to put that in place. But it is one of our weapons. Yes.

Wired868: Have you signed your new job contract yet?

(His contract as head coach expired at the 2015 Gold Cup).

Hart: No. We are still in negotiations.

Wired868: Anything you’re looking for that you can reveal? I know that before you did not have performance bonuses…

Hart: Well it is not so much about me as (it is about) the capacity to give us what is necessary come the World Cup qualification campaign. I think those things must be seriously discussed.

It is not just what I get out of this but do we have everything covered for the players and staff, do we have everything covered in terms of (practice) games (and) the equipment to physically prepare properly. You know. Everything that goes with a proper World Cup campaign…

Wired868: And I assume you have asked the TTFA to make the In Stats software available?

Hart: Of course. In Stats was a tremendous help for me both in keeping track of my players as they played every weekend (with their clubs) and (to monitor) the opposition. (It also gives) a breakdown of my team and every single pass (made during the game); if it was backward, forward or square, completion or not completion, every dribble, every touch of the ball broken down by player…

Wired868: What for you is an adequate working environment?

Hart: Well, first to begin, it would be nice to have a working budget. So we would know we can go out and sign contracts and nail down games months in advance.

We and the players should know this is what we will be receiving contractually and we would get it upon arrival. And of course that includes staff. So we will not have anything to worry about.

This is extremely important because a lot of the staff take time off from work… (I have) a tremendous support staff (and) they have to be taken care of…

Wired868: Ideally what games will you like to get before the World Cup qualifying campaign?

Hart: The first thing is just to play on every single FIFA date. To play home and away. FIFA dates don’t allow us to train together anymore. So the main thing is to play the games (and), regardless of the outcome of the games, get the players working together on a consistent basis. And to play (our friendlies) on a home and away basis (as we will during the qualifying campaign).

Hopefully (I want to play) against Latin American teams and, depending on how the fixtures come out, play a team that will play similar to the United States.

Wired868: What team plays similar to the United States?

Hart: We would probably have to go to Europe for that.

Wired868: What about the Copa America Play Off against Haiti?

Hart: We can’t get a firm date on that and it is actually hindering us going out and looking for teams to play (in the upcoming FIFA windows). Because we don’t want to sign a contract and then (CONCACAF says) we have to play Haiti then.

Wired868: Is the Play Off a one-off game or a two-legged contest?

Hart: I have no idea. CONCACAF can’t seem to tell us.

(He shook his head disapprovingly).

Wired868: So we just have the Mexico warm-up game?

Hart: We have a few more things in the works but the Mexico game is the only contract that was signed.

There are six FIFA match days between now and the start of the World Cup qualifiers. I hope to use them all. But, if I can’t, I would prefer to play on the second date so I can have the players together for a longer period of time.

Wired868: What about the national players who are not playing competitive football now or might not even be attached to clubs?

Hart: Hopefully, I can shortlist some of them and they can work consistently with (fitness trainer) Tobias Ottley… It is going to be difficult for them, let’s face it.

Wired868: Any local-based camps planned or that you would like to have?

Hart: At this point, I think it is a little complicated. There certainly can’t be one in August because of the CONCACAF Champions League as too many players would be missing.

We may be able to have one after the (Mexico) game in September. But that depends on our finances.

Wired868: What’s the value of the next three months for you as World Cup coach?

Hart: Two things. One is to start to play some games so we can keep together as much as possible. See players and experiment with players. The games have no value except for the fans. The real value for us is in building the team again to (play in the 2018 World Cup qualifying tournament).

Wired868: Thanks for your time, coach.

Hart: No problem.

Hart exam: T&T coach talks Gold Cup, fitness, ice baths and peanut punch
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868)

“If you know deep down in your heart that you are not properly prepared, you will never be able to play good football,” Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart told Wired868. “You will always have an excuse or you will be thinking ‘I am not sure if I can play 90 minutes.’

“You just cannot work fast enough when your body is not prepared to do what the brain is telling it to do.”

Hart sat down with Wired868 for a wide ranging interview into the state of the “Soca Warriors”, the 2013 and 2015 Gold Cup tournaments, his tactical and player selections and the Russia 2018 World Cup campaign.

This is Part One of our Hart-to-heart:

Wired868: Compare your emotions at the end of the 2015 Gold Cup and the 2013 edition?

Hart: First to begin with, the feeling was entering both competitions somewhat underprepared, which was frustrating. And like any other coach, it always worries you because you know deep in your heart you can be as prepared as possible but all goes wrong in the tournament itself.

USA and Guatemala are prime examples. They had fabulous roll outs up to the tournament and it went wrong for them during the tournament…

There was more a sense of relief in 2013 that we had managed to achieve getting to a quarterfinal and at the end of the day losing to Mexico in the 84th minute. I don’t want to say it was satisfactory but that is what it was. We did our best, we got to a quarterfinal and we came within minutes of probably going to a semifinal.

This time around, I was a little disappointed in the fact that we were growing from strength to strength in the tournament. I was worried for the Panama game about if we had recovered enough because we were playing a team that had two more days rest than we did.

I was so proud of the players with the fact that they were able to take it to the penalty situation, which quite frankly I felt was our best chance (of winning the match)… Even though we are disappointed, it is a situation you cannot train for. Because the day before nobody missed (in practice). But then again, there were not 80,000 people and you didn’t just finish playing a game for 120 minutes.

Wired868: Before the game against Panama, you spoke about the importance of keeping the ball. How did you feel looking on from the sidelines at how the game went?

Hart: I recognised pretty early that we were in trouble and the ability to keep the ball and do what we had planned to do was breaking down and it was a direct relation to both mental and physical fatigue.

We struggled to get hold of the ball in the first place. And then when we did get hold of the ball, we were not patient enough to try and rest with the ball sometimes. It is a big learning curve.

Wired868: In terms of the attributes of your players, was the squad constructed to be able to retain possession against a team like Panama?

Hart: Certainly not against Mexico. But I felt that we could do it against other teams. But the team was more or less designed to play a counter attacking type of game because I felt we were athletic enough and the technical players were further up the field that can bring that kind of goal scoring attributes.

So even though we did a lot of work on keeping the ball, we also worked on our variety in terms of how we would play. I wouldn’t say we had the ability to keep the ball against a team like Mexico. Their pressing and the organisation of their press reflects a team that has played at the highest level consistently. It was evident.

Wired868: What do you think about the Mexico coach being fired?

Hart: Well, I think a lot of things should have been considered. I’m not saying it is acceptable to strike a reporter…

Wired868: I’m glad you feel that way. (Both men laugh).

Hart: I can see the frustration though in what he went through. Also I think no consideration was given that when he took over Mexico (in 2013) they were literally out of the World Cup and he had one chance to prove himself (in the FIFA Play Off). He proved himself and gave a decent World Cup showing and then he won the Gold Cup…

So I really feel sorry for him. But I don’t think in the long run he was the coach a lot of people in Mexican football wanted. That is just my take on it because the getting rid of him happened so quickly. It was almost as if they had the excuse they wanted.

Wired868: What would you see as the main positive and negative in the 2013 Gold Cup?

Hart: In 2013, I lacked that complete understanding of player relationships. I had a good idea of the Trinidad team but I didn’t really understand the players’ minds…

The only negative thing I found was that I knew I would have to get rid of some players who served Trinidad and Tobago football very, very well. And I needed to start replenishing the potential team for World Cup qualification.

Wired868: Why did you see that as necessary? Was that a matter of attitude or physical attributes?

Hart: No. It wasn’t a matter of attitude. But I felt we were starting to be in a situation where we were starting to lose some quality physically in very key areas of the field. And once you start having veterans in that situation, the managing of the situation becomes a little more complex.

It is very hard to bring people to your way of thinking if you were not part of their make-up over the years.

Wired868: Teaching old dogs new tricks?

Hart: Maybe a bit of that. But to be honest none of them gave me any problems. It was just a deep down feeling that the team needed freshening up.

Wired868: One of those would be Cornell Glen who said he never retired…

Hart: Cornell never gave me any real trouble. I would love to be in a situation where I could give the Trinidad and Tobago public the chance to say goodbye to both him and ‘Bleeder’ (Densill Theobald) who served us so well. But really and truly, I just felt it was time to freshen up and to give some other players the opportunity to move within leadership roles within the squad which they would not do if the older heads were there.

Wired868: And what were the positives of that campaign?

Hart: The results in being able to show we could endure a lot of footballing activity despite a lack of what is required at the highest level professionally. It meant that the players did have a certain mentality and love for the country. I think that was a huge positive.

And then the second thing was the way some of the young players stepped up to accept responsibility. And when I say young players, I mean players that would probably have been in the shadows and were not part of the 2006 campaign…  (Kevin) Molino, Andre Boucaud certainly came to the forefront as a team leader and the way Kenwyne responded to myself and the working relationship between the two of us.

He could have easily sat in his comfort zone. But the response was tremendous.

Wired868: What would be the negatives of the 2015 Gold Cup campaign?

Hart: I was disappointed in the individual recognition of players of where they should be physically to play international football. That was a big negative for me. It is almost the way football was in the 70s and 80s where they would let themselves slip on their off season and then have to work themselves all the way back.

My players knew they were going into a Gold Cup. They should not have been in that physical state. To me that was a huge negative and it affected their mental.

Wired868: How so?

Hart: If you know deep down in your heart that you are not properly prepared, you will never be able to play good football. You will always have an excuse or you will be thinking ‘I am not sure if I can play 90 minutes.’ You just cannot work fast enough when your body is not prepared to do what the brain is telling it to do. That is why we play old timers’ (football) today. (Laughs)

Wired868: And you are talking local and foreign based here?

Hart: I would say yes. The local players in general are far off the fitness levels required for international football. And the foreign-based players allowed themselves to slip too much.

Wired868: What have the discussions been like with Pro League coaches about issues like fitness?

Hart: It is hard for me to talk to the Pro League coaches about their teams and their players because that is not generally how I work. But the league itself does not demand that you are at your best for every single game. Because there are only two or three games that really push you (during the regular season), so it is easy to get through with bad habits…

When I say habits, I also mean simple habits like how to recover from games, the use of modern recovery methods, players’ sleeping habits, players’ eating habits… Players are arguing that they don’t want to go in and ice bath whereas every youth team from 16 years old are accustomed to those things. And they know the gains you can get from it. I have to fight with players to take a simple ice bath…

I have to let them know that I am not asking them if they want to take an ice bath. It is not an option. It is part of the recovery process.

Even the eating habits and the lifestyle. Players are actually thinking a punch is good for you and it is strengthening. It is absolutely ridiculous. The sugar and the milk… It is archaic.

I read the Dennis Lawrence interview in the (Trinidad) Express where he said part of the reason we are not seeing more Trinidad players in England is the mentality thing and I think he is right.

Right now, very few players can play in England. I think Molino and Kevan George can but very few others.

Wired868: What other tips would you give local players in terms of recovery from games?

Hart: Well, (fitness coach) Tobias Ottley brought in a dietician and I think the players learned a lot. But whether or not they took in a lot of what they were shown and directed towards, I am not sure. But for them understanding the absorption of carbohydrates when you can maximise it, what quantities you need, why you need it, etc, etc.

If your whole dietary intake is not planned properly, they can go back to eating wrong foods or having a sequence of eating that is the wrong way…

I would advise players: Seek every edge possible to give you an advantage. Outside of drugs, of course. For example, one of the players was telling me that he didn’t like leather boots because they were heavier than the boots he liked. But the real question is the difference in weight between a leather boots and an ordinary synthetic boots is minimal if your body is not prepared the boots as efficiently as possible in the first place.

So why don’t you seek the same advantage with your body, which is really the engine for your work and not the boots?

Wired868: What do you take as the big positive of the campaign?

Hart: One, the willingness of the players to do what is necessary. Also the competition for places within this squad. I think that is positive and it is more positive for players who accept they must constantly be at their best in order to be part of this squad. And also to understand that every game is different and players will be utilised due to the tactics required for that game. So if you are dropped it is not necessarily that you were playing badly. It could mean we require a different type of player…

I do think the camaraderie was commendable. It is not easy to have players together for an entire month eating together and living together with just a couple hours off in between. But I must say the players were fantastic.

That was a huge positive. Even the players who came off the bench brought a mentality of doing everything possible to advance the team.

Wired868: You said during the 2014 Caribbean Cup, once the players’ minds moved to financial issues, their concentration never fully returned. Were there any issues this time?

Hart: It started to become a problem. They kept me away from it.

Wired868: What do you mean?

Hart: I think it is important that I stay away from things like that. I cannot be dealing with money and then turn around and coach the players as well. So management has to deal with that. But it did become a problem during the tournament.

The only thing I said to them was go out and show that you deserve to be compensated properly. But to make it in such a way that players have to first go out there and play without knowing they would be compensated…

We have to show more respect for our players than that. Because they have families to feed, they have lives outside of football. They are not children. They have their own children and mortgages to pay and car payments and everything everyone else has…

Bitch better have my money! Warriors respond to Sancho/Tim Kee impasse
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868)

The “Soca Warriors”, who just booked their place in the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals for just the third time in the country’s history, are not bumping their heads to Maximus Dan’s “I am a Fighter” these days.

R&B star Rihanna’s “Bitch better have my money” is said to be the track of choice among many of the players.

Trinidad and Tobago lead Group C, after successive wins over Guatemala and Cuba, and can top the group with a win or draw against Mexico tomorrow. They will have to do so without not only suspended midfielder Andre Boucaud but also injured team vice-captain and goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams.

Williams looks set to be ruled out for three weeks after a hamstring injury suffered in the first match against Cuba. It means the Central FC custodian would miss the rest of the Gold Cup as well as his club’s opening CONCACAF Champions League fixture away to Steven Gerrard’s LA Galaxy on August 6

If the Warriors finish atop Group C tomorrow, they will almost certainly face Panama in the quarterfinal round in New Jersey on Sunday. Should they lose to Mexico, they will probably meet Costa Rica in the knockout round instead.

Trinidad and Tobago’s most successful Gold Cup was in 2000 when coach Bertille St Clair led a team that boosted the likes of Dwight Yorke, Russell Latapy, David Nakhid, Jerren Nixon and the late Mickey Trotman to the semifinal round, where they were edged 1-0 by Canada.

However, with history beckoning, Trinidad and Tobago’s Gold Cup team was again distracted by off-field matters.

On Sunday, Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president Raymond Tim Kee and general secretary Sheldon Phillips issued a press release that accused Sport Minister Brent Sancho of spreading malicious and misleading information and attempting to bully the football body.

And, yesterday, Sancho responded by accusing Tim Kee of mismanagement, dishonesty and disrespect towards the TTFA’s major sponsor.

“They will not be funded,” said Sancho. “Unless they can account for where our funds will go.”

The conflict has not gone unnoticed within the Warriors camp.

This morning, team captain Kenwyne Jones shared Sancho’s response on social media and referred to the feud with two posts.

“We play we fight… support from the relevant body? Still outstanding smfh.”

Jones followed that up with:

“So while the feud continues, the football suffers, note TT anytime we fall short in something it always a funding issue, if this doesn’t stop it can be the end of progress…

“Egos aside put the football first… or leave the relevant offices held.”

Warriors manager William Wallace admitted that there was some anxiety in the camp since, unlike the 2013 Gold Cup, players are not receiving match fees after each game as they are still awaiting funding from the Sport Ministry.

And Wallace revealed that, for the first time in a Gold Cup tournament, the TTFA did not offer win bonuses or financial incentives for qualifying for the quarterfinal, semifinal or even winning the entire thing.

“The last time we left Trinidad with US (dollars) so we got paid after each game,” Wallace told Wired868. “Now, I am trying to get a lump sum payment after the three group games. I hope we can get it done…

“We were not able to negotiate win bonuses due to financial constraints. Based on the budget we are working with, we are barely able to deal with match fees at this point in time.”

The TTFA relies almost entirely on the Ministry of Sport for its funding and was not able to raise money otherwise to pay its staff and players.

Wallace was much more tactful in his response to the Government’s relationship with the Warriors.

“With all that is happening on the political front, I would still like to thank the Ministry of Sport and the new PS (Gillian MacIntyre) who has been extremely professional in her approach in dealing with me,” said Wallace. “At this point in time, the Ministry of Sport is the only bearing tree, so we cannot cut it down.

“It might not be bearing as quickly or as prolifically as we would like it to be. But that is what we have…”

Sancho reiterated today that the Sport Ministry will honour its commitments to the Warriors as well as the Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Women’s Team, which is competing in the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games at present.

However, the Sport Minister did not promise any assistance to the TTFA beyond that, which would include the Warriors’ Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.

Sancho’s own political survival would depend on the polls as the country’s general elections will be held on September 7.

A TTFA insider, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, defended the timing of the press release, which slammed the Sport Minister’s behaviour.

“We have sat back for a while as the ministry at various times has levelled some misdirected allegations knowing that the organisation is still feeling the effects and negative impact of the Warner years,” he said. “So if something critical about us sounds plausible, even if it turns out to be untrue at closer look, the damage is done.

“And the ministry comes out looking like heroes in a situation they created.”

However, in the United States, Wallace said the Warriors technical staff felt the weekend release was part and parcel of the election season and they were concerned about its timing.

Tim Kee, who is also the Port of Spain Mayor, is the treasurer of the opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) party.

“The staff was questioning whether (the TTFA release) was necessary at that time,” Wallace told Wired868. “But it is politician against politician and we are in that season, so I suppose it is expected.

“As the African saying goes: when the elephants fight it is only the grass that suffers. But my focus is on the players and staff and I will not allow anything to derail that.”

Gov’t negotiates Gold Cup feed; Sancho, TTFA discuss Pan Am bacchanal
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868)

Sport Minister Brent Sancho revealed today that the Government hopes to acquire live feeds for the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup in time for Trinidad and Tobago’s opening match against Guatemala on Thursday July 9.

Sancho, a former 2005 Gold Cup and 2006 World Cup player, promised, earlier in his tenure, to allow the Trinidad and Tobago public to see their sport teams in action on local television. And he hopes to start with the Gold Cup.

“I am still talking to the different parties and we know there is interest from different (corporate companies),” Sancho told Wired868. “We would like to make sure the public can see these games live so we are working on making it a reality. It is of high importance that we work out a reasonable deal to have it shown.

“And not just football, we want to get most of our sport shown in Trinidad (and Tobago) so our public can see what our national teams are doing.

“I think it gives our athletes and sports a good market to hopefully inveigle corporate sponsorship. And it transcends down to the young ones who can see their heroes perform on the world stage.”

But it was a rare spot of good news for football as disharmony between the Sport Ministry and the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) again affected the preparation of its national teams.

Yesterday, the Trinidad and Tobago National Women’s Senior Team and National Men’s Under-23 Team both left for the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games, which officially starts on July 10.

But it was a matter of problems postponed rather than solved as the TTFA and Sport Ministry remain at loggerheads over match fees promised to footballers while mismanagement and distrust continues to hamper the respective teams.

Key to the current rift, which led to a threatened boycott by the “Women Soca Warriors”, was match fees of US$500 per game that was promised to both teams.

But, as the two teams prepared to depart, the TTFA could only assure the players of US$600 each for the entire three week competition.

It prompted a furious social media response from star attacker Kennya “Yaya” Cordner and a threatened boycott from her teammates.

TTFA general secretary Sheldon Phillips described the episode as a misunderstanding and suggested that the Women Warriors erroneously thought they were not due match fees.

“There were some players who thought that was it,” Phillips told Wired868, “and we said that is what we would be able to source (at the moment).”

It took an assurance from the Sport Minister to team captain Maylee Attin-Johnson to placate the women.

“My first concern was making sure we got them on the plane,” said Sancho. “Sheldon apparently told the girls not to go on the plane and wait for us to meet to sort it out, which didn’t make sense because they would have missed their flight…

“I said to get on the plane and we will sort it out.”

Phillips retorted that his suggestion was for a morning meeting, which would not have jeopardised the team’s travel plans.

More importantly though, Sancho’s promise did not necessarily address the issue since, according to the Sport Minister, he did not agree to any specific sum.

“First, we have to get a full scope of what is happening,” said Sancho. “We have to sit with a representative of the TTFA… We don’t know if we can meet their demands.

“We have to make sure the taxpayers’ dollars are used appropriately.”

TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee reiterated that the players only hope for match fees lay with the Government.

“Yes, the match fees will come down to the (Sport) Ministry,” said Tim Kee.

Both sides lay bare their misgivings about the other party and there was a hint that, even if the Pan American teams receive their due, future national football teams might suffer for the TTFA’s perceived brinksmanship.

“I am drawing the line in the sand,” said Sancho, who suggested that the TTFA was less than forthright about its true financial situation. “This is it (and) it is going to have a ripple effect on the other teams. We want to try our best to make the athletes happy but this is a song that has been playing for donkey years…

“If one party is seemingly not operating in the most honest way, then we have a problem.”

Sancho claimed the TTFA was due a CONCACAF payment of US$100,000, which was meant to prepare the National Senior Men’s Team for the 2015 Gold Cup. But, he said, the sum had not been mentioned in multiple discussions between the two parties.

“They told us that they only had $13,000 (TT) in their account so they couldn’t pay for visas for the Under-23 Team,” said Sancho “but one of the challenges we have is gauging what they have and what they don’t have because we got information that they received $100,000 US from CONCACAF.

“Then, when they knew we were aware of it, they said they would get the money at the end of July. Then, when we asked why preparatory money would only be available after the tournament, they came back and said they would get it by the end of the week.

“It is hard to keep up with the stories.”

Tim Kee countered that the CONCACAF payment had been affected by chaos enveloping the governing body, whose president Jeffrey Webb is fighting an extradition request by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ).

He claimed the preparation funding would usually be available to teams before the Gold Cup but that was not the case on this occasion. The TTFA, he said, made a special request for some funds before the competition.

“When these things happened in Zurich the other day, there was a lot of panic in CONCACAF and people being sent home and so on,” said Tim Kee. “We applied to CONCACAF for some of that money as a loan and that is where we got $330,000 US from…

“They limited the maximum we could get to one third and that is compromising their own laws because they are very strict about (associations) getting something for one purpose and using it for something else.

“But they are fully aware of the challenges we face and they have compromised…”

Sancho insisted that the TTFA never submitted a specific request for match fees for its Pan American Teams.

“The TTFA submitted budgets for about 10 different teams when we first met,” said Sancho. “Since then, we have met with (TTFA official William) Wallace and Sheldon (Phillips), Wallace and (Senior Team coach Stephen) Hart, Wallace alone, Wallace and Tim Kee…

“Every time they came in, they were asking for different things. First, it would be flights, then flights and hotels, then a game was on and then off.

“These are the kind of things we have to deal with… They sent in an overall budget for all the teams but the cases change over time.

“They have to have specific requests for specific teams to access money. And from my knowledge, we didn’t have anything specific for the women’s team.”

Tim Kee conceded that the TTFA did not make an official request for the Women Warriors. However, Phillips suggested that the Sport Ministry was partly culpable for the budget changes referenced by the Minister.

“The adjustments in the budget are based on the continual shift in what we were told we had access to,” said Phillips. “It is very difficult to plan when this is happening. We are trying to create revenue streams that will lessen that dependence but that will take some time…

“The latest narrative we are getting from the Sport Ministry is NGOs don’t get their full subvention. So you present us with what we are authorised to get and we do our budget based on what you gave to us. And then at the eleventh hour, you tell us NGOs don’t get their full subvention…

“It has been an ongoing conversation and we will continue to sit with the (Sport Ministry) to sort things out.”

The overriding issue, of course, is the TTFA’s failure to raise money to fund its own teams.

“They have to take a long hard look at themselves and how they raise money,” said Sancho. “To sit down and wait for taxpayers’ money is ludicrous. We have lots of other sporting bodies who don’t have FIFA and CONCACAF money and they make it work and raise their own money.

“They need to tailor their plans according to the money they have. The Government is supposed to assist with a shortfall (so) if you have money coming in, then you use it.

“Cricket and everyone else seems to manage without issue or find ways of getting round their shortfalls. This is the only body we have this problem with.”

Just over a month ago, the TTFA requested match fees of US$1,000 for the Under-23 Men’s Team. The Sport Ministry retorted that it would pay no more than half the match fees requested for all national football teams.

So, the TTFA promised the Under-23 Men’s Team US$500 match fees instead. But an agreement was not reached with the Sport Ministry.

The Women Warriors then threatened to boycott the Pan Am competition unless they received equal pay with the Under-23 Men’s Team.

So now both teams have promises with no guarantor. And the TTFA and Sport Ministry continue to glare at each other with distrust and apprehension.

Sancho accused the TTFA of trying to hold the Sport Ministry over a barrel.

“It seems like we are always outing fires before we could even enter into negotiations with them,” said Sancho. “Because they agree match fees and stipends (with their players) and then throw them at us. I don’t know what the final arrangement was for the (TTFA) and the (Pan Am) players so there is a lot to happen before we get to (the promise to the Women Warriors).

“The main thing is I didn’t want an embarrassment to the country… The (TTFA) made it abundantly clear that they will be getting money from CONCACAF.

“So we will see how that goes and take it from there.”

Cautiously optimistic: Hart on work stress, Jorsling’s retirement and squad selection
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868.com)

In the final instalment of a two part series, Trinidad and Tobago head coach Stephen Hart discusses Devorn Jorsling’s international retirement, why T&T football is stuck in the dark ages and what he expects from his Warriors at the Gold Cup.

Trinidad and Tobago’s biggest on-field concern heading into the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup is scoring goals. The “Soca Warriors” have now gone five games and 480 minutes—which includes extra time in the 2014 Caribbean Cup final against Jamaica—without registering items.

It feels passing strange to some then that head coach Stephen Hart opted to travel to the United States without the Pro League’s top marksman and the country’s tenth highest goal scorer, Devorn Jorsling.

On the weekend, Jorsling told Wired868 that he has decided to retire from international duty since he thinks he will never get a better chance to represent the Warriors under the current technical staff.

Hart thinks the Defence Force striker will be making a mistake if he sticks to his guns.

“I think he is making a mistake,” Hart told Wired868. “If he continues to train in the way he has done in the last few weeks, I think he has as good an opportunity as anybody.

“I am sorry he thinks the way he does. I had to pick a 23 (member squad) and I had a decision to make, which I did.”

It would be hard to win a case for bias against the Pro League when Central FC’s Willis Plaza was selected. And, although Jorsling topped all domestic scorers with 21 league goals in a 24-game season, Hart pointed out that Plaza got 10 items despite playing his first match in January.

The sticking point, according to Hart, was the physical readiness of his other attackers, which he felt better suited the Warriors’ style at this stage.

But was he shooting in the dark with the selection of Iceland-based attacker Jonathan Glenn who has not represented his country this year?

Hart explained that he kept an eye on Glenn and overseas-based players like El Salvador-based central defender Yohance Marshall through a programme called “In Stat Scout.”

“It has a rating on everything they do such as one on one defending, challenges in the air, everything,” he said. “I can itemise any technical and tactical part of the game… I had (limited) access to the program for a while and I am trying to get the Football Association to buy it.

“Right now, I do all the analysing of my team and my opposition for myself and I don’t have that kind of time. I have to watch the opposition and break down how their team plays and put it on video as a head coach.

“I can bet you a million dollars that there is no one else doing that kind of work as a head coach.”

Hart gave an example of the product’s usefulness in assessing the Warriors’ drab 2014 Caribbean Cup goalless draw against the Cuba team, which is one of their Gold Cup opponents this month.

During the match, Hart was disappointed with his team’s failure to take the initiative to change the course of the game. However, after reviewing In Stat Scout, he noticed that the Warriors made more entries into the final third of the field than he thought but were not decisive there and lacked the speed of thought necessary to get off good shots.

So the problem was slightly different than he remembered during the emotion of the match.

Most of Trinidad and Tobago’s opponents at international level, he said, would have such technological aids.

“I think it is something that is essential in this day and age,” said Hart. “Right now, we are training players by guess. We don’t have heart monitors or GPS systems. If we had it, we would know exactly what level of fitness each player has and what we are able to do with them as a result.

“In the (2015) CONCACAF Under-20 tournament in Jamaica, we saw even youth teams like Panama and Guatemala were training with them. And here you have a senior team working in the dark ages…”

It is only one of several disadvantages that the Warriors face. Lack of match preparation has been crippling to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association’s (TTFA) teams this year.

Already in 2015, the National Under-20 and Under-17 Men’s Teams both failed to assert themselves at CONCACAF level while the Under-23 Team was eliminated at the Caribbean preliminary stage.

The senior team will also face better prepared opposition in next month’s Gold Cup. And Hart could not hide his frustration at a situation that appears to have gotten worse during his spell as head coach.

“Our opponents have played five more games than us this year,” he said. “We have to sit down and evaluate what we are doing with the national team program. We have a public that demands results but everyone else prepares (while we are) finding out the night before that you are travelling to Jordan or Curaçao.

“And big men with families have to find someone to pick up their children and so on… Who operates like this?

“There is no (other) team in the Gold Cup that plans that way.”

Hart’s contract as national team coach ends after the Gold Cup, although the Warriors are due to start their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign in October.

So far, there is no hint that the head coach will walk away or that the TTFA is dissatisfied with his work. But the football body’s failure to fund its national programme is hurting its squads and surely unsettling its coaches.

“For me, in a very serious football country everything should have been in place already and it is just a matter of us buckling down and performing,” said Hart. “It seems that none of Trinidad and Tobago’s teams go in to games without some sort of stress on the players and staff.

“We have been giving assurances that things will be made available to us. So we will see if everything is taken care of.”

Hart is a fan of versatile England-born defenders and brothers Justin and Gavin Hoyte, both former Arsenal youth players, who can both play anywhere across the back line.

But the 25-year-old Gavin, who played just twice in two years under Hart, pulled out of the Jordan match because his new club, Barnet FC, was “giving him static.” While 30-year-old Justin, who is a free agent, opted to skip the pre-tournament training camp to embark on trials in England.

In contrast, Pro League players like Ataulla Guerra and Kadeem Corbin choose to blank opportunities for trials abroad to represent their country instead.

“I would have liked to have Justin in the camp and training on a full time basis,” said Hart, “but he is still on trial trying to get a contract and I couldn’t make concessions for him that I wouldn’t make for other players.”

There are other UK or US-based players who are open to the idea of playing international football but are hesitant of committing to the Warriors.

The reality, Hart thinks, is that players talk and they read the internet. They see the issues affecting Trinidad and Tobago’s football and it gives them cold feet.

Perhaps ex-World Cup 2006 midfielder Chris Birchall would have hesitated if Dennis Lawrence asked him to wear “red, white and black” in this era.

The absence of the Hoyte brothers, as well as injuries to Carlyle Mitchell, Seon Power and Robert Primus, partially explains the return of overseas-based defenders Radanfah Abu Bakr and Marshall, who got the nod over younger players like Kaydion Gabriel, Shannon Gomez, Elijah Belgrave and Alvin Jones.

“We lost significant players (in defence) who were creating competition,” said Hart. “So we needed experience. If all of them were competing for places then maybe the selection would have been different.”

Although Jorsling has ruled himself out of international duty at the moment, 24-year-old Point Fortin Civic attacker Marcus Joseph, the joint second highest Pro League scorer, has apparently made peace with Hart, after being cut for indiscipline.

“Marcus and I have spoken briefly,” said Hart. “Unfortunately, it was not to be in terms of the Gold Cup. He wanted to be back into the team but it was already too later for that.

“Now, I have to worry only about the players who are in the team. But it is a blank sheet again for the World Cup qualification (campaign).”

Poor preparation, late salaries and missing their most effective player, Kevin Molino, Hart and assistants Hutson Charles and Derek King must still find a way to wring results from their squad.

Supporters typically extend sympathy only up until the first embarrassing defeat.

Has Hart selected a team capable of restoring the pride of Trinidad and Tobago football fans at the Gold Cup?

The wily coach is certain he got it right.

“I have confidence in these players that they want to play for the country and they want to play for each other,” said Hart, “and they will demonstrate the necessary fight and the desire to play good football.”

Kenwyne Jones, Khaleem Hyland, Jan-Michael Williams, Guerra and the rest of the Gold Cup-bound squad must prove their coach right.

He is cautiously optimistic that the Warriors will advance from their group for the second successive Gold Cup tournament.

Two years ago, Hart came into the team with roughly a month to go before their opening game. And, assisted by former World Cup coach Leo Beenhakker, he successful steered his troops into the quarterfinal round.

“I think the situation is very similar,” said Hart. “The only difference is this time we have an international (warm-up match against Haiti).

“It is a better situation in that sense. We have a game that we can use to assess our progress and continue to do some work.”

The Warriors’ July 9 Gold Cup opener against Guatemala will provide the ultimate test of Trinidad and Tobago’s elite men’s football team.

(Trinidad and Tobago 2015 Gold Cup squad)

Goalkeepers: 21.Jan-Michael Williams (Central FC), 1.Marvin Phillip (Point Fortin Civic), 22.Adrian Foncette (Police FC);

Defenders: 6.Radanfah Abu Bakr (HB Koge—Denmark), 18.Yohance Marshall (Juventud Independiente—El Salvador), 4.Sheldon Bateau (KV Mechelen, Belgium), 17.Mekeil Williams (W Connection), 5.Daneil Cyrus (W Connection), 2.Aubrey David (Shakhter Karagandy—Kazakhstan), 3.Joevin Jones (Chicago Fire—USA);

Midfielders: 14.Andre Boucaud (Dagenham & Redbridge—UK), 8.Khaleem Hyland (KVC Westerlo—Belgium), 15.Dwane James (North East Stars), 19.Kevan George (Columbus Crew—USA), 11.Ataulla Guerra (Central FC), 20.Keron Cummings (North East Stars);

Forwards: 9.Kenwyne Jones (Cardiff City—UK), 13.Cordell Cato (San Jose Earthquakes—USA), 23.Lester Peltier (Slovan Bratislava—Slovakia), 10.Willis Plaza (Central FC), 16.Rundell Winchester (Portland Timbers 2—USA), 7.Jonathan Glenn (IBV—Iceland), 12.Kadeem Corbin (St Ann’s Rangers).

Cautiously optimistic: Hart talks Hyland, Molino and T&T’s G/Cup chances
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868.com)

In the first of a two part series, Trinidad and Tobago head coach Stephen Hart discusses his team’s Gold Cup chances, the Khaleem Hyland gamble, Kenwyne Jones’ tactical adjustments and the extent of Kevin Molino’s absence to the Warriors:

Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart declared that he is “cautiously optimistic” about taking the “Soca Warriors” into the CONCACAF Gold Cup’s knockout round for the second consecutive tournament, despite the myriad of problems that have affected the team.

“I think we can be cautiously optimistic,” Hart told Wired868. “If we stay as a unit and everyone looks out for each other and cover each other’s back, we have a good chance to advance to the quarter finals.

“And, once you get there, anything can happen.”

The Warriors open their 2015 Gold Cup campaign against Guatemala in Chicago on July 9 before playing Cuba and Mexico on July 12 and 15 respectively. The two group winners advance automatically along with the two best third place teams from the three groups.

Mexico have registered a strong squad, which includes Manchester United striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Real Sociedad attacker Carlos Vela, PSV playmaker Andrés Guardado and brothers Giovani and Jonathan Dos Santos.

However, Hart said their opener against Guatemala will probably be the toughest game of the Warriors’ campaign.

“The opening game sets the tone for the tournament and it is always your most difficult game,” said Hart. “The last time, the final game in the group was the most important because we slipped up in the second game (of the 2013 Gold Cup). But the most difficult game is always the first game.”

Hart spent yesterday in Tobago preparing for the funeral of his mother, Monica Hart, who passed away at the age of 92 at the Scarborough General Hospital on June 24. She will be buried in Tobago today.

The Warriors leave Trinidad tomorrow for a pre-Gold Cup camp in Fort Lauderdale.

The senior coaching staff, according to a team member, has not been paid since February while they are still owed match fees from the 2014 Caribbean Cup final against Jamaica.

Hart has been partially paid up by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) since he is the only national coach with a job contract from the local football body.

On May 22, Sport Minister Brent Sancho promised to resume payments to the Senior Team coaches, leading up to the Gold Cup: “with an initial release to cover two months outstanding salaries for coaches and technical staff of the senior men’s programme.”

Last night, Sancho reiterated that a directive was given to pay the coaches and promised to give more information today.

“We gave an order to pay the funds,” Sancho told Wired868. “But I have no info in front of me, so I can’t give a comment.”

The Warriors face a big challenge already on the playing field, as Hart needs to turn around a team that lost all three outings this year without scoring a single goal against Panama, Curaçao and Jordan.

Hart suggested that he is not reading too much into those results, though.

“I can’t say it worries me because those were exhibition games and there was a lot of experimenting,” he said. “We created a lot of chances against Curaçao and had chances to do something against Jordan, although we didn’t play well.”

After the Warriors’ 3-0 loss to Jordan, Hart described his team’s performance as “awful” while he claimed that several players didn’t deserve the national shirt on the day.

There were few surprises in his final 23-man Gold Cup roster, though, and all 11 players who started against Jordan will travel to Fort Lauderdale. Hart said his squad needed a verbal shake-up at the time. But he remains confident in his troops.

“I spoke to them in the dressing room right after the game, which I never do, and I told them exactly what I told the press,” said Hart. “I love my players but I am not in love with them. I will protect them once I think they have done everything in their power to fulfil their role. But if they don’t, I will be critical.

“Sometimes what I say in the dressing room, I don’t say in the media. But I saw certain things setting in that were a major issue for me.”

Hart admitted for the first time that central midfielder Khaleem Hyland, who was a spectator for much of last season after being frozen out by former Belgium employer Racing Genk, is playing for his squad place after a string of sub-par performances.

“He knows that (he hasn’t played well) and that is the gamble right now,” said Hart. “He and (Andre) Boucaud are playing for their positions and they know that. I was very impressed with how they trained (last week). They give 100 percent all the time.

“I think once they get the pre-tournament camp under their belts and get to the right playing weight, they should come good.”

And what about skipper Kenwyne Jones, whose goal slump coincides with the Warriors’ inability to find the back of the net for five successive games?

Hart said he was encouraged with the Cardiff City forward’s work rate for his last two internationals. And he believes Jones is missing the productive partnership he formed with injured Orlando City playmaker Kevin Molino.

“I thought he worked hard against Curaçao and was unlucky not to come away with a goal or two,” said Hart, “and he did some very good things against Jordan. Like every other striker, he needs to get the right final pass and he needs players to get up to support him.

“He has been isolated too often and I have been talking to Ataullah Guerra about that and trying to get him to play higher up the pitch, so he can get the ball closer to the penalty box.

“Once Kenwyne has someone close to him giving him support, he cannot be double teamed as easily.”

Hart tried to explain the hole left in his squad by the absence of Molino, who was the TTFA’s 2014 Player of the Year.

“I don’t think we have any player who plays like Molino on the squad,” he said. “He has unbelievable ball sense in the speed that he does things, and he plays with a lot of (passing) combinations and is always moving forward.

“He was a player who knew when to plunge (or sprint behind defenders) and lot of my players like to play in front of the opposition rather than try get behind them.

“We want to our players to be more dynamic so they make opposing teams defend by turning around (to face their own goals).”

Hart is trying to compensate by a tactical alteration that will see the Warriors abandon their customary 4-2-3-1 system for something closer resembling 4-3-3. Jones will probably be asked to link up play more often than before.

“I asked him to mix his game up more,” said Hart, “so I want him to run behind the defence as before. But I also want him to come off and get the ball and look to get turns and get the wide players into it.

“I think he did it well against Jordan.”

The Warriors have adapted slowly to the new system so far. Hart spent most of their Trinidad camp working on fitness but there will be much more tactical work in Florida.

Against Jordan, he said the Warriors were most vulnerable when they lost possession because of poor positioning. He intends to tighten up that aspect of their game while also encouraging players to join the attack when possible.

“I haven’t used (the new system) as I would like because they are taking a little while to adapt to it and I don’t want them to be too confused,” said Hart.

The former Canada coach has been here before. He was hired with roughly six weeks to go before the 2013 Gold Cup and managed to steer the Warriors through a group that included Honduras, Haiti and El Salvador.

This time, coach and players know each other better while, unlike two years ago, he also has a pre-tournament practice match against Haiti to further assess their progress.

He explained that Trinidad and Tobago’s players are sometimes thrown off their game too easily and he must make his philosophy sink in before July 9.

“Our confidence is easily shaken when things don’t go our way,” said Hart. “We have mostly done fitness work so far but we will focus more on elements of attacking and collective play now. And hopefully we will get it right when it matters most…

“Once they collectively buy in and do some serious work, they can get to the knockout stage of the Gold Cup.”

Jorsling and De Silva in T&T squad for Curaçao friendly; Marcus Joseph axed
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868.com)

The “Soca Warriors” began the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup preparation today under the customary cloud of uncertainty with regards to warm-up matches before their tournament opener against Guatemala on 9 July in Chicago.

Trinidad and Tobago National Head Team coach Stephen Hart hopes to have three internationals before they face Guatemala. But, for now, the only confirmed fixture is a June 16 friendly away to Jordan.

The Warriors have a tentative fixture away to Curaçao on Friday and they began training today with that trip in mind. But Hart will only get confirmation on that proposed match tomorrow.

“We have a squad in training and we were hoping to confirm a game against Curaçao,” Hart told Wired868, “but we are in a limbo…They asked for the game on (June) 5th and then changed it to the 3rd, which means we would have to leave today with no training.

“If that was the case, we would have had to pull the game.”

Hart, who is heading into his second Gold Cup as the Warriors coach, said the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association’s precarious finances made it near impossible for them to enter into long-term match contracts with other member associations, due to the time delays in accessing State funds.

And, at present, there are few potential opponents around as Asia, South America, Europe and even some CONCACAF nations are playing competitive fixtures.

“Like every other coach, I would like to be on the field more and have games against high quality opposition,” said Hart, “but it is not a reality based on our finance and budget structure.

“All the other teams had their games booked out months in advance.”

Hart had an 18-man squad start training today for the proposed Curaçao fixture while two overseas-based players, Daneil Cyrus and Andre Boucaud, should join them during the week.

Already missing playmakers Kevin Molino and Hughton Hector and defenders Seon Power, Robert Primus and, possibly, Carlyle Mitchell through injury, Hart revealed that he also cut Point Fortin Civic attacker Marcus Joseph for a more disappointing reason.

The 24-year-old Joseph, who has seven international caps and was a substitute in the Warriors’ 1-0 loss against Panama in March, missed a physical evaluation exercise twice and allegedly delivered a suspect reason for his absence through a teammate.

“I can’t have that kind of inconsistency from a player,” said Hart, who took disciplinary actions against players like Keon Daniel, Joevin Jones and Cyrus in the past. “We asked you to come for an evaluation (and) you don’t show up. We make an alternative date and he said he was in Tobago and couldn’t get a flight. But I came over from Tobago that same night on a half-empty plane…

“And, to make it worse, he didn’t contact me directly but sent a message with a player. That is unacceptable.”

Apart from Joseph, Hart made a raft of changes from his squad that faced Panama with San Juan Jabloteh winger Tyrone Charles, teenaged North East Stars midfielder Neveal Hackshaw and Central FC defender Jamal Jack among the exclusions.

In their places, Shahdon Winchester (DIRECTV W Connection), Leston Paul (Central FC) and Devorn Jorsling (Defence Force) were recalled. While Elijah Belgrave (Police FC), Triston Hodge (W Connection), Keron Cummings (North East Stars), Kadeem Corbin (St Ann’s Rangers), Kaydion Gabriel and Sean De Silva (both Central FC) received their first call-ups under Hart.

De Silva, who represented Trinidad and Tobago at two World Youth Cups, can represent Guyana, Barbados and Antigua and Barbuda at senior international level and, according to his father, Chris De Silva, has not ruled out that possibility.

However, despite attracting attention from Guyana coach Jamaal Shabazz, the former St Mary’s College student still hopes to continue to represent the land of his birth.

Warrior captain Kenwyne Jones, who plays with England Championship Division team Cardiff City, and midfielder Khaleem Hyland are the only overseas-based players already in training.

Playmaker Hashim Arcia misses out as he has joined recruit training at the Defence Force, for what should be an eye-opening transfer from W Connection.

National Under-23 midfielder Jomal Williams and 2013 Gold Cup forward Jamal Gay, who is a free agent at present, were both invited to train as well although they are not being considered for the Curaçao fixture.

As previously revealed, Panama reneged on an agreement to have their senior squad play the Warriors on June 12.

The Panamanian FA offered to send their National Under-23 to play the Trinidad and Tobago Senior Team, which was rebuffed by Hart. The TTFA then asked to have the Trinidad and Tobago U-23s face their Panamanian counterparts but the Central American nation refused.

Such wrangles have only added to the anxiety of the Warriors as they aim to match—or better—their quarterfinal finish at the 2013 Gold Cup.

“At this point, we are hoping we will be properly prepared going in to the Gold Cup,” said Hart. “This is just the first day (of or preparations) and we are in a non-residential camp. I would have liked to be in a residential camp but (because of finances) that is not possible at the moment.

“We will move into a residential situation when we return from Jordan.”

Hart revealed that he is considering alterations to his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, due to injuries to key attacking midfield players. However, that will not be easy without warm-up matches.

“I have considered changing the system,” said Hart, “and I have introduced two different systems.

“We have not had that many training camps or international games so it is impossible to see how it would work or experiment.”

The Jordan friendly date falls on a FIFA international match day and Hart confirmed that he will request his full quota of overseas players for that encounter.

It means that Friday’s proposed contest against Curaçao could be key for the Pro League players to force themselves into the reckoning for a Gold Cup place.

Apart from the two goalkeepers, only Cyrus, Boucaud, Hyland and Jones—from the 20-man squad—have previously played in a Gold Cup tournament.

(Team to face Curaçao)

Goalkeepers: Jan-Michael Williams (Central FC), Marvin Phillip (Point Fortin Civic);

Defenders: Kaydion Gabriel (Central FC), Shannon Gomez, Triston Hodge, Daneil Cyrus, Mekeil Williams (all W Connection), Eljiah Belgrave (Police FC);

Midfielders: Andre Boucaud (Dagenham & Redbridge—England), Leston Paul (Central FC), Dwane James (North East Stars), Khaleem Hyland (Unattached);

Attacking midfielders: Ataullah Guerra, Sean De Silva (both Central FC), Keron Cummings (North East Stars), Kadeem Corbin (St Ann’s Rangers);

Forwards: Shahdon Winchester (W Connection), Willis Plaza (Central FC), Kenwyne Jones (Cardiff City—England), Devorn Jorsling (Defence Force).

Jan-Michael and Arcia star as Central and Connection set Caribbean final date
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868.com)

A heroic late showing from Central FC goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams and an ice cold finish from DIRECTV W Connection playmaker Hashim Arcia will ensure an all-Trinidad and Tobago showing in tomorrow’s Caribbean Club Championship final from 6 pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.

And not just any two Pro League clubs either. The regional final will be a local grudge match as Connection and Central square off for another “Couva Clasico.”

Connection and Central have both also qualified for the 2015 CONCACAF Champions League while Haiti’s Don Bosco FC and Jamaica’s Montego Bay United FC will fight for the last remaining berth in Sunday’s third place play off from 4 pm at the same venue.

The most important staff member in either camp this weekend probably will not be the coaches, though. It will be the physiotherapists.

Central needed 30 minutes of extra time plus penalty kicks to get past Don Bosco FC in last night’s semifinal. And the “Couva Sharks” were outnumbered for significant portions of the contest as star striker Willis Plaza was ejected in the 66th minute while right back Kaydion Gabriel hobbled through extra time with a thigh injury and is ruled out for the final.

“Last night, we had people falling like flies and a lot of that goes back to Police game which was brutal,” said Central coach Terry Fenwick, who is still without injured striker Dwight Quintero. “Plaza’s sending off is a big blow and we have a problem at right back because we were informed last night that we cannot replace injured players.

“But at least we are through to the (CONCACAF Champions League).”

Connection avoided the physical torment of extra time. But the “Savonetta Boys” were physically pounded too by a fast, strong Montego Bay outfit before eking out a 1-0 win.

“With the battering the two (Pro League) teams got last night, I think (the final) will depend on who is physically and mentally fit,” Connection assistant coach Earl Jean told Wired868. “The game took a lot from them after losing plaza and then having an extra half hour… It will be a very interesting game.”

Five of Connection’s starting line-up last night were below 21 years of age and there was much to admire in the way they dealt with Montego Bay’s challenge in a contest that swung back and forth.

Lanky “MoBay” midfielder Ronaldo Rodney got the best chance of the match, in the 52nd minute, but skied his shot. And, in the 69th minute, Arcia showed him how it is done with his seventh goal of the competition, which placed him on top the scoring charts.

The Jamaicans would not to remember the build-up for the decisive goal.

MoBay winger Allan Ottey was just about to reach the halfway line when, confronted by an opponent, he did an about-turn and fired an outrageous 40-yard dipping ball towards his own custodian. Jacomeno Barrett managed an improvised clearance under duress but Williams quickly relayed the ball back into the opposing area.

And Arcia, as cool and precise as a surgeon, waited for Barrett to lunge before coolly lifting the ball into the back of the net.

“Hashim is one of the most intelligent players in the country,” said Jean. “He is in top form right now and the team is built around him.”

Dino Williams came closest to an equaliser in the 79th minute with a dipping effort that forced a flying save by Connection and St Kitts and Nevis international goalkeeper Julani Archibald. But it was a rare effort on target from the Jamaicans who lacked composure in the opposing penalty area.

And MoBay was lucky to end with 11 players on the field as Winston Wilkinson tried to hack Alvin Jones to pieces, in stoppage time, after the defender-cum-midfielder fell on the ball while trying to waste time.

Barbadian referee Adrian Skeete, in an extreme act of generosity to the Jamaican, only showed a yellow card.

Plaza did not get off so easily in the first match when, in a crazy three-minute spell, he was booked twice. Haitian defender Massigno Joseph clearly made a meal of presumed contact to his face while Plaza was trying to protect the ball in the 66th minute.

But Fenwick, for once, was happy to give the match official, Jamaican Karl Tyrell, the benefit of the doubt.

“Plaza wasn’t holding anything up last night and I think he let himself and his teammates down with that red card,” Fenwick told Wired868. “I didn’t see it but somebody of his experience has to be better than that…

“I thought both of the referees last night were fine. They kept up with the speed of the game and tried to play advantage once or twice… They were light years ahead of (Trinidadian referee Rodphin) Harris for one.”

Even when the fiery Englishman is praising referees, he is criticising them.

Central’s clash with Don Bosco was a cagier affair with both teams guarded and patient rather than adventurous.

In the 42nd minute, the Sharks carved out a wonderful opportunity after a quick passing move that involved Gabriel, Ataulla Guerra, Jamal Jack and Plaza. But Marcano’s shot was saved by the legs of opposing goalkeeper Jaafson Origene.

Such sights at goal were rare for either team, though, even after Central went down to 10 players.

Guerra was neat on the ball and brought spectators to their feet with one surging run after rolling the ball through the legs of opposing midfielder Samuel Desroches. But he played so deep that he sometimes collected the ball between his own defenders, and he was largely ineffectual.

“Guerra shies away from everything that is physical,” said Fenwick, in his withering post-match verdict of the gifted Central playmaker.

In the end, penalties were required to separate the two well organised teams and Jan-Michael, who had made CONCACAF’s shortlist of top goalkeepers for the past two years, had another night to savour. The “Soca Warrior” made one flying save to his left and two to his right to deny three of the four Haitian kickers.

Defender Akeem Benjamin, who put in an otherwise commendable performance, blasted over for Central. But Elton John, Leston Paul and Uriah Bentick all converted to seal a 3-1 win and a chance for the three year old club to secure the Caribbean title on the first attempt.

“It was a tough gritty performance to see it out with ten men,” said Fenwick, “and our goalkeeper pulled us out in the end.”

Fenwick contested a Caribbean title once before, while at San Juan Jabloteh, but lost 1-0 to Connection in the 2006 final.

Jean was Fenwick’s assistant coach then although there has been little love lost between the pair since.

Central are seeking their third major title this season after copping the Pro League and First Citizen Cup crowns while they face Caledonia AIA in next Friday’s Digicel Pro Bowl final. Connection won only the Charity Shield.

Yet, Connection look settled and fresh in the business end of the season. Jerrel Britto is having his most prolific season in the top flight while Arcia is flying and Shahdon Winchester has a terrific record against Central. Captain Mekeil Williams and teenaged right back Shannon Gomez add spunk and pace at the back.

Winchester, Britto, Arcia, Jomal Williams and Alvin Jones, in particular, would hope to use the Caribbean final, which is their final game of the season, to earn a pick on Trinidad and Tobago pre-Gold Cup training squad. Williams (M) and Gomez are almost certain to be invited already.

Jean revealed that Winchester turned down another loan deal in Finland to stay home and help Connection as well as impress Warriors coach Stephen Hart.

“I think Shahdon is getting back to his best and he is a very important player to us,” said Jean. “Our front four are in great form and they have great chemistry between them. The final will be a great challenge for us.”

For Central, a bonus dispute that pits its board against players and staff continues to rage in the background, while 13 players and most of the coaching staff, including Fenwick, are out of contract on May 31.

“It’s been a challenge keeping the morale of the team high and focused on football with all these issues going on in the background,” said Fenwick. “We are looking forward to the final, especially against W Connection, (and) you can see the elation when we won the penalty shoot out…

“It will be a tough game (and) we have no centre forward and several injuries but I know we will put up a hell of a fight. Having got this far, we don’t want anything but the (Caribbean) Championship.”

It should make for an enthralling final. The Couva Clasico is about to regional.


Central FC (4-1-4-1): 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK); 15.Kaydion Gabriel, 2.Elton John, 5.Akeem Benjamin, 4.Uriah Bentick; 10.Marvin Oliver (19.Nathaniel Garcia 87); 7.Jason Marcano, 12.Jamal Jack (6.Leston Paul 54), 45.Ataulla Guerra, 8.Sean De Silva (11.Darren Mitchell 61); 33.Willis Plaza.

Unused substitutes: 1.Javon Sample (GK), 3.Keion Goodridge, 14.Jean-Luc Rochford, 17.Marcelle Francois.

Coach: Terry Fenwick

Don Bosco FC (4-2-3-1): 22.Jaafson Origene (GK); 11.Jean Junior Brenus, 5.Canes Jean-Charles (captain), 14.Massigno Joseph, 15.Jimmy Sara (29.Junior Philemont 108); 21.Constant Junior Monuma, 9.Junior Delva; 16.Samuel Desroches (7.Porky Thermidor 113), 17.Venel Sant-Fort, 8.Kerlins Georges (28.Jean Schwetzer Saint-Hubert 79); 23.Benchy Estama.

Unused substiututes: 12.Calixte Felix Alande, 2.Alain Francois, 10.Dumy Fede, 27.Jean Saint-Hubert.

Coach: Jean Junior Natoux

Referee: Karl Tyrell (Jamaica)

Caribbean Club Championship semifinal round

(Fri May 22)

Central FC 0, Don Bosco FC 0 at Ato Boldon Stadium;

*—Central won 3-1 via penalty shootout

W Connection 1 (Hashim Arcia 69), Montego Bay FC 0 at Ato Boldon Stadium;

(Sun May 24)

Third Place Play Off

Don Bosco FC v Montego Bay United FC, 4 pm, Ato Boldon Stadium;

Caribbean Club finals

W Connection v Central FC, 6 pm, Ato Boldon Stadium.

TTFA vows to pay Hart and Walkes but not remaining coaches; Tim Kee blames politics for funding issues
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868.com)

Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president Raymond Tim Kee said the local football body has decided to pay the salaries of head coach Stephen Hart and technical director Kendall Walkes while the TTFA’s impasse continues with the Ministry of Sport.

The TTFA accepted a March deadline to present audited accounts to the Ministry of Sport but is yet to fulfil its end of the bargain. Sport Minister Brent Sancho responded by halting all funding to the football body, which included the payment of coaches’ salaries.

Although Tim Kee claimed that the TTFA was “about two weeks” away from satisfying the Sport Ministry, he said the football body will pay Hart and Walkes in the interim.

“Mr Hart has been attended to,” Tim Kee told Wired868, on Friday evening. “He is owed for April and May and an arrangement was made where he will get one month’s salary and a small portion. He was satisfied with the arrangement; he made no hassle about it…

“He may have been paid (on Friday) as that decision was made (on Wednesday evening). Our plan is to pay Hart’s salary directly for up until September.”

Hart’s contract with the “Soca Warriors” expires in July 2015, although he has been credited with doing a fine job at the helm and it seems likely that the TTFA will try to keep him onboard.

Tim Kee, who is also the Port of Spain Mayor and PNM Treasurer, admitted the football body contracted Walkes’ services with the expectation that half his salary would be paid by the Sport Ministry—as was the case with former technical director Anton Corneal.

However, the TTFA never actually broached the topic with the new Sport Minister and the result was Walkes was unpaid after his first month’s work.

Tim Kee said the football body will also pay Walkes although he advised that the new TTFA technical director should be no more than “cautiously optimistic” about being paid every month’s end.

“We will have to give him his full salary,” said Tim Kee. “I have also told the General Secretary (Sheldon Phillips) and the Chairman of the Technical Department (Richard Quan Chan) to let him know that we do not have an open cheque book and to tell him what the true situation is. I don’t want any surprises for people.

“Let him be cautiously optimistic. From all indications, we will be able to afford him as we move forward (as) we have applied for some (FIFA) developmental funding.”

And what about the remainder of the Senior National Team coaching staff as well as the national youth team and women’s coaches?

“I don’t want to convey that impression (that we do not care about the other coaches),” said Tim Kee. “(But) they were always the government’s responsibility… Most people involved in football are poor people who cannot enjoy the luxury of not getting paid. So that plays on my conscience.”

Wired868 asked, if all coaches are TTFA employees: Why has the association decided to pay some and not others?

“We don’t owe (assistant coach Derek) King and the others any money,” said Tim Kee. “The money owed to them is from the Ministry of Sport… Remember those guys don’t have contracts (with the TTFA).”

Wired868’s checks suggested that the only coaches with TTFA job contracts are Hart and Walkes. The others are working on the verbal assurance from the football body that they will be paid if funds are sourced.

Tim Kee said the TTFA is in the process of drawing up contracts for its other coaches but did not offer a date when those are likely to be ready.

National Under-23 Team manager David Muhammad claimed last week that assistant coach Reynold Carrington did not attend any training sessions and was allegedly awaiting his job contract. Wired868 was unable to reach Carrington for an explanation for his absence.

Tim Kee suggested that, if Muhammad’s assertion was true, then the fault lay either with Quan Chan—who liaised with the youth team coaches on behalf of the TTFA—or Carrington himself.

“I did mention to Mr Quan Chan to explain to these people what the situation is,” said Tim Kee. “I said this is the situation, this is what we can do and, if you can provide under these conditions, then we are telling you upfront. So there is no reason to stay away because they were told (or should have been told) this is the conditions under which they will be operating.

“There will be consequences to that.”

Tim Kee insisted he and his general secretary Sheldon Phillips have done all they could to raise money for football and approached 28 private and public sector corporations with little success. He blamed politics for the TTFA’s financial crisis.

“If you were rating our job without explanation, it would be not a pass mark (for us),” said Tim Kee. “But if you look at the notes you will understand. There are circumstances over which you have control. When we went to National Gas, (a board member) told one of our executives that the people who play football do not wear yellow.

“So it is a political and a racial situation. I brought it to (then Sport Minister Anil) Roberts’ attention. And the imbalance is cricket was getting what it wanted.”

Tim Kee alleged that the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB) also promised US$1 million to the TTFA but reneged on the deal when he was appointed Mayor.

“He said ‘Tim Kee is a PNM mayor’ and he is not doing anything for the PNM to look good,” the TTFA president said of an unnamed NLCB member.

Wired868 was unable to verify Tim Kee’s claims from members of either State board.

Race and politics were not the only things that Tim Kee blamed for their fund raising issues. He claimed that the TTFA was on the verge of a multi-million deal with TSTT, only for it to be scuppered after Wired868’s exclusive regarding possible corrupt or unethical practices by the football body in the build up to an international friendly against Argentina on 4 June 2014.

Wired868 revealed that TT$400,000 was pocketed from taxpayers’ money for a supposed TTFA licensing fee, which remains missing. Travel agency, Nissi Tours, alleged that the money was pocketed by TTFA marketing officer, Darren Millien, although Millien denied this.

There were also emails from Phillips’ match agency company, Element Agency + Events, which suggested that the TTFA general secretary might have a personal stake in a match put on by State money.

Phillips claimed there was a “glitch” in his email account and denied that his company was benefitting from Warrior matches.

TSTT’s interest in sponsoring the TTFA, according to Tim Kee, cooled immediately.

“(TSTT) agreed to sponsor us to the tune of TT$4.5 million,” said Tim Kee. “then (Wired868) wrote that article on the Argentina business and, when I went to consummate the agreement, I was told that the board had read the article and decided to put a stop on it.

“So we were back to square one.”

Still, Tim Kee responded to his critics by pointing to the relative successes of their football teams despite the issues. He said the TTFA has begun implementing FIFA’s income generation plan and should soon be able to raise funds from merchandising via its new website.

“When you hear what we have been able to achieve with scarce resources,” he said, “it brings goose pimples.”

He hopes to also mend bridges soon with the Sport Ministry, despite his annoyance that Sancho attached stipulations to last November’s TT$9.9 million Cabinet note.

“The Cabinet note seems not to be as highly favoured by the Sport Minister as it was intended by the Prime Minister,” said Tim Kee. “That is unfortunate because all the plans we made for this year was predicated on that type of assistance from the Ministry.

“So I am hoping that, as time goes on and we adhere to the best policies, I would expect understanding and support from the Ministry. I would hope that there is a change in direction.”

Tim Kee said the TTFA will try to juggle its resources so as to ensure practice games for the National Under-23 Team, which begins its 2016 Olympic Games campaign in Puerto Rico next month.

The senior Warriors are also rumoured to be on the brink of sealing international friendlies against Jordan and 2014 World Cup team Croatia.

Hart and Walkes might be “cautiously optimistic” about being paid too, regardless of the Sport Ministry’s relationship with the football body, while Tim Kee claimed that a financial offer was also made to Corneal, who is still owed from his spell as technical director.

The TTFA’s other two dozen or so national coaches have no such guarantees, limited or otherwise.

TTOC set to blank U-23 squad additions; missing TTFA contracts affect staff
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868.com)

The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) and the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) could be on a collision course over squad lists for the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games.

The TTOC mandates that all member associations submit a preliminary list by March 27 while final 18-man squad lists are required from the men’s and women’s teams by the first week in June.

However, the TTFA has made woefully late starts in the creation of both Pan American squads and the implications of this seem likely to be felt soon.

The National Under-23 Men’s Team only began training on April 22 and were allowed a special exemption to submit a 39-man squad—rather than a list of 30 players—almost a month late. However, the “Soca Warriors” squad grew rather than shrunk since then as coach Zoran Vranes requested that Point Fortin Civic striker Jamille Boatswain, Portland Timbers reserve attacker Rundell Winchester and the North America-based duo of midfielder Christian Ferreira and Xavier Rajpaul be added to the preliminary list.

Ferreira flew in from Canada to join the squad in training on Wednesday while Rajpaul, a former National Under-20 midfielder, is due to link up with the Warriors next week.

But Pan American Games chef de mission Dianne Henderson, who is also the TTOC assistant general secretary, said the TTFA was given all the relevant deadlines since last year and suggested that pleas for special treatment are likely to be resisted.

“The long list has gone already and they cannot send any new names to Toronto,” Henderson told Wired868. “The sport entry time is the first week in June and that is when they have to choose the final names of their squads for the men’s and women’s teams…

“We gave them that information since last year and Canada is very strict about such things.”

If Henderson is right, Ferreira and Rajpaul would have wasted their trips home while Boatswain will also be ineligible. More tellingly, Vranes will lose the option of using Winchester, who has four National Senior Team caps.

Club Sando midfielder Akeem Humphrey and Dallas FC youth team goalkeeper Johan Welch were also left off the preliminary list although both were said to be deliberate exclusions.

The TTOC verdict, if it stands, will be a further administrative blow for Vranes, who is already uncertain as to how many overseas-based players—particularly those attending university abroad—will be available for the preliminary Olympic qualifying round next month in Puerto Rico.

In a previous interview, Vranes told Wired868 he selected a squad to begin competitive action in the mid-July Pan American Games only to be told, on April 22, that his first qualifier will be on June 24 against Suriname. He said he would have declined the job if he knew about the short timeframe in advance.

“The team was training for the Pan Am Games but now we must give full priority to (the) June qualifiers,” Muhammad told Wired868. “Hopefully we will have our best squad for June. But, if we cannot get our US-based players to come in, we will have to work with what we have.”

Another pressing matter for the Under-23 Men’s Team is an absence of job contracts from their employing body.

The TTFA appointed Vranes (head coach), Muhammad (manager), Reynold Carrington (assistant coach), Nigel Neverson (goalkeeping coach), Esmond O’Brien (equipment manager), Gilbert Bateau (trainer) and Michael Taylor (physiotherapist) to its Olympic Team, almost a month ago. However, none of the aforementioned support staff have received their contracts.

Muhammad confirmed that Carrington, an ex-international stand-out midfielder and Point Fortin Civic coach, is yet to join the squad as a result although the rest of the staff began training on April 22.

“Contracts haven’t been prepared as yet,” said Muhammad, “but we are focusing on the job.”

Muhammad is also part of the Senior Team staff who were promised salaries from the November 2014 Caribbean Cup up until the July 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. However, the senior Warriors staff members, who include coaches Stephen Hart, Hutson Charles and Derek King, were only paid for the months of December, January and February thus far.

The uncertainty surrounding the coaching staff of the men’s Senior and Olympic Teams was mirrored in the women’s programme where the National Senior and Under-20 Teams started training without an appointed head coach for either side.

Farcically, Jason Spence, who is the assistant coach for the Senior and Under-20 Women’s Teams and heads the sessions for both, admitted that he had no idea which players in his training squad were chosen to play at the Pan American Games.

“I am not privy to that (information about the Pan Am squad),” Spence told Wired868. “I am only dealing with the players on the field. I’m not aware about that side of it.”

TTFA technical committee chairman Richard Quan Chan revealed that the local football body is still in discussion with former women’s head coach Randy Waldrum about the top Women’s Soca Warriors post. However, Quan Chan said talks have been complicated and suggested it might be another two weeks before an appointment is made.

It is uncertain whether Waldrum selected the Pan American team shortlist despite the fact that he is not a current employee. If the TTFA does select a new women’s head coach, he will be forced to choose from a pre-selected squad.

Wired868 contacted TTFA general secretary Sheldon Phillips for comment but his cell phone was switched off while office staff explained that he is abroad.

Ironically, while the TTFA has had problems living up to the TTOC’s requests, the local football president Raymond Tim Kee is a member of CONCACAF’s Associated Championships Committee which is mandated to: “organise the associated competitions and Olympic Football Tournaments in compliance with the provisions of the regulations applicable to these tournaments.”

Despite the concerns about their Pan American and Olympic Games preparations, Muhammad commended the quality of the Under-23 team’s training sessions so far and singled out players like Kadeem Corbin, Jomal Williams, Nathaniel Garcia, Dario Holmes, Alvin Jones and Shannon Gomez for their early showings.

Netherlands-bound winger Levi Garcia—who is Nathaniel’s elder brother—would not be available for competitive action due to obligations with his new Eredivisie employer, AZ. However, Muhammad said Garcia (L) has been allowed to train with the youth squad.

At present, the Under-23 squad is trying to finalise two practice games with the Grenada National Senior Team in late May or early June while there is the possibility of an exhibition game against Panama as well.

The Panama football body requested a friendly for its Under-23 team against the senior Soca Warriors. But head coach Stephen Hart declined the invitation.

“I don’t think that using a FIFA date to play the Panama Under-23 Team is good preparation for us,” said Hart.

Muhammad hopes to have the local Olympic Team fill the gap.

Earlier this week, Sport Minister Brent Sancho told Wired868 that the local football had missed a March deadline to deliver audited accounts to the Government and had not submitted a proper budget for the year.

“We didn’t get anything with full costings from them,” said Sancho. “From what I remember, they just sent a gauge of what they have in mind, like two matches in June or early July, but nothing detailed.

“There is no information as to when, where and how much so it is not a budget from a Government standpoint.”

TTFA audit still outstanding; Pro League switch worries Warriors
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868.com)

More than a year since becoming the first club to win the Pro League’s first million dollar bounty, DIRECTV W Connection is still awaiting a giant cheque from the competition’s governing football body.

The Pro League’s prize money is funded by the Ministry of Sport. However, the football clubs were unable to access it due to their governing body’s delay in providing the Ministry with audited accounting books.

Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene said the Government’s financial year runs from August to August and claimed that the football body met the necessary requirements.

“The Ministry’s accounting period runs August to August (whereas) our financial period runs for the calendar year,” Skeene told Wired868. “It is normal for companies to submit audits by April for prior year, so we are in line… You know their requirements before you can get money. So we have completed the audit and are just awaiting the funding.”

The Ministry of Sport has promised $3.25 million to the Pro League and $2 million from that cash will be paid to clubs for prize money.

New Sport Minister Brent Sancho, who is a co-founder of current Pro League champions Central FC, said the Pro League has submitted its financial details to the Permanent Secretary Richard Oliver.

“I would say it is very near to being dealt with,” said Sancho, who claimed to have cut ties with the ‘Couva Sharks’. “As we have said, the associations that don’t bring in their accounts will not be funded by this Ministry.”

If prize money is on the way for the nine Pro League clubs, there is other urgent business on the table as teams contemplate a radical change to the kick off date.

At present, the Pro League runs from September to May, which allows clubs to send players en masse for trials during the pre-season for most European clubs. However, local teams are required to begin their CONCACAF Champions League campaigns before the start of the domestic league and against clubs from Mexico, Panama and United States that are already in mid-season.

A switch to the old timetable, which ran from late March to early December, would also mean that the Pro League season would not clash with Carnival or Christmas.

One downside, though, is that Pro League clubs would have barely started their respective seasons when they are called into Caribbean Club Championship action.

“It is a Catch 22 position,” said Skeene. “If it switches the other way like in the past, we had us being not match ready in the Caribbean Cup. So it can be an advantage or disadvantage.

“If you are sure you can beat the CFU teams without match practice, then great. Otherwise, you can be going out of the competition even earlier… The Board (which comprises the Pro League clubs) are the owners and they will make the ultimate decision.”

Should the clubs agree to the switch, the 2015/16 Pro League’s opening date, according to Skeene, could be pushed back to November as a first step towards an eventual March start.

The pros might outweigh the cons in the long run but it might be potentially disastrous to Connection and Central who, if they advance from the Caribbean stage, would again be forced to face the Confederation’s top clubs with only a handful of exhibition games under their belt.

“It is a risky thing for the teams in the CONCACAF club championship,” said Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart. “They will have to try and prepare through exhibition games, which the teams have been doing for the last few years and it hasn’t really worked in our favour.”

Connection chairman David John-Williams suggested that the clubs are not close to agreeing a new timetable yet although he insisted something must be done.

“I was the one who raised the issue at the (Pro League) Board meeting and no one has come up with the final plan yet,” said Williams. “I haven’t done a draft fixture in my mind. That is pure conjecture now. But everyone is in favour of going back to the previous schedule.

“The question in just how we do it.”

Hart has good reason to keep a close eye on the Pro League calendar. A late start is sure to affect Trinidad and Tobago’s Russia 2018 World Cup campaign too although Hart is uncertain as to if it would be a good or bad thing.

The “Soca Warriors” start their “Road to Russia” in November at the CONCACAF semi-final group phase against possible opposition from North and Central America as well as the Caribbean.

“It is a double-edged sword,” Hart told Wired868. “You will have players not playing any football for a very long time (and you want to have) players in good form going into a competition.

“But this also means I can have a team in training and, with the right financial assistance, I can have team playing within FIFA windows and training consistently…

“Every coach wants players who are playing (competitively) on a regular basis so they are match prepared, which means competing to win games and not just playing exhibitions.”

The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA), which recently hired Kendall Walkes as technical director, is believed to have collected in excess of US$750,000 (TT$4.7 million) from FIFA for its share of 2014 World Cup television rights as well as its annual subvention.

However, the TTFA remains heavily indebted to former employees and service providers including ex-technical director Anton Corneal and former head coach Russell Latapy.

Sancho, who is one of 13 World Cup 2006 players who still have a legal matter pending against the TTFA, said the football body is yet to submit the relevant accounting statements to be considered for State funding.

The Sport Minister and TTFA general secretary Sheldon Phillips agreed a March deadline for audited accounts which passed without any submission from the football body. TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee subsequently promised the relevant documents in early April that also went unfulfilled.

“They have not brought in their accounts,” Sancho told Wired868. “We had a very cordial meeting with Tim Kee and he agreed that if they didn’t bring in their accounts they should not be funded. He said about three weeks ago that we would have it in a week.

“We have not gotten it yet but I know he has been busy. We hope that we get it this Friday.”

Sancho claimed that the TTFA is yet to submit any request for funding for 2015.

“They have not submitted anything,” said the Sport Minister. “I am aware that we are on the brink of the Gold Cup, even if the Pan Am Games falls under the Olympic Committee, but they have not brought in anything to me.

“Like I said, they need to submit their accounts before we even have that discussion (about future funding).”

Last November, the Ministry of Sport, under previous office holder Rupert Griffith, agreed a $9.9 million cash injection for the TTFA, which was meant to handle: arrears of match fees, bonuses, stipends and salaries for the Senior Men’s National Team players and technical staff as well as remuneration and training camps for the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

The TTFA has already used some of that money. They will not, according to Sancho, get a cent more until they show properly audited books.

Central, Connection pull away from Pro League pack
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868)

Seven points separate second place DIRECTV W Connection from third place North East Stars in the Pro League at present and bear in mind that Connection also has a game in hand.
Yesterday evening that potential 10-point gap seemed to flatter Stars.
San Juan Jabloteh and Point Fortin Civic have had their own reasons to be relatively pleased with their performances this season but the reality is the local top flight has now become a duopoly between Couva rivals, Central FC and W Connection.
At the Marvin Lee Stadium in Macoya, Central eased past Caledonia AIA 2-0 to move five points clear at the top of the table while the Connection team, which has played a game less, defeated Stars by a similar score line.
The fact that the final score summaries seem civil arguably represents the weakness in the strength of the Pro League leaders. They are walking through this competition and they know it.
Central and Trinidad and Tobago international attacking midfielder Ataulla Guerra perhaps is the best personification of this conundrum. The tall, athletic, regal playmaker is the best player in the country. Yet, he has barely started half of his team’s outings this season.
Guerra has twice been suspended and had the odd injury. Otherwise, Central coach Zoran Vranes has opted to leave him on the sidelines in an apparent effort to provoke a reaction from the player and partly because the team can afford to start without him.
Not for the first time, Guerra came off the bench to inspire Central to victory over his former employer, Caledonia. But this was not because the “Couva Sharks” lacked the tools while he sat on the bench. Rather, there is a hint that Guerra’s nonchalance is spreading and Vranes did not have his Chief Whip, veteran Marvin Oliver, on the field yesterday to keep the squad in check.
When a solid, bustling midfielder like Leston Paul is repeatedly putting his foot on the ball, slowing down the play and making backward passes, there is the hint of a team lacking in ruthlessness. It might not harm their title chances much or affect their upcoming Caribbean qualifiers. But, without a fierce appetite to push themselves to the limit, their time in the CONCACAF competition will be brief.
Connection’s problem is slightly different. The “Savonetta Boys” are in transition and doubt remains as to whether the club has found the quality to replace recent exports. At times, Connection lacks guile upfront while the deep-lying midfield role, which is so vital to their tempo, has not been adequately filled since former “Soca Warrior” Clyde Leon’s health problems forced him to take a sabbatical from the game.
Yet, neither Caledonia nor Stars seriously tested either team yesterday.

Read more

Football / Sancho vs Tim Kee the Thread.
« on: March 02, 2015, 04:51:17 PM »
Sancho tackles TTFA: Tim Kee must use gate receipts to pay players
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868)

Sport Minister Brent Sancho has made his opening gambit in the Government’s new relationship with the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) by setting the football body an ultimatum in presenting its accounts for inspection as well as taking a more hands-on approach in State-funded international matches.

The most immediate test of the fledgling relationship will come on Friday March 27 when the Senior National Men’s team host Panama at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.

The Sport Ministry has agreed to fund the international warm-up game, which is part of the team’s 2015 Gold Cup preparations. But there is a catch.

Sancho wants the TTFA to agree to a double-header that gives the Senior National Women’s Team an opportunity to be involved as well. And the Sport Ministry wants the football body to agree to give 50 percent of gate receipts to players and staff for match fees and stipends.

Sancho, who started all three games for Trinidad and Tobago at the Germany 2006 World Cup, told Wired868 that he was concerned about the stagnation of the “Women Warriors” who were just minutes away from a historic Canada 2015 World Cup place before a 1-0 FIFA Play Off defeat to Ecuador last December.

“I think it is a travesty to know that these girls have not kicked a ball since the Ecuador game,” said Sancho. “Some of these girls can play in the next World Cup (campaign) because of their age; and it will be a travesty if we wait until another Ecuador game to start funding this team.

“They are not training and there is no program is existence. We want to assist.”

The fledgling Sport Minister said his body will look through the list of nations that have sporting memorandum of understandings with Trinidad and Tobago and then attempt to negotiate through the relevant State bodies to get the W/Warriors a sparring partner.

Sancho said the TTFA, once it agrees, will be party to the talks. At present, the women’s friendly is described as “tentative” due to the logistics of the affair.

More eye opening is Sancho’s plan to launch a three-month long women’s professional league, which will be run by the Ministry of Sport and should kick off in May 2015.

The Sport Minister did not reveal the proposed cost for the project, which would merge with the current Women’s League Football (WOLF), or a minimum wage for players. But he estimated that it would cost between TT$500,000 to TT$700,000 a year to run a “franchise”, which is inclusive of salaries, running costs and promotions.

Unsurprisingly, there are doubts within the women’s football fraternity about the feasibility of starting a professional league in less than four months.

And the TTFA may be even less enthused with the Sport Ministry’s new insistence that it be shown match contracts for games that it subsidises. Sancho also wants the Ministry to be part of a joint operation at the gates for matches and retain half of the football body’s revenue to pay the “Soca Warriors” players and coaches.

In June 2014, the Government spent $2.1 million for an international friendly between the “Soca Warriors” and Argentina in Buenos Aires. However, at least $400,000 of taxpayers’ dollars vanished under a still unexplained line item called a “TTFA licensing fee.”

TTFA marketing officer Darren Millien was accused of improperly diverting the money although the matter is now supposedly under investigation.

And, in December 2014, the Government dipped into the Treasury again to pay the national footballers for owed match fees, which included payments for their South American tour.

Sancho believes his new proposal would help to avoid a repeat of such scandals and situations where taxpayers fund international games and pay players while the football body keeps all the profit.

“Match contracts will have to be part and parcel of our agreements,” Sancho told Wired868. “We are mindful of the fact that we are spending lots of taxpayers dollars and we have to account for it…

“We are looking into the possibility of gate sharing where half of the gates will go back to players’ stipends and coaches’ stipends and players’ match fees and coaches’ match fees.

“They haven’t said they accept it yet but it is a sponsorship agreement and this is what we want.”

The Sport Ministry and TTFA should meet again on Friday March 6 to discuss this and other relevant matters.

Notably, the gate receipts eyed by the Sport Ministry will be used to pay current players and coaches but not past ones. Sancho, who wants a joint operations between the two bodies at the gates for matches subsidised by the Government, said the TTFA must pay its own debts.

“We have heard from (TTFA general secretary Sheldon) Phillips that they have plans to come out from their debt and move things forward,” said Sancho. “We would like to see those plans (but) it is something that lies with the TTFA and they will have to figure out how to pay their debts.

“And it is not just them, there are other sporting organisations that seem to rack up debts. As the old folks say, they seem to have champagne taste with beer money and they have to stop these high living lifestyles and come to reality.

“That is the response I am looking for from organisations. They have to now live in reality and not try to live way beyond their means.”

The irony is that Sancho is one of 13 World Cup 2006 players who benefited from Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s decision to underwrite a TTFA debt to them in June 2014. The Government payment was made without prejudice to the 2006 Warriors’ case against the TTFA, which, arguably, allows the players to go on with their lawsuit against the football body.

“I have taken up a post to represent the people of Trinidad and Tobago,” said Sancho, “so I have to respect that post and recuse myself from being part and parcel of anything to do with the (2006 World Cup bonus) case.”

TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee, who is also the Port of Spain Mayor and PNM Treasurer, was a senior vice-president before, during and after the 2006 World Cup and openly derided Sancho’s stance on the dispute in the past.

Sancho admitted that the two have not met since he became Sport Minister but insisted it has not affected his relationship with the football body.

“I have met (TTFA officials) Sheldon Phillips and William Wallace but not Tim Kee,” said the Sport Minister. “He must be a busy man… I have met all the (sporting) presidents except Raymond Tim Kee but I’ve been most generous with football.

“We are working feverishly to get them that parcel of land so they can get their Goal project and we are also assisting them with both their World Cup and Cup (preparations).”

Sancho told Wired868 that he gave the TTFA a March deadline to present its accounts to the Ministry of Sport so the Government can understand the financial health of a body that essentially survives on State funds.

“We want to see their full detailed accounts,” said Sancho, “and we are aware of the funding given to them by FIFA and maybe Concacaf as well. So we expect to see that as a line item in their accounts and we want to know what they have planned for it.

“We are not going to tell them how to spend their money. That’s for sure. That is not my business. But as long as they show a certain amount of transparency and accountability, like every other sporting organisation, they will have no problem with me.”

But, due to his role in a legal financial matter against the TTFA, did Sancho feel—despite his vow to recuse himself—there was a potential conflict of interest in his access to the football body’s accounting books?

“I won’t say it is a conflict of interest,” said Sancho. “I think it just gives me a better understanding, than any other Sport Minister who sat in this chair, of accounts and financing as it relates to football because obviously that is the sport that I have come from.

“The reason we are asking for the accounts is because it is part of of our policy for all sporting bodies. So I have an obligation to the Ministry and the general public to do my job. I won’t be passing information on to anybody but I am not going to hand out funds without disclosure.”

Disquiet in Point Fortin as Central wins again
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868.com)

Another Willis Plaza goal and another three-point haul for Central FC yesterday afternoon as the Pro League leaders edged Point Fortin Civic 1-0 at the Mahaica Oval, Point Fortin.

The “Central Choir” were not present to belt out their non-ending stream of English-flavoured club hymns but we all know the tune by now:

“Plaza scores when he likes…”

The triumph put Central five points clear of defending champions DIRECTV W Connection who were held to a surprise 1-1 draw by Caledonia AIA at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva yesterday.

It means that Central is guaranteed the prize for topping the second round of competition having already earned the honour for the first round.

There were actually two shocks at the Ato Boldon Stadium as a Newton Sterling double helped San Juan Jabloteh to a 2-1 win over Defence Force. Jabloteh climbed to fourth place on the back of that result while the Army/Coast Guard combination slipped two spots to fifth.

In yesterday afternoon’s other encounter, North East Stars returned to winning ways with a 2-1 triumph over St Ann’s Rangers at the Marvin Lee Stadium, Macoya.

It was Rangers’ tenth straight defeat and their 14th League loss of the season from 15 games—they managed one draw against Caledonia last October. There is no way to sugar-coat such dismal statistics.

At one point this season, Civic kept Rangers’ company near the foot of the table. Point Fortin’s fightback began earlier this year under departed coach Reynold Carrington but, after three League games on a trot before Central’s visit, it is safe to say that their impetus has accelerated under current boss and former Trinidad and Tobago football icon Leroy De Leon.

Once a silky, thrilling attacking midfielder, De Leon credited an increased focus on his players’ mental toughness for their positive results.

“I’ve tried to change their attitude and their way of thinking about football,” De Leon told Wired868. “I’m trying to break bad habits. Every session, I try to break at least one bad habit.

“It is a long process (because) their mental state of mind is not (what it should be).”

In Civic’s first game under De Leon, talented Trinidad and Tobago international goalkeeper Marvin Phillip spent the 90 minutes on the substitutes’ bench. Today, it was Civic’s leading scorer, Marcus Joseph, who got a taste of tough love as he stomped towards the changing room after being withdrawn in the 58th minute.

De Leon said he was dissatisfied with Joseph’s contribution—both in imposing himself on Central and helping his own teammates.

“For any marquee player, when a team comes to play they must be wary of you,” said De Leon. “I don’t care if he thinks he is bigger than this game. He is not.

“I don’t care who you are. You have to earn it on the field not talk about it.”

Civic were more unified at kick off and should have opened the scoring within the first 15 minutes.

The game was barely two minutes old when Joseph shot overbar from inside the opposing penalty area while Central goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams and veteran sweeper Marvin Oliver were alert to thwart a swivelled shot from Civic defender Weslie John and a clever dummy from Joseph in the 13th and 14th minutes respectively.

The home team had a good shout for a penalty too in the 15th minute as Joseph flicked a Shackiel Henry pass into the path of Civic playmaker Andre Toussaint who was clumsily bundled over by Central defender Jamal Jack.

Referee Callum Marshall, a La Brea resident, looked the other way and his disinclination to punish foul play would be a recurring theme in a generally fast and competitive fixture.

Civic were marginally better for much of the first half hour. Upfront, Toussaint and Joseph kept Central guessing with their “good cop/bad cop” routine—Toussaint drew players close with his magnetic technique on an awkward, bumpy surface while Joseph made them scatter with booming left foot strikes and quick changes of direction.

But, as the game crossed the half hour mark, the host team lost their compactness in central midfield and Central took advantage.

Vranes’ decision to replace Dwight Quintero with “Soca Warrior” Ataulla Guerra, inside the first 40 minutes, seemed borne out of frustration at the young attacker’s workrate. But it proved to be a tactical masterstroke.

Civic’s midfield enforcers, Nickcolson Thomas and Trent Lougheed, were holding their own against Central’s attacking pair of Jason Marcano and Darren Mitchell. Suddenly, there was Guerra dropping off the front man to create an additional passing option at a time when Civic’s front four—with the exception of 21-year-old Akeem Redhead—had grown lethargic in their defensive transition.

Seconds before the halftime whistle, the “Couva Sharks” benefited from the shift in the tide with a fine team goal. Plaza worked a wall pass with Guerra then backheeled to Marcano who returned the ball into space for the striker to run on to before driving home at the near post.

It was a cruel time to concede and, at the resumption of the second half, Joseph found himself repositioned on the left flank as Henry took up Civic’s striking duties.

Joseph’s chin seemed to have dropped so low that it was a wonder he did not trip over it.

The gifted attacker’s day got considerably worse when, in the 58th minute, he became the first Civic player to be substituted.

“Allyuh not serious!” shouted Joseph.

“I don’t care; play big!” De Leon yelled back. “You’re playing on the national team (so) show people (why) you’re playing on the national team!”

It was not the most extraordinary disagreement at the Mahaica Oval today. That came from Toussaint and Guerra in the 66th minute.

Guerra was ghosting around Civic players like cones at the time when Toussaint obstructed his path. The former player reached over and picked Toussaint up like a parent disdainfully moving a toy from his path.

“He is a lightweight,” Guerra explained afterwards. “I wanted to show him that.”

It was an extraordinary sight and that might have been the saving grace of the talented attacker who had only just returned from a two-match suspension for reckless conduct.

Marshall whistled and summoned Guerra.

“What?!” retorted Guerra. “You can’t book me for that!”

Marshall, who almost certainly had never seen anything like that in his refereeing manual, couldn’t think of a counter-argument and gave a free kick to Central instead.

Civic did manage to push Central back on their heels for the final eight minutes but never really looked like overpowering them.

“(Central) is a well organised team,” said De Leon. “They have people upfront with confidence on the ball and we don’t have that. I am trying to get there but it takes time…

“But we will be okay.”

Between the gutsy performances of Lougheed, Redhead, full backs Ronell Paul and Andrei Pacheco and the trickery of Toussaint, Civic gave enough reason for confidence yesterday.

But Central, an athletic, hungry outfit steered by the perceptive duo of Oliver and holding midfielder Elton John, were worth their win.

The Sharks, who are in their third Pro League season, have never won the League competition before and they would do well to be wary of Connection’s powers of recovery. If yesterday was any guide, they will not give up their lead without a fight though.


Central FC (5-3-2): 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK) (captain); 15.Kaydion Gabriel, 17.Marcelle Francois, 10.Marvin Oliver, 12.Jamal Jack, 4.Uriah Bentick; 7.Jason Marcano (6.Leston Paul 65), 2.Elton John, 11.Darren Mitchell (3.Keon Goodridge 85); 99.Dwight Quintero (45.Ataulla Guerra 40), 33.Willis Plaza.

Unused substitutes: 30.Akel Clarke (GK), 14.Jean-Luc Rochford, 19.Nathaniel Garcia, 29.Upston Edwards.

Coach: Zoran Vranes

Point Fortin Civic (4-2-3-1): 1.Marvin Phillip (GK); 15.Ronell Paul, 5.Andre Ettienne (captain), 4.Weslie John, 19.Andrei Pacheco; 8.Nickcolson Thomas, 18.Trent Lougheed; 99.Shackiel Henry (9.Matthew Bartholomew 71), 11.Andre Toussaint, 6.Akeem Redhead; 10.Marcus Joseph (20.Jamille Boatswain 58).

Unused substitutes: 52.Akini Adams (GK), 7.Kelvin Modeste, 23.Kelvin Rouse, 25.Andre Matthew, 27.Bevon Bass.

Coach: Leroy De Leon

Referee: Callum Marshall

Football / Reynold Carrington Thread
« on: January 31, 2015, 04:03:50 PM »
Carrington quits Civic; Point coach cites demotivated players for shock exit
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868)

The Point Fortin Civic football club look likely to take to the field without Reynold Carrington for the first time in three years after the coach announced his shock resignation from the club this morning.

Carrington told Wired868 that he informed the players of his decision after training this morning. He has not discussed his departure with club officials yet but he doubts anything would change his mind.

“I just believe that it is time (to go),” said Carrington. “I think the players have lost motivation to play and I don’t feel the players are giving everything. I don’t think the players really understand the effort and support we have from the community and I’m not really seeing the improvement I want from them…

“So I want to allow someone fresh to come in with new ideas to take them forward.”

Club manager Ken McCree had not heard the news up until he was contacted by Wired868. He hopes that Carrington reconsiders.

“I called but I haven’t gotten on to (Carrington),” McCree told Wired868. “I called the chairman and he said that he heard that also… I hope it is just a rumour or a frustrated moment and we can talk about it soon.”

Should Carrington hold firm, his exit is likely to send shockwaves through the Point Fortin community and the top flight league.

A Point Fortin native himself, Carrington had brief professional stints in Indonesia and the United States. He won 36 international caps for Trinidad and Tobago and, as a deep-lying midfield playmaker or sweeper, set a platform for more illustrious teammates like Dwight Yorke, Russell Latapy and Stern John to deliver the goods.

When W Connection joined the inaugural Professional Football League in 1999, club chairman David John Williams paid TT$75,000 to sign Carrington, Wesley Webb and David Atiba Charles from Point Fortin. And Carrington went on to captain Connection while he was the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation’s (TTFF) Player of the Year in 2000.

Carrington worked primarily as an assistant coach at Connection after he retired although he did lead the club for one season while Stuart Charles-Fevrier was in charge of the “Soca Warriors.” He also had a spell as a National Under-17 Team coach before he took over at Point Fortin in 2012.

Point Fortin were in the Southern Football Association (SFA) but, after an exciting season in which they advanced to the FA Cup quarterfinals, the club decided to skip a level and head straight for the Pro League.

Civic’s hurried rise did create some problems. The club added Trinidad and Tobago national goalkeeper Marvin Phillip and former international players Andre Toussaint and Andrei Pacheco to its roster and stormed to the top of the Pro League for much of the first three months. They ended the season fourth and just three points shy of a qualifying spot for the 2015 Caribbean Club Championships.

But financial issues always loomed beneath the surface and Civic struggled to meet its financial obligations for much of 2014, which wreaked havoc on its pre-season preparation for the ongoing season.

“We were unable to even hold a screening session before we joined the Pro League (in 2013),” said Carrington. “We got word that we were in the Pro League late and we made the transition in such a short space of time that we could not hold trials.

“Then because of sponsorship problems we were unsure if we would be back in Pro League in (2014) and we could not invite players to try out in those circumstances… It was unavoidable.”

It meant that, according to Carrington, there was never the competition for places and creative tension he would have liked at the club.

“There must be competition for places,” said Carrington. “If a player doesn’t have to compete for his spot, he will feel it is almost promised to him.”

The club’s precarious financial situation meant several players also had to seek employment outside to complement modest salaries, which affected training sessions and focus. And Carrington felt they were never really recaptured the enthusiasm that players showed as amateurs in the lower league.

“At the lower level, the players were all hungrier and their attitude to training and focus was much better even though they were not getting paid,” he said. “So I thought that wouldn’t be a problem at the top level. Now it seems they care more about what they can get out of it and not what their contribution can be…

“Almost all the players were there from in the (southern football league) and they knew what the club was trying to achieve. But that focus went away. Players started focusing on who plays or who in the 18 (man squad) but not what they need to do to get out there.”

Carrington stressed that he was not accusing all the players of having poor attitudes. But, collectively, their intensity was not good enough.

Civic’s only win from its first seven League games this season came against perennial stragglers, St Ann’s Rangers, while they were eliminated in the first round of the First Citizens Cup. However, they put a run together in the Toyota Classic Cup and eliminated Central FC en route to the final where they lost on penalties to San Juan Jabloteh.

“When we qualified for the Toyota final, I thought that would be enough for them to realise that we can accomplish something and their work won’t be in vain,” said Carrington. “We only had ourselves to blame for not winning the final. But I was hoping to see better effort in training and game preparation individually after that.

“Coaches have their roles but we are not magicians. Some supporters and even some players might think we just pick a team and, once we get the system and tactics in place, everything will be right. But players have to take responsibility too.

“Some of the players have been around and know what it takes to succeed at the top level. But as a group we are not getting that collective effort… And we need to be all for one or one for all.”

Civic spluttered to life briefly with successive Pro League wins over Police FC and a 6-2 annihilation of Caledonia AIA. But that was followed by narrow defeats to North East Stars and Jabloteh.

Incidentally, their 2-1 loss to Jabloteh came on Carrington’s 45th birthday on January 27. It might be his last game in charge of the club.

Carrington spoke candidly about the challenges he faced at Civic.

“With the financial constraints (at Civic), the coach is more of a caretaker and motivator whereas the top clubs have a structure in place so the coaches can focus on his job more,” he said. “He has an equipment manager and grounds in place for training and all the little things. But, in our set up, sometimes players cannot reach to training in time after work and so on.

“So it was challenging but I was grateful for the opportunity and I gave my best.”

The Civic club still hopes to get their coach to reconsider. But, for now, Carrington thinks they will be better off getting someone with fresh enthusiasm and ideas for the post.

“The most important thing is the club stays alive not me remaining coach,” said Carrington. “The high point for me was in the first year when we had a run and got to the FA Cup quarterfinal. The way the Point Fortin supporters responded to the team gave me a glimpse of the potential of the club and I hope it still materialises.

“Point is a football community but, going forward, we need things like a proper facility for our supporters. It is tough for people to pay their money and stand in the sun with nowhere to sit or no toilet facilities and so on.”

Carrington insisted that he will stay in the game although he is not sure what his next job will be.

“There is a saying that coaches don’t buy houses, they rent,” he said. “So they leave themselves open for opportunities wherever they come. It is not the end of the world for me.

“I am giving someone else the opportunity to try and get (Civic) back on track. And I will see what happens next and then dust myself off and go again.”

Wired868 failed to reach Civic captain Andre Ettienne or goalkeeper Marvin Phillip for comment on Carrington’s impending exit.

On Tuesday afternoon, Civic play defending champions DIRECTV W Connection from 3.30 pm at the Mahaica Oval in Point Fortin. More likely than not, Carrington will not be leading their charge against his former employers.

Prepare to fail; Wired868 reviews the U-20 Warriors’ W/Cup effort
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868.com)

It took 77 minutes, a two-man numerical advantage and a goalkeeping blunder to separate Trinidad and Tobago and Panama on Sunday in their CONCACAF Under-20 Championship clash in Montego Bay.

Guess what the Panama team’s travel plans are now? And where the young “Soca Warriors” are heading?

Last month, the Ecuador and Trinidad and Tobago national senior women teams were within seconds of extra time after a 180 minute two-legged contest in Quito and Port of Spain before disaster again struck.

Ecuador is now preparing for the Canada 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The lady Warriors do not even have a technical staff in place nor do they know the date of their next international match.

The difference in reward for success and a near miss are astronomical. And, on the field, the tiniest detail determines which team is cheered at the final whistle and which leaves in tears.

It is a myth that every team which takes part in a competition is trying to win.

A quarter of the participants are there because of a sense of obligation. Their line is they are: “there to gain experience.” They will be trying to gain experience at the next tournament too. And the one after that.

Half of the teams that show up just want to put their best foot forward and compete. They explain that it is “eleven against eleven” and “the ball is round” so who knows what might happen?

What happens is they lose.

Only about a quarter of the participants are there to win, which would be roughly three teams in a 12 nation tournament. They contemplated the challenge well in advance and tried to assemble the best players, get them in the best physical condition, source the best technical guidance and place them within an atmosphere that provides the best chance for success.

Now ask yourself—whether you are a football player, coach or fan—what category Trinidad and Tobago falls into. Were we really trying to qualify for the World Cup? Do we really crave success in CONCACAF?

Trinidad and Tobago qualified for the FIFA Under-20 World Cup twice before in 1991 and 2009.

In the eight months leading up to the 1990 CONCACAF competition that served as the World Cup qualifiers, coach Bertille St Clair trained his team roughly twice a week for six of those months. There were two live-in camps before the qualifiers and a Venezuelan tour that included three matches against professional teams.

St Clair’s side, which was also blessed with talent like Dwight Yorke, Jerren Nixon, Anthony Sherwood and Clayton Ince, went on to finish second in CONCACAF behind Mexico while they defeated United States, Guatemala and El Salvador on the way to making history.

In 2009, head coach Zoran Vranes had the benefit of two international warm-up matches against El Salvador and a 10-day camp in Sao Paulo where they played against two Sao Paolo State first division clubs and one second division outfit.

“These three games will give us a very good chance to work on our match fitness,” said Vranes, at the time.

His then national youth captain Leston Paul, who led Trinidad and Tobago to the Under-17 World Cup two years earlier, spoke on behalf of the players as they prepared for Brazil.

“I think the trip to Brazil will bring us closer as a team,” said Paul, “because it is important that we have that bond like we had at the Under-17 level.”

Compare Paul’s enthusiasm to what the current National Under-20 players must have felt as they realised that their pre-tournament Mexico tour would not happen—some players paid their own way home from the United States with that trip in mind. And, just weeks before the 2015 CONCACAF tournament, even their participation in the Jamaica competition was in doubt.

Head coach Derek King had sent for US-based striker Ricardo John before the Mexico tour and would have had the chance to observe him at international level in December. Instead, John made his international debut in the Warriors’ opening qualifying match when they were trying to hang on to a two-goal lead against hosts, Jamaica.

Proper preparation does not guarantee success. But it sure makes it easier to get there. That extra match fitness, experience in managing a match or understanding the tempo at that level could potentially be the difference between a narrow loss and a draw or even a victory, particularly with a squad stuffed with schoolboys.

The 2015 edition was captain Shannon Gomez’s third overseas competition as a national youth player and he offered some insight to Wired868.

“When a team is properly groomed and you get that experience and exposure together,” said Gomez, “it increases chemistry and your chances of knowing what to do on the field rather than guessing what (your teammate) might do.”

As is now customary, there was a hint of friction between the squad and the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) as the players returned home without getting a cent of their promised US$50 per day stipend. The coaching staff was also unpaid.

“We were told that one of our managers was in Trinidad trying to get funds for us (during the tournament),” said Gomez. “But in the end, we just got ‘thanks very much for your time and effort’ and that was it.

“Some of us are professionals and getting paid to play by our clubs. But it just goes to show you what you get for representing Trinidad and Tobago.”

How long before players grow disillusioned about national service under such conditions?

And what about the technical staff members who leave wives, girlfriends and children with only a promise of pay for work but the certainty of abuse when things go wrong? What can international duty mean but, in theory, a chance to raise their status and then leverage it as quickly as possible for a job with a more stable and serious employer?

The most basic requirement any employee ought to have from a job is that it offers a salary which meets their self-worth or, at least, compensates for time that might have been spent elsewhere.

Surely, Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart, Under-20 Team coach Derek King and the other talented technical staff members within the national programmes cannot be expected to have limitless patience under the current circumstances.

The fate of former technical director Anton Corneal is a reminder of the TTFA’s callous treatment of its key employees. To date, the local football body has not replaced Corneal and, instead, has used Hart as a “technical advisor” of sorts.

But we are focusing on the CONCACAF Under-20 competition at the moment.

CONCACAF technical committee member Keith Look Loy, who followed the competition in Jamaica, will soon provide Wired868 readers with a more nuanced assessment of the technical attributes and flaws of the young Warriors and the quality of the tournament.

But it probably is not going out on a limb to suggest that the team’s fate was not decided solely by what happened on the field. And that means the players, notwithstanding their own errors in Jamaica, were also let down by the people whose duty was to provide them with the necessary tools for success.

Coaches, fans and observers cooed about the talent of the young Warriors in Kingston and Montego Bay. Yet the players left Jamaica embarrassed at their inability to take points off organised but often ordinary opponents.

“It was a disappointing experience,” said Gomez. “As one wise man told us during the tournament, if this Trinidad and Tobago team had preparation and support we would have been unbeatable.

“It is good to hear it. But hearing it and living it are two different things.”

Trinidad and Tobago football fans will not be living that dream anytime soon. Not if these administrative issues continue.

$.4 million con: Tim Kee tries to explain cover-up in Argentina friendly.
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868.com).

Almost half a million dollars of taxpayers’ money routed through the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) has disappeared with TTFA president and Port of Spain mayor Raymond Tim Kee unable to account for it.

Four hundred thousand dollars, which was the third biggest line item on the budget for the high-profile international friendly between Argentina and Trinidad and Tobago in Buenos Aires on June 4, went missing within two days of a $900,000 disbursement from the Ministry of Tourism, and set off a chain of events that led to a further $1.2 million loss for taxpayers.

The money, according to sources, was demanded by marketing executive Darren Millien, who was handpicked by TTFA general secretary Sheldon Phillips to represent the football body for the excursion.

Millien, according to an audited accounting statement and other related documents in Wired868’s possession, insisted upon two cash payments of $200,000 each from tour operator, Nissi Tours, as a “licensing fee” for the TTFA. The money was hand-delivered by Nissi representative and former 2006 World Cup player David Atiba Charles.

Invoices signed by Millien suggested that the “licensing fee” reached the intended recipients while Charles assured Wired868 that he made the delivery. The former W Connection defender also told Minister of Tourism Gerald Hadeed, in Millien’s presence, that he handed over the supposed licensing fee.

However, Millien, a former SPORTT Company and West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) executive, denied receiving the cash; his signature, he claimed, was forged.

“They said they had receipts I signed for $400,000,” Millien told Wired868. “When we looked at it, it was nothing like my signature. I presented copies of my signature and it was nothing like it.”

Hadeed, who learned of the fraud in an explosive meeting on May 30, has apparently left it for Tim Kee to investigate the missing taxpayers’ money. Wired868 could not reach Hadeed for comment.

It, arguably, is now a case of the TTFA investigating the TTFA over its role in the disappearance of public funds.

Tim Kee did not even inform the TTFA’s executive committee of the con until, six months later, when football officials got wind of the scandal and asked questions at a meeting on 17 November 2014.

According to a source, Tim Kee, who is also the PNM treasurer and a member of two FIFA standing committees, told the TTFA ExCo that the matter was reported to the Fraud Squad and so he was unable to discuss it. He repeated that claim to Wired868.

Remarkably, Millien claimed to have had input in the query that was filed with the Fraud Squad; and, despite evidence to the contrary, said Nissi Tours was the accused.

“We sent copies of (the Nissi Tours) report to the Fraud Squad,” said Millien. “They have to answer questions about the wild allegations of 400,000 in cash.”

However, senior police sources assured Wired868 that no report involving Millien or the TTFA whas ever brought to the attention of the Port of Spain Fraud Squad. Millien, Tim Kee and the TTFA are all based in Port of Spain while the payments were allegedly made in the Hyatt Hotel car park and at MovieTowne in Port of Spain.

Tim Kee promised to send Wired868 a copy of the file sent to the Fraud Squad. But, a day later and up to the time of publishing, he had not done so.

Meanwhile, even as the fraud matter is supposedly being investigated, Millien remains employed by the TTFA on a contract basis. He is, ironically, the face behind the football body’s push to raise money through the TTFA’s FIFA-funded income generation programme.

Tim Kee, who said he had a lot of respect for Millien, tried to explain why the TTFA is paying someone under investigation for fraud to raise money.

“Sheldon hired Darren Millien as he seemed to have had the qualifications to do it and I do not micro-manage,” said the football president, who claimed allegations against Millien were politically motivated. “As a human being, I myself have been subjected to a lot of things that were untrue; so I didn’t want to judge Darren on anything that might not be true.

“But, anytime I catch him, he will be on his own… I’m not taking that kind of blame at this stage of my life.”

Wired868 asked Millien what he brought to the cash-strapped body after almost 18 months as a marketing consultant.

“I was assisting (the TTFA) in its commercial programme,” said Millien. “We made a lot of approaches to commercial sponsors and we are just awaiting feedback from them.”

Millien has found revenue for himself, though. In the last two months, the One 2 One Marketing company, which lists Sherwin Derek Wong and Millien as its directors, received just over $60,000 from the football body.

During that period, the Government stepped in twice with financial rescue packages for the TTFA who had not paid per diems to its national women’s team players or match fees and salaries to the senior men’s team players and coaches.

Phillips has done well for himself too.

While then technical director Anton Corneal and other coaches worked for free, Phillips virtually doubled the housing allowance afforded to previous general secretary Richard Groden as the allowance rose sharply from $11,000 to around $21,000. And, while Groden’s starting salary was $15,000 in 2004, Phillips is understood to pay himself between $23,000 and $24,000.

Tim Kee defended Phillips’ remuneration.

“Sheldon’s allowance was aligned to what was paid to Groden,” said Tim Kee. “Groden was occupying one of (Jack) Warner’s houses and he rented a vehicle for around $19,000 a month. When you look at the combination of both they would come up to the same.”

Wired868 understands that Groden actually received a vehicle allowance of roughly $8,000 per month. Phillips, incidentally, also has a company vehicle.

“(Phillips) went to Lifestyle Motors and worked out an arrangement where it is paid for in kind,” said Tim Kee.

Lifestyle Motors has given the TTFA use of a vehicle, which Phillips drives, but, instead of cash, the company receives benefit by placing banners and billboards at national team games without charge.

Even without adding the cost of the billboards that the TTFA waives so Phillips can have his vehicle, the general secretary’s salary plus allowances is notably higher than his predecessor’s and at a time when the football body complains of being virtually insolvent.

Potentially more lucrative are Phillips’ side interests. He is the owner and sole employee of consultancy firm Element Agency + Events in Columbia, Maryland, which, Wired868 has been told, does marketing and operates as a match agent.

Phillips’ CV features a single reference of note to Element Agency. In 2012, in collaboration with James Grant Sports and the Baltimore Ravens, the firm put on an exhibition match between Liverpool and Tottenham.

In February 2013, three months after Tim Kee became TTFA president, Phillips got his first gig with the local football body when he organised Peru’s trip to Couva for an international friendly.

One London-based match agent, who operates in the Caribbean, explained to Wired868 how they earn their pay.

Agents usually charge a minimum of Ł5,000 per game plus full affair costs, which means all expenses such as travel costs and match fees. On top of that flat fee, agents usually demand a percentage of gates and television revenue as well.

An agent with a commitment from an international team to arrange a game on a particular day, for instance, can hawk around the world until he or she finds a suitable football association that will pay the most for the match.

Trinidad and Tobago is a more attractive proposition to match agents than one might think. It is one of the few international teams that generally has all its “affair costs” paid for by its government.

So, in theory, a match agent could charge the Romania or Saudi Arabia FAs for the cost of airline tickets and match fees for the Trinidad and Tobago team and then pocket that money once the trip is written off by the Ministry of Sport while still benefitting from a booking fee and cut of the gates and television rights.

Under Tim Kee, the “Soca Warriors” have played 12 international friendless and nine of them were abroad against Argentina, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Peru, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Estonia, Peru, Belize and Jamaica. Audited statements were not provided to the TTFA executive or the Government for any of those matches.

When Phillips became the TTFA’s general secretary, in May 2013, he told Wired868 that he would no longer run Element Agency owing to an obvious conflict of interest.

Yesterday, Phillips denied that he was using his position at the TTFA to earn substantial fees as a match agent. He claimed to have an affidavit from the Romanian agent involved in the friendly clash between the two nations in 2013, which states that Phillips “was never given or asked for a fee.”

“As general secretary, I cannot act as an agent,” said Phillips. “When I started to hear this claim, I wanted to quell it and that is why I got that affidavit from the gentleman.”

He did not explain why he felt a statement from a fellow agent cleared him.

Wired868 also received emails that showed Phillips used his Element Agency account to conduct much of the TTFA’s business for the Argentina tour while, in others, he used his TTFA or Gmail accounts.

Phillips insisted his use of his Element Agency account, while sorting out details for international football matches, was an honest mistake. While Tim Kee said he advised his general secretary to stick to Gmail—rather than his TTFA address.

“I have a glitch in my email where sometimes emails that go out go out with my Element address,” Phillips told Wired868. “I’ve tried to fix it and even disabled the address but emails still go out. I have to get that fixed.

“Element has never been a part of anything since I got involved in the TTFA.”

So, who put on the Trinidad and Tobago/Argentina friendly?

“That would be World Eleven,” said Phillips.

Renowned London-based Argentinean journalist Marcela Mora y Araujo, whose freelance employers include the UK Guardian and Telegraph and the US-based Sport Illustrated, was working in Buenos Aires at the time of the match and she gave a different story.

“I was told by World Eleven that the game was not organised by them,” said Mora y Araujo, “but rather by the AFA directly.”

Millien is no stranger to controversy either. In 2005, the then WICB Chief Marketing Officer was among several officials grilled by a three-member committee over the Board’s controversial contract with Digicel behind the backs of its then sponsor, Cable & Wireless, and amidst rumours of illicit kickbacks.

The committee, which was chaired by Trinidadian Justice Anthony Lucky and included Antiguan chartered accountants Avondale Thomas and Gregory Georges, ruled that the Digicel contract was legally flawed and null and void.

Millien also appeared before a Parliamentary committee during the last PNM administration to answer questions on the controversial $2 million flag, which haunted previous Sport Minister Gary Hunt.

As soon as the Ministry of Tourism agreed to partner with the TTFA, Phillips introduced Millien to the tour operators for the event.

“Darren has been my go to guy for the tour arrangements,” said Phillips, via one email. “The ministry confirmed everything so he should be contacting you…”

Then Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Juliana Boodram, had little knowledge of football but saw the benefits of a high-profile match with an estimated broadcast audience of 300 million. The $2.1 million cost of taking the Warriors to Argentina was also cheaper than a booth at either of the world trade shows in London or Berlin.

Boodram’s job was to liaise with Phillips and Millien to ensure the event went smoothly and the public purse was protected.

What followed was a tour she would never forget.

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