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“There was […] a return to what we would consider ‘outdated’ centre forwards like Mario Mandzukic, Olivier Giroud and, somewhat, Edinson Cavani…”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

Football / Re: David John Williams Thread.
« on: June 08, 2018, 12:24:42 PM »
Team DJW cranks up the heat as Salazar addresses Board while I95.5 targets Look Loy, Browne, Harford and Tim Kee
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868.com)

I95.5FM sport reporter Andre Baptiste stands accused of operating like a hired gun for beleaguered Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams, as the latter’s attempts to survive an internal enquiry appear to have taken an explosive turn.

John-Williams, who was elected to office on 29 November 2015, has failed to provide answers to a slew of financial questions from the TTFA’s membership over the past six months, including queries related to work on the US$2.25 million Home of Football project, legal fees, coaching salaries and a deal with I95.5FM—which appeared to have been done without Board knowledge or approval.

However, a threat by Board member and Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) president, Keith Look Loy, to initiate a Police investigation into John-Williams’ financial management of the local football body—if stakeholders’ questions remain unanswered—appeared to have provoked a two-pronged response from “Team DJW.”

First, TTFA vice-president and John-Williams’ former slate colleague, Joanne Salazar, issued an eye-raising email to the Board, via general secretary Justin Latapy-George, in which she not only refused to answer some questions—raised by Veteran Footballers Foundation (VFFOTT) president Selby Browne—but appeared to be directing the president about the queries he should tiptoe around.

“Did the Board of Directors of the TTFA provide approval for the unprecedented TV Rights negotiations of the TTFA?” asked Browne, in one question about the football body’s legal impasse with United States television network, Telemundo.

Salazar’s response was written in bold, with red ink and then underlined:

“David, you need to decide what you are going to say if this is asked—please keep it short and to the point.”

Salazar’s replies, including multiple prompts regarding where John-Williams should tread carefully, were relayed to Board members by Latapy-George. And, according to sources, there was no follow-up missive to suggest the draft was issued in error.

Arguably, Salazar’s answers encapsulated the tone of John-Williams’ executive, as she gave obscure responses, suggested members did not deserve certain answers and misrepresented other incidents.

When asked to name the signatories of the TTFA’s four active bank accounts, Salazar said: “A combination of officers and directors of the Board.”

It is uncertain who would be considered “officers […] of the Board” while there have been over a dozen Board directors over the last two years including John-Williams and Salazar. Yet, she did not give a single name.

On the question of why the TTFA erroneously claimed rental expenses at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in a court matter with Ramesh Ramdhan last year, and if the football body had attempted to mislead the High Court, Salazar responded: “This matter has been addressed and resolved.”

It certainly had not been addressed and resolved at the level of the football membership.

Browne also asked the TTFA to list “all individuals and companies that have received any remunerative compensation for services rendered since January 2016 to present.”

Salazar, a vice-president at Phoenix Park Gas, did not think the TTFA’s members—and/or Board directors—deserved to know which companies John-Williams had entered into financial relationships with, on behalf of the football body.

“The information is not for public consumption,” stated Salazar, “making it publicly available cannot be achieved without violating the expectation of confidentiality of the person concerned.”

Browne asked too about the TTFA’s hosting of over two dozen Caribbean Football Union (CFU) officials on 17 and 18 June 2016—a week before John-Williams announced his ill-fated campaign to become CFU president.

Ostensibly, the meeting was about the formation of a Caribbean Professional League (CPL), which could also benefit John-Williams personally as owner of the W Connection football club. Yet, the invoices from that meeting went to the TTFA and, although the football president claimed to have financial support from UEFA and FIFA, it is uncertain if the money spent by the local body was ever reimbursed in part or full.

Salazar claimed, without an explanation, that the CFU meeting—in which the TTFA paid for airfare, hotel and meals for at least 25 officials—fell within the “ordinary business of the TTFA” since it was a “milestone” for Caribbean football.

(Notwithstanding the fact that, after John-Williams was defeated in the CFU polls, the Caribbean club competition was not formally raised again).

Even more remarkable, though, was Salazar’s response to whether the CPL meetings were approved by the TTFA Board.

“Yes, the Board of Directors were aware of the planned session,” said Salazar. “No, the relevant Board meeting was not recorded, as none of the TTFA Board meetings are recorded. The event was funded by FIFA and CONCACAF, as agreed.”

Salazar’s response was untrue and contradicted statements she and John-Williams made during a I95.5FM programme with myself on 7 July 2016.

At the time, John-Williams pointed to an email on 13 June 2016, which showed that the CPL conference was on the agenda for an upcoming Board meeting. However, that Board meeting was cancelled and, as I pointed out then, the TTFA president despatched invitations to the CFU presidents on 3 June—a full 10 days before he even put the item on the local agenda.

So how could Salazar, two years later, claim to have Board approval?

Even as Board members mulled over Salazar’s missive, an audio promo for a two-hour Baptiste show on I95.5FM, on the eve of the TTFA’s next EGM, turned the heat up again.

Baptiste, who refers to himself as “The Fearless One”, named John-Williams, Look Loy, Browne, Northern Football Association (NFA) president Anthony Harford and former TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee; and suggested he had “signed documentary evidence, emails, letters and recordings” involving some or all of the aforementioned persons.

“The state of football,” Baptiste claimed, “is [being] threatened once again.”

Look Loy, Browne and Harford have been John-Williams’ most vocal critics while Tim Kee, according to sources, has been quietly canvassing members in a bid to reclaim power.

The I95.5FM programme is due to run from 7pm to 9pm on 12 June.

Browne, Harford and Look Loy suggested collusion on the part of Baptiste and John-Williams.

“I find it very surprising the choice of the programme date,” said Harford, who said Baptiste did not invite him to defend himself against any allegations. “[…] You are supposedly going to buss files and the people named are those who have been asking David hard and legitimate questions, including the question of his relationship with I95.5.

“We have been told—and it was confirmed to us—that the TTFA or Mr John-Williams has been paying for travel and negotiating rights fee waivers for I95.5 to cover all their football games [for the last two years]. And other stations are saying that they carry football for years and were not allowed to bid.

“[…] Nobody is against I95.5 but show us the contract; because Board members are saying they know nothing about that.”

I95.5FM was paid to cover all of T&T’s football matches, inclusive of travel and accommodation, rather than the other way around.

Look Loy was dismissive of Baptiste’s upcoming show, which he referred to as a desperate, smear campaign. And he insisted that it would not save John-Williams from accounting to members.

“That show is prompted by a desperate man and will be delivered by another desperate man singing for his supper,” Look Loy told Wired868. “This is what that contract or arrangement between DJW and I95.5 is all about. It was never discussed or approved by the TTFA Board and is intended to make a once respected media house [become] the protector of a despot’s irreparably tarnished image.

“So in his desperation, the despot intends to apply a scorched earth policy. But after all is said and done, he had better produce the documents and verifications that I, Selby and the general meeting have demanded for one year now—or he will face consequences.”

Next Wednesday’s EGM marks the sixth successive general meeting by the John-Williams-led administration in which the controversial administrator will try to pass the financial statement for his first year in office.

John-Williams initially planned to travel to Moscow this weekend for next week’s FIFA congress and World Cup bid vote—despite having missed last week’s EGM on medical grounds. However, he is understood to have changed his mind, after Look Loy’s threat to involve the Police.

Although Salazar attempted to answer questions posed by Browne in July 2017, there was no such response to Look Loy’s queries last December—which included requests for transparency on construction work at the Home of Football.

Wired868 understands too that Board member Richard Quan Chan will take John-Williams’ place for the trip to Russia this weekend, and should accompany Salazar, Latapy-George and first vice-president Ewing Davis on the flight out of the country. It is uncertain why Quan Chan, who is also the Southern Football Association (SFA) president, was selected for the expedition.

Coincidentally, Quan Chan, Salazar and Davis are the entire TTFA Tendering Committee for the Home of Football project. It means only John-Williams will be in Trinidad next week to answer questions on the controversial venture on 13 June.

First, almost certainly, would be the spectacle of Baptiste’s radio show, which has appeared to match the will of the football president on almost ever matter since the surprise sacking of former Soca Warriors coach, Stephen Hart, in late 2016.

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.

Football / Re: David John Williams Thread.
« on: April 02, 2018, 12:14:40 PM »
TTFA AGM: DJW struggles to answer questions on Home of Football contracts and “sweetheart deal” with I95.5FM
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868.com)

Mysterious construction contracts without Board approval, national football coaches operating without appraisals and a secret “sweetheart deal” with I95.5FM were among the controversial revelations yesterday as the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) held a marathon AGM at the Cycling Centre in Couva.
There were roughly 45 delegates and board members at one point yesterday for a memorable session that lasted over 11 hours, as participants refuelled with coffee, water and one snack box—a sandwich, slice of cake, cookie and four grapes.
TTFA president David John-Williams was still in charge at the end, as a no confidence motion did not come from the floor. However, it was a bruising day for the businessman and W Connection owner who was forced to make multiple concessions and was overruled on several occasions.
“What came out yesterday proved that lies were told to us,” Northern Football Association (NFA) president Anthony Harford told Wired868, “and there was a level of deceit and one-mannism in the football fraternity.
“Decisions claimed to be made by the Board were not made by the Board but were in fact made by one man.”
Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) president Keith Look Loy seconded that assessment.
“Yesterday the Emperor’s nakedness was revealed,” said Look Loy. “John-Williams’ lack of leadership, his mismanagement of the Association, and his usurpation of the authority of the TTFA board was made transparently clear, time and again in issue after issue.
“The Board, members of which come from the bowels of football as its representatives, has conceded its authority to the one-mannism of John-Williams [and] allowed this open sore to fester. The TTFA ship is rudderless.”
Arguably, the most serious of John-Williams’ perceived transgressions lay in the approval and oversight for work done at the TTFA’s Home of Football project, which includes training grounds, players’ hotel and entertainment centre, just outside of the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
“It was evident that contracts were entered into, approaches were made to government for land, approaches were made to FIFA for funding,” said VFFOTT president Selby Browne, “with absolutely no approval from the Board.
“[John-Williams] said that he received gifts of a loan of tractors from Junior Sammy and gravel as a gift from National quarries. But there was no approval for anything.
“He just went ahead and did all these things.”
John-Williams, who owns his own construction company, allegedly informed the meeting that a committee that included his first vice-president Ewing Davis and TTFA employee Sharon O’ Brien oversaw the tender. That tender was then supposedly approved by the Board.
The problem for the TTFA President was that no other Board member could remember any meeting which gave that approval while general secretary Justin Latapy-George could find no evidence of it, after a search through his own files.
“The total FIFA funding available for this project is US$2.25 million,” said Look Loy. “But instead of awarding one big contract, [John-Williams] broke project into many small contracts of US$50,000 each.
“So he is acting like a contractor who is paying smaller contractors; and in that scenario, he could be giving money to anyone.”
Look Loy turned to John-Williams’ second vice-president Joanne Salazar and Board member Richard Quan Chan to vouch for the football president.
“I want to hear either one of you say the Board approved the contracts handed out to anybody,” asked Look Loy.
Salazar and Quan Chan, according to several witness, remained silent. First vice-president Ewing Davis suggested that consensus was arrived at by “some” Board members via email; but, after laughter from the floor, that was deemed unacceptable by Members and rejected.
Read more: https://wired868.com/2018/04/01/ttfa-agm-djw-struggles-to-provide-answers-on-home-of-football-contracts-and-sweetheart-i95-5fm-deal/

“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.

Shiva Boys relegated after SSFL rejects “identity theft” argument for second illegitimate player
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868.com)

Defending champions Shiva Boys Hindu College will be relegated from the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) Premier Division at the end of the 2017 season, after their latest alleged administrative failing left the “Penal Princes” adrift at the bottom of the 15 team standings.

After hearings at Carapichaima East Secondary yesterday, the SSFL’s Disciplinary and Appeals Committees ruled that Shiva Boys be docked a combined total of 14 points for failing to properly register two players, central midfielder Kierron Mason and left-back Matthew Beal.

The ruling means Shiva Boys plunge from fourth place to last with a total of just nine points; and they have no chance of avoiding relegation on the closing day of the season tomorrow.

The beneficiaries near the foot of the table are Trinity College Moka and St Benedict’s College, who will both avoid the drop now. At the top of the table, meanwhile, Presentation College (San Fernando) go two points clear after their 3-0 on-the-field loss to Shiva Boys on 14 October became a 3-0 triumph in the boardroom.

Ironically, all three teams with a chance to clinch the title on Saturday—Presentation, St Anthony’s College and Naparima College—all benefitted from protests against Shiva Boys. The defending champions had defeated “Naps” and “Pres” and drawn 2-2 with the “Westmoorings Tigers.”

Today’s boardroom ruling centred on a Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) outing by Mason for Marabella Family Crisis Centre on Saturday 2 September; and a Southern Football Association (SFA) match played by Beal for Siparia Angels on the same day, which was 48 hours after the deadline for SSFL players to stop participating in Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA)-affiliated competitions.

The SSFL Constitution allows for schoolboys who played outside of the deadline to still be registered for its competition. However, schools must request clearance for such players, complete with the relevant paperwork from the league in question.

According to Article 16 of the SSFL Constitution, failure to do so is punishable by “Loss of points or even suspension from further participation in the League for the remainder of the season, as the Disciplinary Committee may decide.”

The Penal-based school had already lost six points this season after successful protests by Naparima College and St Anthony’s College for the improper use of Mason.

Shiva Boys principal Dexter Sakal, who handles the team’s administrative duties alongside manager Sheldon Maharaj, accepted responsibility for the Mason cock-up—which he said was an honest oversight rather than a deliberate attempt to get an advantage over the rest of the field.

His defence of Beal’s name appearing on a Siparia Angels team sheet on 2 September was far more interesting.

Sakal told the Disciplinary Committee that it was a case of identity theft. In an effort to strengthen Shiva Boys’ case, he produced another Siparia team sheet, on 23 September, which suggested that Beal had again represented the SFA team during the schoolboys’ season.

On that same day, though, Beal played for Shiva Boys in Moka where they defeated Trinity College Moka 2-0. And Sakal said the left-back was with the school team from about 11am until 9pm when they got back to Penal.

He said it proved the club was in the wrong.

“When we investigated, we realised that [Siparia Angels] had used another player under his name,” Sakal told Wired868. “The boy told us he didn’t play but we were worried until we saw that team list on 23 September. That proved what the club was doing…”

However, the Disciplinary Committee was not convinced that Sakal’s second team sheet was sufficient evidence to invalidate the first document, which suggested that Beal played for Siparia on 2 September.

There was also the matter of Shiva Boys application for Beal’s clearance from the SFA, which was made on 24 October and suggested that he had not been properly registered prior to that. Or does it?

“When we thought he had played, we got [the clearance],” said Sakal. “But then we realised there was an error and we didn’t need clearance. The boy always said that he didn’t play but we didn’t know what to think until we saw the second team list.”

It is uncertain whether Sakal will challenge the Disciplinary Committee’s verdict.

Yesterday, he refused to attend the Appeals Committee’s meeting on Mason on the grounds that it was illegal.

On 17 October, a two-man Disciplinary Committee panel, comprising SSFL general secretary Azaad Khan and North Zone secretary Roger Martin, pardoned Shiva Boys for their improper use of Mason throughout September. The decision was not communicated to the general membership.

The SSFL’s letter to Sakal gave its reasons for not deducting points as the Shiva Boys’ apology and acknowledgement that it had flouted the rules as well as the school’s “attempt to immediately procure the transfer certificate.”

Fatima College and Queen’s Royal College (QRC) subsequently protested the decision not to deduct points from Shiva Boys. But Sakal pointed out that the appeal was lodged more than 72 hours after the verdict and contended that, as a result, it should not have been heard.

“There is […] no justification for considering an appeal that is 72 hours late,” said Sakal. “I have written to the League asking that they provide an explanation but none has been provided.

“Given this situation, I feel that the Executive of the League are acting unlawfully and I will not be coerced into attending any appeal (hearing) that is unconstitutionally convened.”

However, Fatima and QRC countered that the timing of their appeal was no fault of theirs as they were not officially informed of the decision until a week after the fact.

SSFL president William Wallace admitted as much in an interview with Wired868 last month.

“Normally, a protest would come from a school and so when the matter is dealt with both schools—the protesting school and the one facing the protest—would be informed after the hearing,”  Wallace said on 25 October. “In this case, no school protested the matter; it was information that was picked up and dealt with directly by the Committee. So they just informed the school that was involved.

“But now that we have a third party interest, we asked [the Disciplinary Committee] to send [its decision] to everybody, especially the two schools who (had) enquired about the status of the matter.”

Whether or not the Disciplinary Committee’s decision was valid in the first place is also open to debate. There are allegations that, to start with, Martin was not a member of the committee while the question has been asked about whether two persons can legally constitute a quorum.

Arguably, Sakal’s position that he would not appeal the Mason decision could spare the SSFL Executive many blushes.

“I don’t feel I should commit my school to that kind of torture for football,” said Sakal. “Whatever happens, I will leave it there. This is a school and not a football club.

“At some point, I have to say enough is enough with the football and the distractions.”

Yet, in the end, it was the Beal case that proved to be the last nail in Shiva Boys’ coffin.

Even if the SSFL had ruled on behalf of Shiva Boys in all three challenges against Mason, Sakal and Maharaj’s failure to prove the whereabouts of their left-back on 2 September would have sunk them anyway since he played—supposedly without proper clearance—in 10 league matches.

Today’s boardroom decision capped off a bizarre season off the field for the schoolboys league and, unquestionably, the most disastrous title defence in the history of the competition.

Things went awry from Shiva Boys first match as ‘they used Mason off the bench in their 2-1 opening win over Naparima College although he had been registered as a student for barely 48 hours before kick-off.

SSFL rules state that players must be registered for at least 72 hours before they can properly compete.

The bigger problem, though, was that Mason’s TTSL outing for Marabella meant he was still unqualified as a player since proper clearance had not been sought by his school.

By the time Sakal and Maharaj caught on and submitted the appropriate paperwork, Shiva Boys had already played eight matches. So the school was forced to continue from there with zero points and just six matches remaining.

There was still opportunity for coach Hayden Ryan’s team to rescue their Premier Division status for the 2018 season by winning their remaining fixtures.

But then, like a thief in the night, came word of Beal’s registration issues. And Shiva Boys were deep in trouble.

Whispers about Beal’s eligibility, Wired868 is aware, had been making the rounds as far back as Monday 1 October. Somehow, it took the rumours three more weeks to get to Penal.

And, by the time Shiva Boys management team sprang into action and cleared the player on 24 October, there were just four games left, that proved to be insufficient time for the Penal Princes to save themselves from the drop.

Belatedly, Sakal argued that Beal didn’t need clearance at all and was the victim of some devious behaviour by his club, Siparia Angels. But he could not convince the SSFL Disciplinary Committee of the truth of his story.

There is, though, one sliver of hope.

Last season, San Juan North Secondary were set for demotion—based on the standings—but successfully petitioned their fellow teams to ignore the table and vote for them to stay up; they argued that they had been unfairly penalised owing to post-season boardroom decisions against East Mucurapo Secondary and Presentation which negatively affected their final placing.

Sakal and company can follow suit. They might appeal for the sympathy of their colleagues on the grounds that Shiva Boys never sought to cheat but had simply made a mess of the registration process.

If the first school to get wind of the Beal issue had shared the information with Sakal, the Penal school would be in mid-table today. But this does not change the fact that it was Shiva Boys’ error to begin with.

“This season started really well but then it didn’t go well,” Sakal told Wired868 on Monday 30 October. “We really stumbled this season [with] our off-field challenges which were more than our on-field challenges…

“At the beginning of the season, I said we have such a good team that the only ones who can beat us is ourselves and it turned out so true—not for the boys but the management, who made a couple of errors [that] cost us dearly.”

Should the current table reflect nothing but results on the field of play, Shiva Boys would today be tied with Presentation at the top of the standings and seeking their second successive title with an emphatic win over St Benedict’s on Saturday.

Had they managed it, they would have become only the second school to successfully defend the Premier Division crown, following Naparima’s back-to-back league trophies in 2014 and 2015.

Instead, owing to shoddy administrative work and a controversial team list, Shiva Boys are set to play in the lower division next season.

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.

Fenwick poised to take over North East Stars, will move club to Arima Velodrome
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868)

Terry Fenwick looks set for a sensational return to the Pro League with increased powers to boot, as the successful and combative English coach declared that he will lead North East Stars into battle for the 2017 season.

The deal, according to Fenwick, would give the former San Juan Jabloteh and Central FC coach full authority over all football operations at the club, although Stars owner Darryl Mahabir remains as chairman.

“Over the last month, Darryl Mahabir and I have met on several occasions to figure out how we will handle the situation,” Fenwick told Wired868. “He will remain as our chairman but all football matters will come under my remit, so he can get on with his outside interests.”

Mahabir could not be reached for comment. However, a senior official at Stars confirmed that a formal deal between the two parties appears to be a matter of when and not if.

“Basically, the plan is for Terry to take over the running of the club,” he said, under the condition of anonymity. “The confirmation should happen within the next 24 hours.”

Arguably, the most eye-raising aspect of Fenwick’s return lies in his new base. Stars, who initially played at Ojoe Road in Sangre Grande but have not had a home for years, have agreed a deal with the Arima Borough Council to move the club to the Arima Velodrome.

“We feel that we have got a bit of a coup there,” said Fenwick, a former England World Cup player and Tottenham Spurs captain. “The Arima Mayor [Lisa Morris] is quite keen for us to use the Velodrome as a home base. The Velodrome is possibly the only stadium that is right in the heart of a community.

“Everything revolves around the Velodrome and it has such a great following. From my experience in the past, even minor league games at the Velodrome would attract 1,000 fans and sometimes more.

“It is a focal point [for Arimians] and this is something we hope to take advantage of.”

Arima Mayor Lisa Morris-Julian said she is excited by the pending arrival of not only Fenwick’s Stars but also National Super League champions FC Santa Rosa, who are led by interim Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) president Keith Look Loy.

Santa Rosa played at the Centre of Excellence in Macoya for the last two years while they used the UTT facilities in Malabar before that.

Morris hopes the two clubs can return the spotlight to a community that once produced or showcased talented players like Kerry Jamerson, Timothy Haynes, Kerwin “Papa” Emmanuel, Derek King, Dwayne and Craig Demmin and the late Mickey Trotman.

Morris knows first-hand the power of sport in the borough. Her father, Raymond Morris, had close ties with the Arima Memphis football club while her grandfather, Leroy Morris, was a footballer before he became Arima mayor.

“Officially, Mr Fenwick will receive his [confirmation] letter on Thursday but it was already discussed and decided upon unanimously by the Borough,” Morris told Wired868. “We are just excited that someone of Mr Fenwick’s international stature would come here and [help] Arima to be the football mecca as it once was back in the 1970s and 1980s.

“So we hope with Mr Fenwick and Mr Look Loy, we can once more be a powerhouse in Trinidad and even the Caribbean.”

Two years ago, Fenwick was on the verge of a similar relationship in the Morvant/Laventille region, which had the blessing of then MP Donna Cox and Sport Ministry Permanent Secretary Gillian MacIntyre.

However, the proposal ended in controversy after Kevin Harrison—then advisor to Sport Minister Brent Sancho—ordered MacIntyre to withdraw the Ministry’s financial support.

Fenwick was previously employed by Harrison and Sancho at Central FC and parted way on acrimonious terms, despite helping the pair to their maiden Pro League and Caribbean Cup titles in 2015.

The Sport Ministry subsequently started a probe into its support for the project, which was a collaborative effort by Fenwick and the Ma Pau Casino. MacIntyre gave a TT$450,000 cheque to the fledgling Ma Pau Morvant Sports Club, as was within her remit as PS. However, the application fee for the Pro League was TT$400,000.

Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene said, at the time, that his body felt it was an innocent mistake while the Sport Ministry never proved fraudulent behaviour—although two employees, exclusive of the PS, were suspended pending investigations.

This time, Fenwick appears to have avoided controversy. Harrison claimed that his only concern is regarding the details of Stars’ new partnership at board room level. Once more, Ma Pau, according to Harrison, is involved.

“My only question was concerning the status of Ma Pau,” said Harrison. “To date, I am not aware of the arrangement made between Ma Pau and North East Stars regarding ownership, etc. When Ma Pau were in the League before and they left, apparently they owed players some money. So have they sorted that out first?

“Otherwise, I can’t see it being a problem. We have no problem with [Fenwick]. He always makes football more interesting and I think the League needs that spice.”

So far, Fenwick has not revealed whether he has any financial backers and who they might be.

Arima is already making adjustments for the new year and Morris said Sport Minister Darryl Smith promised to help develop the India Ground in Malabar, which would allow the Borough to comfortably host Pro League and Super League games without leaving out the Arima League.

“It is exciting times ahead,” said Morris. “We have the room and we just look forward to embracing everyone. I would also like to acknowledge the social aspect of both plans. Both [Fenwick and Look Loy] have promised to give back to the at-risk communities in Arima.

“Santa Rosa have always been closely intertwined with the community but will now actively go out to the at-risk areas while [Fenwick’s] Football Factory is also supposed to come to Arima.”

Fenwick explained how he thinks he can provide a social benefit to Arima.

“We are looking at opening a Football Factory in Arima that will help young players develop and learn the game and get life skills,” said Fenwick. “And by that I mean discipline, communication, leadership skills, confidence and all kinds of life skills. In Port of Spain, we have kids from all walks of life—kids from Morvant and Caledonia who can’t speak to each other on their block but get along at Football Factory.

“Not all of these kids will be excellent footballers. The better youngsters will move on and compete with the professional youth teams. So we see it as a holistic all-round program.

“In Port in Spain, where we attract 175 kids, we can sometimes have as many as 150 parents who come out to watch their kids go through their drills on Tuesday and Thursday evening. So we see that as the family aspect of it…

“We have had a good working relationship with the British High Commission in the past on anti-gang initiatives as well that maybe we can help to get started in Arima.”

The Football Factory, like most football academies, operates with a combination of paid players and others who receive scholarships. Fenwick and Morris said both parties still need to iron out further details of their partnership beyond Stars’ use of the Velodrome.

In terms of the Pro League club’s ambitions on the field, Fenwick promised to create a team capable of challenging for the title within a year and a half. The Englishman unearthed a stream of teenaged talent at Jabloteh—such as Khaleem Hyland, Sheldon Bateau, Ataulla Guerra, Robert Primus and Lester Peltier—and will attempt to use a similar formula in Arima.

“We are looking at the development of young players because there are some terrific young players out there,” said Fenwick. “So we want a handful of experienced players—who are good role models—to lead a young team that might take 18 months to reach their full potential.

“We recognise that we need to have an excellent team and we hope people in Arima are patient as we build. I want a sprinkling of senior boys that will give us some shape to start with, but that will be four or five tops.”

While Fenwick declined the chance to name any youthful transfer targets, he did mention a 41-year-old talisman who worked alongside him at Jabloteh and Central.

The evergreen Marvin Oliver, who spent last season with relegated Super League Premiership Division team, Maracas FC, is first on Fenwick’s list and could operate as a player/coach for Stars.

“Marvin is somebody I have a lot of time for because I recognise his professionalism and how he applies himself,” said Fenwick. “He leads by example and gives good information to the youngsters on and off the training ground. I will speak to Marvin in due course [and] I will like his involvement. But it is still early stages.”

Fenwick also identified King, the former Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team assistant coach, as a potential asset for his coaching staff.

King, who still lives in Arima, is a former Pro League champion coach with Joe Public and steered the Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 Team to the Caribbean Cup title in 2004. He quit the national team last November after the David John-Williams-led TTFA administration dismissed head coach Stephen Hart.

Fenwick has already approached King and hopes to convince the promising 36-year-old coach to join him at Stars.

“We need people on the ground who are capable of looking after the programme,” said Fenwick. “I would run the programme—to make sure it is delivered with the same quality and intensity—but I want to rely on people like Derek King for his expertise and knowledge of the area.

“I haven’t decided on what role he will have yet because I need to talk to him [formally] to see if he is available.”

The Pro League has not revealed a start date for its new season although it is expected to kick off in May.

Fenwick’s potential move to Arima will mark the first time a Pro League team has used the Velodrome as its home base since Arima Fire in 2000.

Stars used the Larry Gomes Stadium in Malabar in recent years but the inadequate lighting at the venue meant that they often played home games at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva instead.

“Darryl has been a bit frustrated not to have a home ground in Grande but he is delighted we got the velodrome,” said Fenwick. “He wants to see his baby, his North East Stars, go on to bigger and better things. He has had several coaches fail to deliver what he was looking for.”

As always, Fenwick backs himself to deliver something special.

The Englishman is the Pro League’s second most accomplished league coach with four titles, which is one short of the five league trophies held by W Connection technical director Stuart Charles-Fevrier.

Fenwick is also the only coach to win league trophies with two separate clubs, although there is a caveat. He spent barely a month at Central when he won his only league trophy with that club in 2014—after Sancho and Harrison replaced coach Zoran Vranes within touching distance of the finish line.

Ross Russell subsequently replaced Fenwick at Central but was fired midway through the season, which the “Couva Sharks” again won. Russell managed two Pro League titles at Defence Force but did not get the chance to match Fenwick’s feat of succeeding at more than one team.

Ironically, Russell coached Stars last season. However, Wired868 understands that all player and coaching contracts at the club expired earlier this year, which gives Fenwick a free hand to reshape the team.

He came on as a second half substitute with barely four days to recover from a hamstring injury. Obviously he was not his mobile self.

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.

Football / Re: Fire Stephen Hart Thread
« on: November 22, 2016, 11:25:44 AM »
Hart: Babwah never told us that! Maurice, Ottley slam “very strange” resignations over Jan injury
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868.com)

Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart, goalkeeper coach Michael Maurice and fitness trainer Tobias Ottley have strongly denied accusations—published in the Trinidad Guardian newspaper—that the coach played Jan-Michael Williams against medical advice by team doctor Dr Terence Babwah in their 3-1 World Cup qualifying loss to Honduras on 15 November.
The issue was raised initially by radio host Andre Baptiste on the i95.5FM station on Saturday 19 November. According to the Guardian article, that was the very day that Babwah and physiotherapist Dave Isaacs handed in their resignations to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA).
Babwah confirmed his resignation but asked that all questions be directed to TTFA president David John-Williams.
“It is true that I resigned but anything more you will have to talk to John-Williams,” Babwah told Wired868.
John-Williams did not answer any questions on the issue while Isaacs could not be reached by phone. The TTFA subsequently released a press statement on both resignations.
The 32-year-old Williams, who has 75 full international caps, was knocked unconscious and concussed after just six minutes in San Pedro Sula when Honduras striker Alberth Ellis inadvertently smashed his knee into the temple of the Central FC custodian.
Guardian reporter Walter Alibey, who quoted an anonymous source, claimed that Babwah “strongly recommended” that Williams not play, since he was “medically unfit” due to “a severe shoulder injury” sustained against Costa Rica on 11 November which left him “unable to raise his left hand or dive on his left side.”
“There was hardly any movement in William’s left hand,” stated the Guardian’s source, “and he therefore it could not be extended it and furthermore, play in the game.”
The TTFA release today claimed that Babwah quit because “his professional integrity and that of the Team’s medical staff, had been compromised by decisions made leading up to the Honduras game.”
However, the claims about Williams’ pre-existing injury were vehemently denied by the coaching staff and the goalkeeper.
“[Babwah] never told me it was not safe to play Jan,” Hart told Wired868. “He never ever said that! He told me that Jan had an injury [while we were] in Trinidad. He said Jan hurt his shoulder and he was struggling with it.
“So I said let us see how it works out. We had a light training session in Trinidad but then we had two training sessions in Panama and Jan trained twice fully. He dived, he did everything.
“Before the game, Doc never came to me and said ‘I advise Jan-Michael Williams should not play’. Because he would then have had to [also] recommend that Jan not even train [in Honduras]. And Jan trained fully.”
The first point of contention was when Williams received the knock that worried Babwah. The article claimed it happened during the Costa Rica match. But, according to the goalkeeper, he actually hurt his shoulder in the warm-up before the game.
Despite some soreness, Williams still felt able to play and did so without incident. He was not at fault for either Costa Rica goal.
Read more: http://wired868.com/2016/11/22/hart-babwah-never-told-us-that-maurice-ottley-slam-very-strange-resignations-over-jan-injury/

Football / Re: Thread for the T&T vs Costa Rica Game (11-Nov-2016)
« on: November 10, 2016, 04:30:45 PM »
Soca Warriors: Civil War; Wired868 goes behind curtain on eve of T&T/Costa Rica WCQ

By Lasana Liburd (Wired868.com)

From 7pm on Friday 11 November, the Costa Rica Senior National Team will grapple with their Trinidad and Tobago counterparts in Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying competition at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.
But who will the Trinidad and Tobago football squad be fighting?
The answer would probably vary depending on when you ask and who the question is directed to.
Some days, it is the weather. This evening, Trinidad and Tobago coach Stephen Hart expects to take his squad to St Anthony’s College to train in anticipation that the overcast conditions will lead to rain. And rain, almost certainly, means Hasely Crawford stadium facility manager Anthony Blake would deny the squad access to the match venue, so as to ensure it is in good shape tomorrow.
On Tuesday evening, the national team had to use the Larry Gomes Stadium in Malabar—although, at least, they were able to borrow a bus route pass from Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams, whereas they were stuck in rush hour traffic in the past.
It seems safe to say that Hart is dissatisfied with the facilities afforded to his team.
“Before the Guatemala [World Cup qualifying] game, to get one training session at the national stadium is not healthy. I mean come on.
“We went to play the US in Jacksonville. They had a hurricane [but] the US trained every day on the stadium. What they did was get the stadium maintenance to fix the damn pitch after every training session—but they trained twice a day on the stadium pitch…
“[The facility staff] have to go to work. This is collective. They should call the coach [and ask] how you want the grass cut? That is what happens with big teams.
“We played Costa Rica with Canada and the sprinkler came on on only one half of the pitch. They waterlogged one half of the pitch at half time and all the [Canadian] players came out with the wrong boots. By the time they changed, we were down.”
On other days, the insecurity comes from above, as rumours continue to swirl that Hart, his assistant coaches Hutson “Barber” Charles and Derek King, or team manager William Wallace—and sometimes all of the above—are set to be replaced.
Wallace admitted that on Tuesday night, just three days before they open their CONCACAF Hex campaign against the country’s toughest foe in the confederation, the coaching staff asked two TTFA VPs about their own futures.
“Obviously we have heard the rumours and obviously it brings a certain level of anxiety to people,” Wallace told Wired868. “Mentally it is like you are going game to game. So, yes, there is a certain amount of anxiety among staff members.
“We met with Mr Ewing Davis and Ms Joanne Salazar on Tuesday night and they tried to allay the fears of the coaches [and told us] that was not their thinking at this point in time. For now.
“It wasn’t the main thing on the agenda [of the meeting] but it came up.”
The tension between the squad and the administration extends beyond the job security of the technical staff. And the little things count.
The Costa Rica squad fly in tonight on a chartered flight and leave right after the match to prepare for their second qualifier against the United States in San Jose on 15 November.
In contrast, the Trinidad and Tobago outfit will catch a commercial flight for Panama on Saturday evening where they will overnight before getting to Honduras at 1.15pm on Sunday afternoon with roughly 48 hours left before kick off.
And, as always, Hart’s men will fly economy—unlike Trinidad and Tobago’s World Cup 2006 team, which travelled business class throughout as coach Leo Beenhakker insisted on it.
These days, there seems to be an internal war too. Hart has left his most clinical finisher and fan favourite, Kevin Molino, out of the team, after he was twice caught breaking camp to party.
Read more: http://wired868.com/2016/11/10/soca-warriors-civil-war-can-tt-unite-in-time-to-challenge-costa-rica-in-wcq/

Palos but the players, coach and various others confirmed that DJW did walk on the field and hold a private audience. The story was not retracted and no lawsuit filed by DJW because he knows their are witness.

My point is DJW promised to do X, if Y. When Y was proven you only have his promise to enforce. Can you enforce another person's promise?

You can call them out on it.  If they refuse to make good on their promise...then everybody knows for a fact that person's word is worthless

Several witnesses are stunned that DJW would pretend that this never happened. But he knows that anyone who speaks out will be risking their own future with the national programme. So it is a calculated gamble.
Even more important is the fact that TTFA funds was used to aid his unsuccessful bid to be CFU president. And WITHOUT board approval. That story might not be as sexy but it is Jack Warner behaviour. And he seems to be getting away with it because the board grumbles but does not act.

Lasana, was comment solicited from Ken Elie?

Yes. We interviewed him twice in the last two months or so. Those stories are on the website.

The Book of Elie: What U-17s exit says about Latapy, DJW and T&T’s football path
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868.com)

The Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 Team’s fading 2017 World Cup dreams were finally put to rest at the Hasely Crawford Stadium last night, as Suriname clinched the final available CONCACAF berth despite a 2-1 loss to Cuba.

Coach Russell Latapy’s team needed Cuba to win by two clear goals if they were to limp into the next round as the Caribbean’s fifth placed team. Instead, they finished sixth with just one win against Bermuda from three group matches.

And even that triumph was anything but straightforward as the young Soca Warriors trailed 2-0 at halftime and needed an injury time winner by Jaydon Prowell to see off the Bermudan minnows.

Latapy, in his second spell as an international coach, now has as unenviable record as the first National Under-17 coach in Trinidad and Tobago’s history to fail to get his team among the Caribbean’s top five counties.

The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) were unrepresented at CONCACAF level twice before in this millennium. But when coaches Ron La Forest and Nigel Grosvenor faltered in 2002 and 2004 respectively, there were only two spots up for grabs.

Latapy had more than twice as many to aim for. And, although he was in charge for barely a month, his record does him no favours, particularly when placed alongside his senior team’s limp exit in 2010 when they were eliminated from the Caribbean Cup in the group stage after a 1-0 loss to rank underdogs, Grenada.

Has Latapy advanced in the interim?

In the six years since he left the senior Warriors, Latapy apparently went on to get his UEFA Pro coaching license while he worked as assistant manager at a few professional Scotland clubs.

And the diminutive maestro—one of the most creative footballers that Trinidad and Tobago ever produced—has always been someone who thinks profoundly about the game. Undoubtedly, Latapy should be an asset to the local game, even though he still has to prove whether his best contribution would be made as a football coach.

Wired868 was informed that there were rumblings of discontent from the players as regards the National Under-17 Team’s 23-man squad as well as Latapy’s starting XI. And some of these concerns were shared by even the independent onlooker.

Latapy said he wanted physical stature in his midfield trio against Haiti. But, as it turned out, his most creative player was the pocket-sized Che Benny who came on to rescue the game against Bermuda.

Arguably the national youth team’s most gifted player, Kishon Hackshaw, started the tournament on the bench and played in four different positions in two and a half games. In fact, central defender Jesse Williams and holding midfielder Jodel Brown were the only outfield players to start the tournament in the same role that they begun it.

And there were raised eyebrows too at Latapy’s unstinting faith in W Connection attacker Isaiah Hudson, who has experience at National Under-20 and CONCACAF Champions League level but did not justify his star billing.

Whether Latapy might have done a better job should not distract from the real architect of this fiasco. And that is the bombastic figure of Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams.

On 20 June 2016, then National Under-17 coach Ken Elie downed tools after the TTFA president had ignored his request for feedback regarding stipends promised under the previous administration.

Surely Elie’s time was worth something? Did John-Williams not respect the post of national coach enough to discuss the issue? Was the TTFA sufficiently bothered by the welfare of its under-17 squad?

John-Williams never responded. Instead, he made a public statement which suggested that he believed Elie to be a volunteer.

It is not the first time the TTFA president said something so monumentally stupid and dishonest that it forces right-thinking people to sit down and catch their breath.

If you believed that Elie was a volunteer, then did his email not alert you to your error?

John-Williams suggested that the TTFA could not afford to pay Elie—without hearing what the coach wanted, which was confirmation that he would be paid rather than an immediate lump sum.

And then, without appreciation for irony, honesty or compassion to his former under-17 coach or other national coaches, John-Williams announced that Latapy would take over the job on a two-year contract.

The two months between Elie’s departure and Latapy’s arrival significantly dimmed whatever prospects this youth team had of advancing to the India 2017 World Cup.

And, in no uncertain terms, John-Williams’ decision to offer paid contracts to Latapy and his technical staff suggests the lack of respect he has for every other national coach under the employ of the TTFA—barring head coach coach Stephen Hart, who was given a contract extension by former president Raymond Tim Kee.

If technical director Muhammad Isa, general secretary Azaad Khan, women’s coach Richard Hood and men’s under-20 coach Brian Williams are all interim appointments while Latapy gets a two year vote of confidence, then what does that say for John-Williams’ faith in their abilities?

And, for all the TTFA president’s boasts of being a “football man”, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that he either knows much less than he thinks or the job of grooming international stars is much more difficult than poaching talented youths from rival clubs.

Under John-Williams’ presidency, although the senior teams have been relatively steady, there have been alarming results at youth level:

The Women’s National Under-15 Team went from third in CONCACAF to a group stage exit in the same competition, which included a record 22-0 defeat;

The Women’s National Under-17 Team went from reigning Caribbean champions—under the previous regime—to finishing third at CFU level and failing to qualify from the region at all;

The Men’s National Under-15 Team failed to get to the CONCACAF stage for the first time in 10 years;

And, although the National Under-20s are still very much alive in the competition, few believe they can retain the Caribbean crown won under former coach Derek King during the previous regime.

To be blunt, Tim Kee was voted out of office for his failure to raise funding for the game, provide the necessary support for players and coaches and for his failure to ensure that the TTFA’s various committees were functional and allow democracy in the working of the board.

In almost every aspect, things are now worse.

How ironic that John-Williams dedicated so much time to subtly criticising Hart’s handling of a curfew breach by Kevin Molino, Joevin Jones and Mekeil Williams when his football body cannot even put on a football match without torturing paying fans.

The only successful team that the TTFA has is the National Senior Team. So why does John-Williams spend so much time trying to destabilise it—from antagonising players in salary discussions to attempting to undermine his coach’s match selections or disciplinary decisions?

If John-Williams knows so much about football, then why are none of his appointments delivering any success?

The less said the better about the TTFA president’s vow to quit if he is proven: to have walked on to the field during a training session and asked Hart to leave so as to petition players to reverse their coach’s decision; or to have used the TTFA money in his unsuccessful attempt to become Caribbean Football Union (CFU) president.

But Wired868 stands by both stories. And, bizarrely, John-Williams admitted to using TTFA funds—without board permission—for his Caribbean football league pitch, which was delivered a week before he formally announced his bid for the CFU presidency and to the same Caribbean football delegates that he was wooing.

Evidence, mind you, that was shared face-to-face with John-Williams and TTFA vice-president Joanne Salazar in an I95.5FM ‘showdown’.

The National Under-17 Team’s fate shows the danger of not safeguarding football teams from an egotistical larger-than-life administrator. And, for that, the TTFA’s board members should take a long hard look at themselves.

The current TTFA board of directors comprises: David John-Williams (president), Joanne Salazar, Ewing Davis and Allan Warner (vice-presidents), Samuel Saunders (Central FA), Sherwyn Dyer (Eastern Counties Football Union), Karanjabari Williams (Northern FA), Richard Quan Chan (Southern FA), Anthony Moore (Tobago FA), Joseph Taylor (Trinidad and Tobago Football Referees Association), Dexter Skeene (TT Pro League) and Sharon O’Brien (Women’s League Football).

Presumably, Latapy will now be given the necessary support to prove if he is indeed up to the task—that is once John-Williams doesn’t believe his contract was written with invisible ink like former technical director Kendall Walkes’ deal.

But what about the other coaches and teams? The Women Soca Warriors have not had a single session since their 5-0 Olympic qualifying defeat to the United States on 19 February 2016.

Does anyone care?

John-Williams’ role is to set a path for the local football body over the next four years. It is Khan’s responsibility to handle the administrative aspect of this vision.

The TTFA’s board members must ensure that decisions are made and implemented in the right way while the relevant committees should supervise everything from fund raising and marketing to the hiring and firing of coaches.

And, last but not least, it is the job of the coaches and players to make the most of the tools they are given to deliver success on the football field.

Should deviations from that blueprint become standard fare, then you’d better be prepared to continue reading from the Book of Elie.

CFU Men’s Under-17 Group A Results

(Friday September 16)

Bermuda 2 (Rahzir Smith-Jones 30, Tokiya Russell 81), Jamaica 6 (Raewin Senior 5, Kaheem Parris 17, 72, Kendall Edwards 36, Nicque Daley 42, Tokiya Russell 90+1 [own goal]), Ato Boldon Stadium;

Trinidad and Tobago 0, Haiti 2 (Nael Elysee 22, Steeve Saint-Duc 68), Ato Boldon Stadium;

(Sunday September 18)

Jamaica 0, Haiti 0, Ato Boldon Stadium;

Trinidad and Tobago 3 (Che Benny 70, Jaydon Prowell 73, 90+2), Bermuda 2 (Tokia Russell 11, 26), Ato Boldon Stadium;

(Tuesday September 20)

Haiti 5, Bermuda 0, Ato Boldon Stadium;

Trinidad and Tobago 2 (Nion Lammy 47, Jaydon Prowell 57), Jamaica 3 (Raewin Senior 13, 74, Nicque Daley 36), Ato Boldon Stadium.

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.”

Thanks peeps!  :beermug:

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.

DJW is autocratic, vindictive and narcissistic: Walkes blasts TTFA president
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868.com)

Sacked Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) technical director Kendall Walkes has blasted football president David John-Williams for his supposed autocratic, vindictive and narcissistic style, as he opened up about the last four months at his post.

Walkes, a former Trinidad and Tobago national midfielder and US Virgin Islands technical director, accepted a three year contract from the TTFA in March 2015 and returned home a month later. Raymond Tim Kee was TTFA president then while Sheldon Phillips was general secretary.

Walkes, who spent 23 seasons as head coach of the West Chester University men’s football team in the United States, went unpaid for two of his nine months under Tim Kee. But, he claimed, that was nothing compared to the treatment he received under John-Williams.

“Without any provocation, he just decided to take this stance against me, almost from day one,” Walkes told Wired868. “I would talk to my wife after (our) meetings and she is aware of the ridicule and cynicism I have had to deal with, as he tries to feed his narcissistic needs and ego.

“He even ridiculed my decision to come here. He has brought the entire situation into something personal.

“I can’t tell you how vindictive his actions were in a lot of instances.”

Walkes, who has a USSF A licence, NSCAA advanced national diploma, England FA preliminary and FIFA youth academy certification, said he has not been paid once by John-Williams who has refused to acknowledge his contract.

The TTFA president declined comment on the issue.

“I have no comment to make on that,” John-Williams told Wired868, “because the matter is being addressed by both party’s attorneys.”

In his termination letter, John-Williams stated that the TTFA would “honour any arrears accrued under that arrangement and are prepared to meet with you to settle any outstanding salary due to you.”

However, Walkes alleged that the TTFA president offered him a cheque with less than his monthly salary as an “unprejudiced pay off.” He has refused to touch it on legal advice.

“He put a clause with the voucher attached to the cheque saying it was an unprejudiced pay off,” said Walkes. “But I was advised that it could mean he didn’t have to pay me any more money.

“He promised to pay me for all debts accrued. But instead he is trying to starve me out.”

Ironically, Walkes accepted the TTFA job after former technical director, Anton Corneal, quit in acrimonious circumstances.

After two years, Corneal claimed he did not receive a dollar from the duo of Tim Kee and Phillips.

“I have gotten eight half salaries from the government in two and a half years,” Corneal told Wired868, on 2 April 2014. “But at least I am getting something. I have not been paid by one dollar by the TTFA and I think that is not just disrespectful; it is gravely disrespectful.

“They didn’t even say ‘instead of 10 dollars, take three dollars’. I have bills and a family like everybody else. I did it for as long as I could…

“They cannot honour my contract financially and I couldn’t do it anymore.”

A year later, Walkes succeeded him. He admitted to being nervous about being paid but said he received assurances.

“(The certainty about being paid at the end of the month) was always my first concern,” said Walkes. “I have been asked to come back to Trinidad and give back since the Jack Warner era in the 1990s and I have always declined respectfully.

“I have always watched coaches come from foreign countries for big contracts and, within a few months, you are fighting to be paid or have to take them to court. So you get a big contract and two months later you are fighting to get a dime.

“So, I have always said I would not to work under that kind of administration.”

Despite Corneal’s obvious issues, Walkes—who has a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education and Public Health from Davis & Elkins College and a Master’s in Exercise Physiology from West Chester—thought it would be different under Tim Kee and Phillips, who he met at a convention in the United States before either had ascended to the top TTFA posts.

“Two things convinced me to come,” said Walkes. “One, I was working under a different administration… And then it was the Sports Company. I emailed a SPORTT official and said a little birdie told me the Sports Company will pick up part of my salary and he confirmed it.

“And when I calculated I said even if the TTFA didn’t pay me, I would be okay. But then when I came (to Trinidad) he said they give money to the TTFA and they did with it as they chose.

“And the TTFA said there was nothing stipulating that money was to be used to pay the technical director.”

By May, Walkes was already in trouble, as he worked for roughly two months without a pay cheque. But things quickly improved—probably helped by a CONCACAF 2015 Gold Cup quarterfinal final finish by the “Soca Warriors” in July—although the TTFA only honoured its agreement to pay for his housing and vehicle for two months.

On 29 November 2015, the local football community voted for change, as John-Williams was elected to office on the back of a manifesto entitled “Imperatives for Change.”

John-Williams’ manifesto promised that his board of directors—rather than he and his vice-presidents—would be the policy makers, there would be an immediate appointment of the necessary sub-committees, the general secretary would run the administration and operation of the football body and there would be greater transparency all round.

However, Walkes described the new football president as autocratic and claimed that interim general secretary Azaad Khan was rarely present at their meetings, although Khan, in theory, is in charge of the football body’s operations.

John-Williams suggested that he met certain contracts in place that, arguably, seemed to reflect an autocratic style.

“If Kendall Walkes has made that statement, it is up to you to believe him,” said John-Williams. “I would not even make a comment on that. The only comment I will make on that is if the head coach’s contract calls for him to report directly with the president and I meet that (stipulation).

“So I have no other comment.”

The TTFA president also responded in an obscure manner to Walkes’ claim that the general secretary was rarely included in important meetings.

“Ask him when he has met with the president whether the general secretary was always present,” said John-Williams. “I want you to ask him that.”

But Walkes was adamant that John-Williams regularly conducts meetings on the running of the local body without even the token presence of his general secretary.

“At the first meeting, the president was there with (vice-presidents) Joanne Salazar and Ewing Davis,” said Walkes. “The next three meetings were with DJW alone. Then maybe a couple more with Joanne present.

“Then the meeting with the legal representatives for both me and the FA. This is the only meeting in which Mr Khan was present. I am 99.9 percent certain.”

John-Williams and Walkes did not meet in 2015, as the latter was whisked off to Brazil with the Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team for an international tournament in Natal, which ran from December 9 to 20, 2015.

Walkes then spent Christmas with his family in Philadelphia before returning to Trinidad on December 31, before the TTFA office re-opened on January 4.

The technical director was surprised and a bit put off when he was told that John-Williams refused to sign his cheque for the month of December.

“When DJW came into office, the staff drew up my salary cheque for December,” said Walkes, “and I was told that his reaction was: ‘Oh guud! Is all that money that man come down here and making?! I not honouring that you know’.

“And he never did. I just thought that was so unprofessional from him.”

Walkes’ jaw really hit the floor in his first meeting with the TTFA president, as the technical director was abused of abandoning his job.

“Sharon O’Brien who was the manager on the (national women’s team) tour,” said Walkes. “I said I was never here for the end of the year before and I asked her when did the office close. She said the office closes on the 21st or the 22nd. Because she said two dates, I called the office to be sure and they told me it closed on the 22nd and reopened on the 4th.

“I said okay and I actually came back on the 31st (of December).”

John-Williams was inconsolable.

“From that first meeting, he came in with this mindset,” said Walkes. “He went on about how many days in industrial law that I can be ruled to have abandoned the job if I don’t show up. I had followed proper procedure and he was telling me I abandoned my job.

“And saying: ‘Imagine we had a national team in training and my technical director is not here.’ But the National Senior Team is the one team that I was not responsible for as technical director.

“Then he started making really sarcastic comments about my contract and saying things like: ‘You come on a contract like this? You bring your family on a contact like this? You see all the mistakes in this?

“It was ridicule. It was almost as if he wanted me to walk out.”

For the next two months, Walkes said the TTFA president made a point of ignoring him.

“There was one situation where he spoke to the National Under-17 team for the first time and I stood there,” said Walkes. “And he introduced Muhammad Isa and Stuart Charles as technical committee members who will be there from time to time.

“And then he named other members who the kids knew nothing of like Dexter Skeene and Dr Alvin Henderson. And he refused to name me or acknowledge me who was standing right there.”

Walkes, who lives in Trinidad with his wife Sylvia and son Kendall Junior, said he tried to keep his work problems hidden from his family for as long as he could. But a confrontation was inevitable.

“He never said anything to me,” said the technical director. “He didn’t even say when they got money they would pay me.

“So I asked him: ‘Do I have a job here?’ He said: ‘I don’t know, it depends on (your contract). I asked him: ‘Are you going to pay me?’ He said: ‘I don’t know, it depends on this.

“The old regime was always promising to pay for stuff and it was just cash strapped. The difference is David promised not to pay. I had the same deal as Stephen (Hart) and what I got everywhere I stayed as TD, which was housing and car.”

In the end, it was John-Williams who announced their parting of ways. The TTFA president claimed that Walkes’ contract was invalid and bizarrely said the former president, Tim Kee, “does not recall the document ever being formally executed”—although he received a technical director’s salary for seven months plus had a car and apartment paid by the former administration.

John-Williams claimed his stance was supported and actively encouraged by FIFA.

“We have now also been notified by the acting Secretary General of FIFA that this alleged arrangement under which you were employed by the previous administration of the TTFA does not meet with the standards and requirements of FIFA for the appointment of a Director of Football of its member associations,” stated John-Williams. “Please note that the copy of the purported contract of employment you provided to us was also reviewed by FIFA and they have rejected it as containing errors, misleading information, and also missing information.

“As a consequence of their findings the TTFA have now been mandated by FIFA to ‘redo and review the aforementioned contract’…

“In light of the findings of FIFA and in the absence of a properly executed and valid contract of employment, we are forced to consider your engagement with the TTFA as a month to month rolling contract.

“In those circumstances we hereby formally give you one month’s notice of termination of your employment with the TTFA.”

Walkes accused John-Williams of misrepresenting FIFA and the former local football administration and said he took his contract to several lawyers who confirmed that it was valid.

“John-Williams said I didn’t have a contract,” he said. “FIFA didn’t say that. FIFA says it doesn’t meddle with the internal business of member associations. That says they could not have annulled it.

“If I don’t have a contract, he can pay me and I will be on my way. But I do have a contract. And then he is saying that he didn’t recognise my contract and it was never executed but then is asking me back for my vehicle.”

The FIFA press office, under new management since the election of president Gianni Infantino, was unusually curt.

“We are in contact with (the) TTFA in order to ensure compliance with the FIFA Development Regulations,” said a spokesman from the FIFA Media Office. “We have no further comment at this stage.”

Phillips, who is also pursuing legal action against Tim Kee, declined comment while Tim Kee could not be reached.

Their unwillingness to get involved has left Walkes isolated, without a source of income and facing a lengthy legal battle.

“I don’t know what I ever did the man,” said Walkes. “He came in with an agenda. I can respect that, I understand that. But you don’t discredit me and, worse, not want to pay me.

“I think I should be paid for the life of my contract because it is a breach of contract. But at least the work I did I should be paid for…

“He hasn’t made a single offer to me. All he has done is stopped me from making a living.”

Walkes thought he was joining a football association that was moving in the right direction after Warner’s disgraceful exit.

“The motivation for me is you are talking about a country that has been to a World Cup final and it is your own country,” he said. “And you get the chance to shape the curriculum for youth football, which is the future of the game, as well as run coaching education courses…

“I wanted to help lay a foundation in Trinidad and see the fruits of my contribution. Potentially it should have been great.

“You are doing it for Trinidad and Tobago. What could be better than that?”

And, despite a shaky start, he felt he was off to a good start.

From Monday to Friday, Walkes, with Isa in tow, would hold grassroots clinics in each of Trinidad’s five zones—he claimed issues over training locations and training times scuppered their attempts to start in Tobago—while, on the weekends, they did zonal and national coaching certifications.

“Before, there were grassroots festivals and you might have two in an entire year,” he said. “But we had a continuous programme with courses for every week and every day… We certified about 130 coaches at both levels combined.

“The zonal level means you can coach grassroots (football) up to under-15 and the national level means you can coach up to under-20.”

His work ground to an almost immediate stop upon John-Williams’ appointment.

“When he came in, everything shut down immediately,” said Walkes. “He didn’t just stop paying me but he also cut off every income stream that was available to me. And, to this day, everything is frozen.”

Walkes deduced that his former assistant, Isa, had the ear of the new president and he was annoyed that the veteran coach and Club Sando technical director did not stand up for him.

His annoyance grew considerably when he realised that Isa was earmarked to replace him. He insisted that his potential successor was unqualified and had built up a portfolio for himself by taking jobs for free or ones that nobody wanted.

“(On April 27) in a board meeting, they gave Isa a one year contract and he accepted,” said Walkes. “And that it itself is an indictment of his understanding of the job of technical director. If you want to transition a country’s football, you are not going to accept a one year deal when you have to implement the five pillars like grassroots, coach certification, coach education and so on.

“When he takes a one-year contract, it shows he doesn’t understand the perimeters and depth of the job and what he is getting into. He is happy to get a title I guess.

“I find it insulting, to be honest, to the office of a technical director and me personally that they would give him my job.”

Again, the TTFA president declined comment on whether Isa was his new technical director and if he was suitably qualified for the post.

“The board is going to make an announcement in the next 24 to 48 hours,” said John-Williams. “We will make our announcements in due course.”

Walkes has accepted that his time with Trinidad and Tobago football has come to an end. But he said he refuses to be bullied by John-Williams.

“If that is the way they want to do it then fine, pay me,” Walkes told Wired868. “Don’t think I will walk away for free. We can agree to disagree, once he pays me and I walk my merry way.”

Walkes is the first high profile sacking under the current administration—former “Women Soca Warriors” coach Randy Waldrum did not have a contract and was merely released.

The TTFA, which is still in debt to Corneal, can feasibly end up paying the salaries of three technical directors at the same time, if Walkes is proven right.

(TTFA’s termination letter)

18 March  2016

Mr Kendall Walkes Present

Re: Your Employment status

I refer to the matter at caption and to the ongoing discussions between yourself and the TTFA.

After considerable deliberation we have come to the conclusion that the TTFA has no alternative but to terminate your employment with them.

I ask that you note that we did make every effort to locate an original contract of employment between yourself and the TTFA, but notwithstanding extensive searches we were unable to locate this document – you also confirmed at our meeting on the 1st March 2016 that you did not have an original duplicate of your contract and would be relying on the photocopied document hereto attached.

It is our considered view that this document is not only incomplete, but has also not been properly executed.

We have been guided by the former President of the TTFA that he does not recall the document ever being formally executed.

In our attempt to clarify this matter, and move forward we sought advice from FIFA. We have now also been notified by the Acting Secretary General of FIFA that this alleged arrangement under which you were employed by the previous administration of the TTFA does not meet with the standards and requirements of FIFA for the appointment of a Director of Football of its member associations.

Please note that the copy of the purported contract of employment you provided to us was also reviewed by FIFA and they have rejected it as containing errors, misleading information, and also missing information.

As a consequence of their findings the TTFA have now been mandated by FIFA to ‘redo and review the aforementioned contract’.

You will no doubt be aware that the secure tenure of this position is critical to the continued relationship between the TTFA and FIFA.

In light of the findings of FIFA and in the absence of a properly executed and valid contract of employment, we are forced to consider your engagement with the TTFA as a month to month rolling contract.

In those circumstances we hereby formally give you one month’s notice of termination of your employment with the TTFA.

Without prejudice to our position re the invalidity of this alleged contract we are however prepared to honour any arrears accrued under that arrangement and are prepared to meet with you to settle any outstanding salary due to you.

Please note that we will re advertise the position and you are invited to resubmit your application for our consideration.

Hart feelings: Haitian/Honduran lessons, the Cornell dilemma and balls like grapefruits.
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868)

“I remember the decision in the (2013) Gold Cup when we were going to play Honduras (for a place in the knockout round) and I made six changes,” Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Stephen Hart told Wired868. “And Leo Beenhakker was completely against it. He said: ‘I would not do that’. Those were his words: ‘I would not do that’.

“And I felt the players were emotionally and physically finished and I made the six changes and we got the result against Honduras. And I remember him coming to the dressing room and saying: ‘You have balls like grapefruits’!”

In Part Two of our exclusive interview, “Soca Warriors” head coach Stephen Hart talks about harsh lessons against Haiti and Honduras, why Trinidad and Tobago football cannot afford the Pro League’s collapse and the Cornell Glen dilemma:

Wired868: You are in your third year as Trinidad and Tobago coach. How far along is the project in terms of the qualities you want to combine into a squad? 50 percent? 60 percent?

Stephen Hart: I would say that figure sounds about right. It is very hard for me to assess in terms of success and failure because the bottom line to me is the result. But in terms of me building a team, the players have been tremendous.

But, having said that, we have not played enough football… Some people would say we went to two Gold Cups and did reasonably well. The first one we lost in the 80-something minute to Mexico and the second one, we went out to a penalty shoot out situation (against Panama)…

But first you have to look at the best teams in CONCACAF and what they are doing. And the best teams are playing significantly more games than we are. So it is hard to evaluate (our progress).

Wired868: What lessons, if any, have been learnt from our 2016 Copa America Centenario play off defeat to Haiti?

Hart: I think everybody has to feel good about the environment they are in and the situation they are going into. And going into the Haiti game, there was a lot of tension.

The players had come off a euphoric situation with the United States (draw) and then, unfortunately, there was a strike situation and that kind of put a damper on things. And people can easily point the finger and say well you shouldn’t have picked those players. But at the end of the day, you have to support the players that have gone to fight for the country and play for you. Because as a coach you want players who buy into what you do. No coach wants players who don’t buy into what he is trying to do.

I watched the game a couple times and it was not as bad as I thought it was (when I was) looking from the bench. We had a lot of early chances in the game and even half chances. And even to the end of the game we had chances to take the game into overtime.

The goal was an unfortunate one. In every game of football there is always the possibility that you will lose. And the longer the game went on, the more confidence Haiti got. And their substitutes had a good impact on the game.

Wired868: You have never spoken much about that 8-1 loss to Canada in the Brazil 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign. What lessons are there in that defeat?

Hart: What happened with Canada is we started to lose a lot of quality. We lost Ali Gerber, who was a prolific scorer at international level, going into the qualification. And then we lost Josh Simpson who was a very dynamic wide player and gave us a lot of penetration and was just on his way to do very well in Europe. And Rob Friend was in Germany and he got injured.

Canada was not a team that scores a lot of goals but we had some good runs with those players in the side… But we were getting caught with a generation of players that were getting older. I had in the back of my mind that the players could not play the two internationals (within four days) in the qualification. But, as it turned out when we reached to play (Cuba), Dwayne De Rosario got injured and we lost not just one of your biggest players but one of your inspirations in the dressing room. And things started to fall apart.

So now I made a decision to lean on the players that I should have told I don’t think you can play the two games back to back. But because of the situation, I leaned. And it did not work out.

A lot of people said a lot of things but we played seven games and only gave away about three goals in that period. And then in one game, we collapsed mentally and physically. We completely collapsed.

It is funny because, when we played Honduras in Canada, we had 13 or 15 shots at Honduras and they had one and we ended up tying the game (0-0). And I remember Atiba Hutchinson walking off and saying to me ‘I hope this game doesn’t come back to haunt us’. We should have buried them… And then we go down there and they have 13 shots for the entire game and score eight. It was unexplainable.

And as a coach, just like (against) Haiti, you have to accept the responsibility. It is your team, so you accept the responsibility.

Wired868: What do results like that mean to coaches? Is there a feeling of impotence or doubt?

Hart: We have seen Manchester United get six, Arsenal get seven and (Manchester) City get five and six. Roma get seven, Jose Mourinho got five. There are games like that.

Now you go in the dressing room and you are faced with two decisions. And this was the big decision in Honduras (when Canada needed a point but trailed 4-0 at halftime). I could have said ‘save face, batten down the hatches and keep it at four’. But I thought that was a betrayal to football and the Canadian public.

There were players in the dressing room (at halftime) who were saying we need to have damage control. And I said: ‘No, what we need now is to go out there and show the public that we will at least fight to bring some respectability back into the game’.

And, rightly or wrongly, that was my decision. So, we scored one goal and we gave up four more…

I think 90 percent of the coaches would go for damage control. Make it 4-1 maybe and it doesn’t look so bad. People like to say: ‘Whether you lose by six or two, you still lose, so go for it’. But at the end of the day, they don’t believe that. They talk it; but they don’t believe that…

Wired868: What has been your biggest decision so far as Trinidad and Tobago coach?

Hart: There are some players that I left out that I probably could have gone with a little bit longer. But you have to think about the group dynamics: how the team moulds itself; how they operate off the field; are they good with each other. I think that is extremely important. So maybe there were a couple decisions along those lines.

I remember the decision in the (2013) Gold Cup when we were going to play Honduras (for a place in the knockout round) and I made six changes. And Leo Beenhakker was completely against it. He said: ‘I would not do that’. Those were his words: ‘I would not do that’. And I felt the players were emotionally and physically finished and I made the six changes and we got the result against Honduras.

And I remember him coming to the dressing room and saying: ‘You have balls like grapefruits’! (Laughs)

It was a big decision and one that fortunately paid off.

Wired868: Can you say more about the decision to leave out Cornell Glen?

Hart: You make a decision and you live with your decision, whether rightly or wrongly. I had Cornell for just the gold cup and he didn’t give me any trouble. I liked him; he is a talent. He came off the bench and he did his best. He started the Honduras game and he did well.

Maybe sometimes you get caught up when you look at a player’s age and you think of the contribution (you need). And you also have to think if you are going to bring a player of such status and tell them they are going to play off the bench. You don’t know how they are going to react to that…

Cornell is a player of high status in Trinidad football. So rather than take that kind of chance, you make a decision one way or the other, rightly or wrongly, and you live with it.

Wired868: Is it a final decision? Or might he be a super sub at some point in the World Cup qualifying campaign?

Hart: I had a chat with Cornell down at the Hasely Crawford Stadium one day and I tried to explain it to him. If you look at my situation, I have had very little opportunity to bring people in on an exhibition basis. Most of the times, you are going into a tournament with just one practice game… I explained that to him…

But I wouldn’t say the door is closed. He is far away (in India) eh. But if he says to me: ‘I will be a bit player or a part player or whatever you wish for me’. Then, yes, definitely.

The Caribbean Cup is coming up (and) we have a lot of football this year. So who knows. I will keep an eye on him. I try to see some of his games and he had a good season last year…

I think the (India) league is a technical kind of league. There is a lot of space to play. But he can still do what he does, (which is) score goals.

Wired868: And what of our Pro League? How do you rate this season, as compared to the last one?

Hart: It started off well (with) a lot of parity between the teams and it is still somewhat that way. But I must admit that I am a little disappointed in the quality in the second half of the season.

The big part of football for me is the intensity and the ability to attack and close down space. Most of the games I see are played in 60 and 65 yards of space and international football and the modern game is played in about 40. So you get a false sense of the ability of the players because for me it is when you are asked to play faster, which means think faster, can you do it.

I don’t think those demands are being made in the Pro League and the CONCACAF level of the Champions League sort of shows that.

Wired868: Do you think the problems are due to team preparation? Has the financial issues of the Pro League had an impact there?

Hart: I can’t talk about the preparation because I don’t know what coaches go through. And that would be unfair to judge from sitting in the stands where I am just like any other person in the public.

But certainly the financial situation is worrying because there are a lot of players who depend on the Pro League to feed their families and I’m sure it plays on their minds. Also the teams can’t get the players that they would like or bring in the players to raise the standard a little bit. I am sure that has an effect.

Wired868: A former national player, Makan Hislop, said many Pro League players head to the minor leagues because there they get money in their hand before kick off while sometimes their clubs are weeks late in paying. What do you think of that dilemma for the players?

Hart: It is a problem because why would I come to the Pro League and support the Pro League when I can see the same players in a minor league? So it diminishes the quality of your own product, which you are trying to create. I think if you have a made a commitment to a club, then you have to live up to that commitment.

Now having said that, it also goes for the owners. If you have made a commitment and the players have earned the right to be paid. They must be paid.

Wired868: What impact could there be on our World Cup campaign if, due to financial issues, the Pro League folds?

Hart: I think it would be devastating for our football. The quality of the local leagues in the top tier of Concacaf: Costa Rica, Mexico, the United States, Honduras and even Guatemala. They all have good club structure and a good league; a league good enough to keep standards relatively high and to create competitive players for the national team.

If we go down in Trinidad and Tobago, then more than likely all football (here) would go down. I think it would be devastating for the country and the players. I would not want that to happen to them at all.

Quintero v Connection: the email trail in legal dispute that featured TTFA president.
By Lasana Liburd (wired868).

On 5 February 2016, three days after former Trinidad and Tobago national youth team striker Dwight Quintero hobbled out of a W Connection training session following a rough tackle, he received official news of the damage.

Dr Sergiy Adonin, a specialist orthopaedic surgeon from the Fracture & Orthopaedic Clinic in St Clair, declared that the injury was serious and “likely to need surgery as soon as possible.” He recommended “urgent pre-operative on the right ankle” to determine the extent of the injury and “an orthotic device as soon as possible.”

“Please help to organise the aforementioned procedures on urgent basis,” stated Adonin.

Quintero’s attorney, Fulton Wilson, forwarded the information to W Connection chairman Renee John-Williams. His aunt, Tamara Fournillier, phoned Connection coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier on several occasions—copies of her phone records were sent to Wired868—without success.

Annoyed, Quintero’s family paid to begin the medical procedures on the Connection employee.

On February 8, the Fracture & Orthopaedic Clinic presented an invoice to “Team Quintero” for the necessary medical procedures, which totalled TT$48,700. This was also forwarded to Connection.

Again, according to Team Quintero, there was no response.

On February 15, Renee responded via email and asked for a second opinion with a doctor of the club’s choice.

“I have been in receipt of the medical reports regarding Dwight Quintero,” stated Renee. “We have made arrangements for him to be assessed by Dr (Terence) Babwah on Thursday at 10.45 am at his clinic.

“Can you advise if this date and time works so that we can move forward with the necessary treatment?”

As Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) team doctor and with Renee’s father and ex-Connection chairman, David John-Williams, as TTFA president, Dr Terence Babwah’s role in this matter raises several questions.

Was he paid by Connection? Did he diagnose Quintero for free as a favour to the TTFA president?

Was the cost of the visit meant to be repaid in cash or kind by the local football body?

Wilson agreed to send Quintero to see Dr Babwah but aired his displeasure with Connection’s behaviour.

“You may or may not be aware that this, unfortunately, is the first kind of any communication made by anyone representing the Club with respect to our client’s very serious injury,” Wilson told Renee. “Our client indicated that no one from the Club took him for medical attention immediately after the injury was inflicted and that remains the case up until today, notwithstanding the fact that he is effectively immobile.”

Renee responded that she had discussed the matter with W Connection head coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier and assistant coach Earl Jean, although she got the time of the injury and Quintero’s trip to the hospital wrong. She said she had been on maternity leave.

“Earl did copy me on his response to you following receipt of your email however I have been out of office on maternity leave,” said Renee. “(…) Earl said that he did attempt to contact Dwight, however there was no answer.

“We would like for Dwight to have the necessary treatment done as early as possible to so that he can be back on the playing field… We will follow up with him as well as with the Dr after his appointment.”

On February 19, Wilson rebutted Renee’s suggestions.

“Mr Quintero’s aunt, Tamara Fournillier, called Mr Charles-Fervier on many occasions on (February) 3rd to provide him with an update with respect to Mr Quintero’s condition,” said Wilson. “However those calls went unanswered. The Club’s response to my client’s injury to date leaves a lot to be desired. The situation was aggravated by the inaccurate report provided to you by officials of the Club. It is most unfortunate.

“Our client says he received no calls from the officials from the Clubs. If calls were made from any Club official no messages were left.

“Please see the scanned version of the receipt with respect to a MRI taken by Mr Quintero and kindly make arrangement for the reimbursement of same.”

Renee, according to Wilson, did not respond to the MRI receipt or a follow-up email. Nor did she authorise reimbursement for Quintero’s expenses.

On February 25, Dr Babwah recommended surgery for Quintero.

“Due to the diastasis of the tibia and fibula he should see the orthopaedic surgeon again,” wrote Dr Babwah. “(He) may need a screw to hold bones together.”

Although Connection recommended Dr Babwah, it was Wilson who had to forward his diagnoses to Renee on February 25. Wilson asked for confirmation of receipt of the email but, again, there was no sign of a response.

On February 29, Quintero had a review consultation at the Fracture & Orthopaedic Clinic and was advised to undergo surgery by a third doctor, Dr Derrick Lousaing. He was advised that the Clinic’s foot and ankle surgeon would be in Trinidad from March 4 to 9 and he should operate then.

“It is my view because of his professional career, he requires an arthroscopy and syndesmotic assessment and possible distal tibiofibular joint stabilisation in order to return to sport at the highest level,” said Dr Lousaing. “(…) I have suggested, however, that our foot and ankle surgeon will be here from March 4 to March 19, 2016 and he should be seen by him…

“If there is concurrence on the same, then we will proceed with the arthroscopy and syndesmotic stabilisation on Wednesday March 9, 2016.”

Wilson emailed Renee again on the same day and, this time, copied Jean, Fevrier and the TTFA president.

“I am still awaiting an acknowledgment of receipt of my previous emails,” said Wilson. “Attached is the latest medical report concerning my client which is self-explanatory. Kindly let me know whether you are still on maternity leave.

“The Club’s response to my client’s serious injury has been extremely poor.”

On March 1, Renee responded to say the diagnosis was “duly noted” and that she was handing the matter over to her father and the TTFA president, John-Williams.

“Your correspondence has been received and its contents duly noted,” said Renee. “Yes, I am still on maternity leave. Mr David John-Williams will handle this matter going forward.”

It was 28 days after Quintero’s injury and three weeks since the Fracture & Orthopaedic Clinic recommended an “urgent” operation for the footballer.

Still, despite the dire warnings of the threat to Quintero’s future career, Connection apparently remain silent.

On March 8, the day before the operation, Wilson emailed John-Williams and urged him, on behalf of Connection, to take responsibility for the pending medical bill. He attached clause eight of Quintero’s contract for ease of reference.

Clause eight of Quintero’s contract with W Connection states: “Any incapacity or sickness shall be reported by the Player to the Club immediately and the Club shall keep a record of any incapacity.

“The Player shall submit promptly to such medical and dental examinations as the Club may reasonably require and shall undergo, at no expense to himself such treatment as may be prescribed by the medical or dental advisers of the Club in order to restore the Player to fitness.

“The Club shall arrange promptly such prescribed treatment and shall ensure that such treatment is undertaken and completed without expense to the player notwithstanding that this Agreement expires after such treatment has been prescribed.”

“Mr Williams, I have taken the liberty to forward this email sent to me by Tamara Fournillier, Mr Quintero’s aunt,” said Wilson. “I have also sent an extract of Mr Quintero’s contract for obvious reasons. The surgery is scheduled for tomorrow.

“Kindly liaise with Dr Lousaing with respect to payment for the cost of the surgery as a matter of urgency. Thank you.”

The TTFA president responded via email just once and it was a knife to the heart of the player and his family.

“Dear Sir, unless we have a discussion about this matter we cannot accept responsibility for paying the proposed bill,” John-Williams told Quintero’s attorney. “There are a lot of grey areas to be clarify. I am prepared to meet as early as tomorrow to sort out the grey areas.”

Wilson said he could not meet on March 9, due to court appointments. Since then, he claimed to have tried unsuccessfully to get the TTFA president to explain what grey areas he referenced as a reason not to take care of the Connection player.

On more than one occasion, the two parties could not agree on a mutually acceptable time and place.

The last email from the club, shown to Wired868, was on March 14. Once more, Renee advised Quintero’s attorney that her father would represent Connection.

“Mr Wilson, Mr John-Williams is available to meet with you any time after 4 pm once your schedule permits,” stated Renee. “Kindly advise.”

Wilson replied that he was unavailable and unwilling to meet anywhere but in Port of Spain. And the communication trail went cold.

“The injury was sustained when he was working for W Connection,” said Wilson, “and the clause said ‘we will take care of all medical cases’. There is no question in my mind that they have breached their contract with the player…

“What are the grey areas when a player sustains an injury while with the club and needs medical attention? They are throwing red herrings.

“A player is injured, he needs treatment, it is your responsibility, sort him out! It is a very straightforward issue.”

John-Williams declined comment when asked why Connection was not footing Quintero’s medical bills and why he, as TTFA president, was representing the club on the matter.

Wilson sees no way but litigation for the matter now while Quintero’s family try to raise funds to get him the operation that should salvage his career.

Connection have paid Quintero’s salary in the interim. And, should the player recover from injury, he would be obliged to rejoin the club.

If Quintero tries to use their supposed breach of contract to free himself from the “Savonetta Boys”, his case would be heard by the Pro League and, potentially, the TTFA. John-Williams wields significant influence in both organisations while he also used the TTFA’s vote to ingratiate himself to the new FIFA president, Gianni Infantino.

“It is sadly disappointing that someone who is responsible for the running of Trinidad and Tobago football and the well-being of the country’s players,” said Quintero’s aunt, Nathalie Fournillier-Reyes, “can treat someone like this.”

Quintero, according to Fournillier-Reyes, was born to play football.

On 20 January 1994, she held her newborn nephew for the first time and named him after her then friend and Trinidad and Tobago football icon Dwight Yorke, who was an Aston Villa player at the time.

“(Quintero) was my mother’s first grandchild and, when I held him for the first time in the Port of Spain hospital, he literally dribbled a lot,” said Nathalie Fournillier-Reyes. “I used that figuratively to say he would be a great football player. I was a good friend of Dwight at the time and I named him after (Yorke).

“From the time (Quintero) started walking, he was always obsessed with football.”

Quintero’s favourite player as a boy was Russell Latapy. But he became a striker like his namesake.

“From as long as I could remember, I wanted to be a professional player,” said Quintero. “From since I was in Blanchisseuse Primary School.”

Quintero went to El Dorado East Secondary in 2006, just months after Yorke captained the Soca Warriors at the Germany World Cup. And, at just 12 years old, he chose his path.

His parents lived in Blanchisseuse and he would not be able to attend training or play games for the school team and still be able to get transport home. So, for every year during the football season, he moved in with aunt Tamara at her rented home in Arouca.

“It was either that or I didn’t play football,” said Quintero. “Transportation from Blanchisseuse was hard and it wouldn’t have worked out if I had stayed in Blanchisseuse.”

Remarkably, he broke into the El Dorado first team, which was essentially an under-20 outfit, at just 12 years old and while still a form one student. He played alongside future 2009 World Cup forward Jamal Gay in his maiden SSFL season.

By 15, Quintero was selected on the Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 Team while, three years later, he advanced to the National Under-20 Team.

At 19 years old, he was considered such a hot commodity that Trinidad and Tobago’s record goal scorer, Stern John, offered to help him agree terms as Central successfully convinced him to sign his first professional contract.

Now, three years later, he is already trying save his career.

“This injury and the way everything is happening is my worst experience ever as a footballer,” Quintero told Wired868. “The clubs here always talk about players being professional. But when it is time for them to be professional…”

Fournillier-Reyes said Quintero’s family are extremely frustrated and disappointed.

“It is a serious injury being treated like a prick on the finger,” she said. “Mr John-Williams has not pursued it or made no arrangements whatsoever, even if he said he didn’t want to pay to do it at the clinic but could arrange for it to be done at the public hospital.

“The situation has not been addressed as a matter of urgency at all. It is almost as if they think they can just stay quiet and the whole thing will go away.”

At 9.24 am on Thursday March 24, roughly five hours after Wired868 revealed details of the conflict in Part One, Renee—rather than her father and the TTFA president—contacted Wilson via email.

And Team Quintero was shocked to hear that W Connection was suddenly pushing to have the player treated at a private institution. There was no mention of the “grey areas” that John-Williams referenced three weeks ago.

“Mr Wilson, the club has been working to have Dwight’s surgery scheduled with Orthopedic Surgeon Dr David Santana,” stated Renee, “who is available at 9 am next Tuesday 29th March at his clinic in St. Augustine—141 Eastern Main Road—Caribbean Body Sculpture Ltd.

“Dwight is required to fast from midnight. Dr Santana’s number is 6xx-xxxx and has requested to meet with Dwight this evening at 6 pm with his X-rays. Kindly confirm if Dwight will be attending.”

The email caused a desperate scramble by Quintero and his representatives. From his Blanchisseuse home, unable to walk unaided and without a vehicle, the Connection player had to find a taxi that would take him to St Augustine, wait and carry him back home.

The only driver willing to take the job offered him a price of TT$500.

Wilson advised his client not to pay just yet until he could confirm with Dr Santana. But it was an exercise in futility for the attorney while Quintero and his driver remained on standby in Blanchisseuse.

At 3.58 pm, Wilson emailed Renee again.

“I have attempted to contact the doctor on several occasions to see whether he can see Mr Quintero at a later time today,” stated Wilson. “(Your) email to me with respect to the arrangements was late. He is in Blanchisseuse and has to make arrangements for transport.

“I have advised (him) not to make the trip until the doctor contacts me. I left a voicemail message with the doctor and I am awaiting word from him.”

Renee responded at 5.02 pm.

“Mr Wilson, my email was sent at 9.12 am advising of the arrangements made with the Doctor,” said the Connection official. “I would hardly consider that late. It is now 5 pm.

“I do hope that Dwight keeps his appointment, keeping in mind that this is a long weekend.”

Wilson retorted at 5.23 pm:

“I am aware of when the email was sent. Mr Quintero lives in Blanchisseuse. He has to arrange transport. I have indicated to you that I have attempted to contact the doctor to no avail. I left a message on his phone…

“I cannot assume the doctor will be at the institution at the time Mr Quintero gets there. We don’t want to waste time bearing in mind that he is injured, is coming from Blanchisseuse and has been in pain since the injury occurred weeks ago. .

“You really ought to take the initiative and call the doctor as I cannot get through to him and confirm that he is at the institution and is still prepared to see Mr Quintero (who) has to use the aid of crutches to move around. I await word from you.”

As it turned out, Dr Santana was not available.

“I did attempt to contact the doctor when you mentioned difficulties in getting on to him and experienced the same,” said Renee, at 5.44 pm. “I have just been able to speak with him and he has advised that, on review of the MRI report, he would prefer to see Dwight on Tuesday morning for a proper assessment along with the MRI film at 10 am.

“He will not be available later this evening due to works being done on his office.”

Renee declined the opportunity to comment on the timeline for Quintero’s treatment and W Connection’s conduct in the affair.

“I will not comment on this matter,” said Renee.

And there the story ends for now.

With any luck, Quintero will finally have his operation sometime before the end of March. At the time of publication, it is 52 days since the former Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 striker was injured at a W Connection training session on 2 February 2016.

And it is 49 days since Dr Adonin, a specialist orthopaedic surgeon from the Fracture & Orthopaedic Clinic in St Clair, advised that the former El Dorado East Secondary student had suffered “severe ligamentous injury to the right ankle.” and needed surgery “as soon as possible.”

Hart feelings: Dribblers wanted, what the Warriors miss and the new Bert Neptune
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868)

“The genuine quality to pick up the ball and run at defenders and penetrate or draw attention,” Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Stephen Hart told Wired868, “and then be able to dish the ball off to players is now absent in Trinidad and Tobago football. When you go to the Pro League, who really excites you when they get the ball?

“Of course players can still shake and have quick feet. They can elude somebody. But they don’t destroy and I think it is a disappearing quality.”

“Soca Warriors” coach Stephen Hart spoke to Wired868 about the qualities he wants to bring to the National Team, the depth of his player pool and the strengths and weaknesses of the Pro League. And why he enjoys watching Central FC attacker Kadeem Corbin and the Shivu Boys Hindu College player of Tyrel “Pappy” Emmanuel and Quinn Rodney.

Wired868: What can Trinidad and Tobago football fans look forward to in 2016? And how costly was our 2016 Copa America Centenario play off defeat to Haiti?

Stephen Hart: Not getting to the Copa America was not only a disappointment, it was an opportunity lost to develop against some of the better teams in world football at the moment.

But we have to look forward. We (had) the first opportunity to have an all-local camp—a short camp albeit—and a game in Grenada. Now, we have two games against St Vincent (and the Grenadines), which to me is the ultimate priority at the moment.

Once that is completed, we will look at (our schedule for the rest of the year).

We have already secured a game against Uruguay, which is one of the top five or six teams in world football on their last four years of performance. And we are trying to secure a second game.

We originally thought we would play Chile but they want to play on the same date as Uruguay. And it is understandable because they want to peak at the right time for the tournament. So we are working on a second game in that time period.

Wired868: What is the difference in facing a team like Argentina or Uruguay in a friendly and in a tournament?

Hart: Well, I think the thing about the friendly game against Argentina (is that) it was their last game before they went to the World Cup. So obviously the game was a little more competitive than a regular friendly international, simply because players were playing for their selection. And players were playing also to be on the starting eleven.

I think it is going to be the same thing against Uruguay and if we get another game (against a South American nation) so close to the tournament. It will be their last game and that’s a lot different than if we were playing them last December or something like that.

So it does make a difference to them at that stage.

Wired868: We have had a couple of injuries recently, are you satisfied with the depth of our player pool?

Hart: It’s the nature of football really (as far as injuries go). Contrary to popular belief, Trinidad and Tobago’s player pool is very small at the moment while we sort of wait for the maturity of some of the Under-20s to come up and to get themselves playing on a consistent basis. Not many of them are playing on a consistent basis.

The pool in general is a small pool. (Our talented young players from the National Under-23 and National Under-20 Teams) need more playing time and probably a couple of international friendlies to understand how to approach a camp environment and to observe them playing at a higher level.

Wired868: What do you look out for when you go to Pro League games?

Hart: When you’re building a team, you have to look at it positionally. You can’t just pick players because they are having a good season or half a season or a couple of good games.

If in the position you are looking for, a player shows consistency or qualities. Or there is a player who can bring something completely different to the team that you can use tactically, of course you look for that player.

But, in building a team, you look for what you need  positionally. You need two players per position roughly. (And) you need some sort of flexibility in terms of the thinking of the player, etcetera.

Wired868: You have complained about the fitness levels of Pro League players before? How do you gauge players’ individual fitness when a game is slow?

Hart: I can’t. I have seen a couple games in the Pro League and 90 percent of the games start off well; tactically, shape-wise, pressing and so on. Everything is beautiful.

But by the 40th minute, you already see a breakdown in shape and organisation and recovery and things like that. If one or two players are not physically capable, the whole team starts to break down. And even at an international level.

You saw in the US game for example, they were able to push in with a little more strength and vitality in the second half of the second half. And only in the last 10 or 15 minutes, we caught ourselves with the changes and started to push them back again.

I think that is the difference in international football. It is those that can mentally endure when things are past your comfort zone.

Wired868: What qualities are you looking to add to your squad right now?

Hart: We need a couple box to box midfielders. It will be very good if they have good shooting ability from outside the penalty area. Because I’m concerned with the amount of shots statistically from my team.

And I think right now in Trinidad and Tobago football, there is an absence of wide players who can pick up and destroy and penetrate and create opportunities from wide positions. So you are always looking for that.

And I love to play with full backs who can come forward. And full backs are far and few between in the league.

And I am talking about genuine fullbacks. No disrespect but some of them can defend and they do okay. But there are very few that have the capacity to get up and down the field.

Wired868: So you are finding it harder to find dribblers? Is it a crisis in the local game now?

Hart: The genuine quality to pick up the ball and run at defenders and penetrate or draw attention and then be able to dish the ball off to players is now absent in Trinidad and Tobago football.

When you go to the Pro League, who really excites you when they get the ball?

Of course players can still shake and have quick feet. They can elude somebody but they don’t destroy and I think it is a disappearing quality. Even when I watch a lot of (SSFL) games, there is not a lot of it. I think is something we need to address in our player development model.

Wired868: How would we address that?

Hart: I think there has been a lot of emphasis on faking and shaking and less emphasis on dribbling as a penetrative action (and) attacking the space behind the defender.

(I am talking about) not just off-balancing the defender but going past; and now you are one player up because they are one player down. And now the second defender has to make a decision. Does he stay marking somebody or does he come to help cover the space you are attacking?

I think that kind of destructive dribbling is something that we need to encourage. When a player has that quality at a very young age, stop saying to them ‘pass the ball’.

You can teach them to pass the ball later. You can teach them to combine later. But if you don’t (nurture penetrative players then) you have to break teams down with passing, very intricate passing. And that is extremely, extremely difficult. Especially on our pitches.

Wired868: I know you won’t want to give examples from the Pro League? But what about from the SSFL? Does Shiva Boys’ Quinn Rodney fit that role as a destructive dribbler?

Hart: Yes. Definitely. And I think he should be encouraged. And even the midfielder, “Pappy” (Tyrel Emmanuel). He should be encouraged when he shakes his man to attack that space in the midfield. Because getting between the lines is a very modern part of football.

It is not good enough to just shake your man and then next thing you know the man is back on top of you. Then you haven’t really done anything.

So you have to make defenders commit and make lines commit and then your players run off of that and you can be creative from the midfield. So it is not only about (dribbling) out wide. It is about from the midfield too.

So if I give you a modern example, you look at (Barcelona midfielder Andres) Iniesta and how he makes it happen. Even (Santi) Carzola with Arsenal. They get behind the midfield line and force the backline to make decisions.

Wired868: Are there other qualities we are missing now?

Hart: I think we used to have a lot of strikers like (Jerren) Nixon and Stern (John) who were really good in the box. Nixon could also come (at you) from outside the box.

We are not really producing the strikers I would like, who are aerially strong and two footed. We are limited at the moment.

But we are a small country and top player are always going to be like waves in an ocean rather than a river.

Wired868: So it is just cycle and not that we are doing something wrong in player development?

Hart: At the end of the day, if you have a lot of football at youth level, the cream will rise to the top. That is what the big countries have. They have a lot of football and there is a lot of competition. Competition is what breeds excellence.

So when you have a lot of competition at the youth level, you will find that you would probably raise those kinds of players. So, yes, I would put it down to player development too. Maybe 50/50.

But right now I am racking my brain thinking who is coming through as a striker that can put fear into people.

I think Corbin has tremendous talent. But he needs guidance and he needs to be playing on a consistent basis. But certainly he has a good energy level and he gets into good positions and he can score goals. He has proven that.

He reminds me a lot of Bert Neptune and he wouldn’t know how big a compliment that is. But I fear for him that, like so many other players, he might not realise the potential he really has.

CFU: DJW’s unilateral support for Infantino weakens Caribbean football.
By Lasana Liburd (wired868).

Caribbean Football Union (CFU) president Gordon Derrick said he was surprised by Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams’ decision to give his support to UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino for the FIFA presidential elections on February 26.

Infantino is one of five candidates for the FIFA presidency along with: the Jordan Football Association president Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, ex-FIFA executive Jerome Champagne, Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa and former South Africa government minister and businessman Tokyo Sexwale.

Former Trinidad and Tobago football captain David Nakhid had also contested the post but FIFA controversially declared his nomination to be invalid.

John-Williams told the TTFA Media that he was impressed by Infantino’s promise to help develop football facilities in the region, increase the FAP grant and provide increased technical support for coaching.

However, Derrick said the Caribbean decided, two weeks ago, to have a second meeting before, hopefully, deciding upon a preferred candidate. Only three of the five candidates, Infantino, Prince Ali and Champagne, attended the CFU meeting last month in Antigua.

“I was a bit surprised (with the TTFA’s endorsement,” Derrick told Wired868. “The idea was we are supposed to get together on the 12th of February in Miami where some candidates would be presenting themselves again. And we will then decide on who we support…

“In our discussions, the overtones from the meeting was we would discuss as a group, although there was no directive given.”

Apart from Trinidad and Tobago, the Grenada Football Association (GFA), which previously backed disgraced former UEFA president and presidential candidate Michel Platini, is the only Caribbean nation to declare its hand.

Grenada also supports Infantino.

Infantino, a 45 year old lawyer with joint Swiss and Italian nationality, has won support on the mainland too where all seven UNCAF (Central American Football Union) members—Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Belize and Nicaragua—declared its support for the UEFA General Secretary as a bloc.

Derrick suggested that the Caribbean’s failure to similarly make collective decisions and harness the strength of its 25 votes is harmful to the region’s future.

“I always said when we make decisions collectively we are stronger,” said Derrick, “and we have to make our decisions in unity to get what we want for our region. If we divide and split among ourselves our bargaining power is diminished…

“I cannot force anyone to select a candidate against their will. But at least we would have decided together.”

Still, Derrick conceded that he would have to understand if John-Williams was pressed by the TTFA board of directors into selecting Infantino.

“Each association is responsible to its own members and constituents,” said the CFU president, “and, if they are pushed by their constituents, they might have to respond in that way.

“I don’t know if it is they were pushed. But maybe that was the case.”

So was John-Williams’ choice for FIFA president done through consultation with the TTFA board? Or did the former W Connection president publicly bind his 12-member board to a unilateral decision?

Three TTFA board members, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they were not invited to any meeting to discuss the football body’s choice as FIFA president and are unsure as to whether there was any such dialogue.

All three board members said they heard about the TTFA’s endorsement of Infantino in the media.

The TTFA release on its choice of Infantino did not suggest a group meeting or that the UEFA official met anyone in Trinidad but the local football president.

John-Williams, who initially promised a consultative approach to his presidency, did not respond to Wired868’s enquiry as to why he chose to declare his support for Infantino before formal discussions with the CFU and whether his choice was shared with and ratified by the TTFA board.

Derrick declined comment on a Reuter report, which claimed that FIFA has decided to withhold funding to CONCACAF and CONMEBOL until both bodies were able to give unspecified “assurances” on how developmental money will be spent.

“We can confirm that in light of current proceedings involving individuals related to CONMEBOL and CONCACAF,” a FIFA spokesperson told Reuters, “FIFA has put contributions towards these two Confederations on hold until further notice.

“We are currently assessing further steps to be taken to increase the level of assurance which may again enable FIFA to release such funds in the future.”

Derrick said the CFU will cross that bridge when it gets to it.

“I saw it in a blog today,” said Derrick, “and I cannot speak until there is an official communique.”

So far, FIFA has not declared any intention to penalise specific confederations for corruption while ongoing United States Department of Justice (DOJ) investigations unearthed wrongdoing beyond the Americas with officials and football bodies in Europe, Africa and Asia also being fingered.


TTFA President meets with FIFA Presidential candidate Infantino…
expresses support for UEFA General Sec.
TTFA Media.

Trinidad and Tobago Football Association President David John-Williams today met with FIFA Presidential candidate Gianni Infantino in Port of Spain.

Infantino, who has been the General Secretary of UEFA since 2009, is a Swiss football administrator of Italian origin.

John-Williams expressed support for Infantino, stating that he was impressed with several areas of his campaign and his commitment towards the development of the game in the region.

“We know the FIFA Presidential campaign is right around the corner. We heard presentations from the various candidates in Antigua. We had some important discussions with Mr Infantino today and we feel that his presentation, from among all the candidates, is the one that can help Caribbean football,” John-Williams told TTFA Media after meeting with Infantino on Wednesday.

“Many people know that I come from a very strong football background. What is important to us here is the development of the game and his presentation seems most appropriate,” John-Williams added.

Infantino stated that he would be focusing heavily on promoting the development of the game in the Caribbean region, saying that the support for him from Trinidad and Tobago was extremely important.

“It is a great pleasure and honour to be here and I am very grateful to the president of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association for the discussion that we had,” Infantino said.

“ It was very inspiring. He is a football man, I am a football man and we can talk football development. That is why I think the chemistry immediately worked. For me to receive this support here is very important in my going forward to the FIFA candidacy,” the multi-lingual lawyer said.

“I can bring a lot to this region, to this part of the world. I have seen many presidents who are committed to the game and organizing football, sometimes in difficult circumstances and we have to help. We have to ensure that our heart, which is beating for football, can continue to beat for everyone in the region. That is why I am also very happy to be here to continue working in a great partnership together for the future of football,” Infantino stated.

John-Wiliams continued: “One of the strengths that I see in Gianni’s candidacy is that if he becomes FIFA President, he does not only have the support of FIFA but he will also have the support of UEFA. I think that is something that is weighing heavily in his favour. From where we sit I think UEFA will bring a lot of technical support for the region.

“I was remarking today is what I was impressed is that the smaller nations in Europe are now participating in the European champions League and the Europa League and I think it is instructive to note that this is happening under his watch as general secretary,” the TTFA boss added.

John Williams went on to say that he was impressed by the plans of Infantino to increase the FIFA Assistance Program (FAP) funding, the commitment to develop facilities in countries that need it and additional commitment to technical support.

Since his appointment as UEFA General Secretary, Infantino has been part of a leadership team which has helped to further strengthen both national team and club football in Europe, and UEFA’s role as a respected and credible international governing body.

This week, the Central American Football Union (Uncaf), which has seven votes in the Fifa presidential election on 26 February, also announced its support for Infantino earlier this week.

Infantino is one of the frontrunners in the race to replace Sepp Blatter. The presidents of the seven national federations in the Uncaf region, which is part of the Concacaf confederation, expressed their support for Infantino in a letter on Monday.

The statement was signed by the presidents of the Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Belize and Nicaragua federations, along with the Uncaf president, Rafael Tinocco.

Video: - FIFA Presidential Candidate Infantino meets with TTFA President

FIFA vs David Nakhid: the shocking truth of their CAS battle and why it matters
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868)

If you are a football fan or stakeholder, then this may be the most important case that you have barely heard of.

On 14 December 2015, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled against Lebanon-based football coach and ex-Trinidad and Tobago international player David Nakhid in his bid to be re-instated into the FIFA presidential race, which culminates in the 26 February 2016 elections in Zurich, Switzerland.

You might have heard that much. But what you are unlikely to grasp is exactly what was at stake and the machinations at play that could potentially raise searching questions of not only FIFA but CAS as well.

If CAS had ruled in favour of Nakhid—whose candidacy was seen as barely plausible to begin with—the judicial body would not have simply increased the number of FIFA electoral candidates from six to seven. Rather, a Nakhid win could have potentially prompted an inquest into the FIFA Ad-hoc Electoral Committee’s operations and the disqualification of several nominations for current presidential candidates.

And who knows what that would mean for the scheduled elections and FIFA’s already damaged reputation?

The CAS decision itself gave little hint about what the case was really about.

FIFA ruled, on 28 October 2015, that Nakhid’s candidacy as invalid on the grounds that one of his nominators, the United States Virgin Islands, had also issued a declaration of support a for rival candidate, Jerome Champagne. As such, the USVI’s two nominations were disregarded in keeping with Article 13.1 (c) of the electoral rules.

Unlike Champagne, Nakhid was, as a result, left short of the required five nominations.

CAS supported FIFA’s initial decision: “In line with the FIFA AEC, the CAS panel found one member association had issued declarations of support to two candidates, including one for Mr Nakhid, in violation of the applicable FIFA rules.

“As a consequence, those letters of support were disregarded, meaning David Nakhid had not met the qualifying criterion of obtaining declarations of support from at least five member associations.”

However, Nakhid’s case did not hinge directly on whether his five letters of support were valid. Instead, he argued, through Lebanon attorney Jalal El Mir, that the USVI’s letter of support for Champagne’s candidacy was invalid and should not have been considered in the first place.

Crucially, for Nakhid’s case at least, FIFA’s electoral regulations article 13.2 states: “Members must notify the FIFA general secretariat, in writing, of a candidature for the office of FIFA President within the deadline stipulated in the FIFA Statutes.”

Further, Article 24.1 of the FIFA statutes states: “Only the Members may propose candidatures for the office of FIFA President (…) Members must notify the FIFA general secretariat, in writing, of a candidature for the FIFA presidency…”

And, simply put, the USVI did not notify the FIFA general secretariat of any decision to support Champagne. Instead, the Caribbean association sent a letter of support to Champagne, who subsequently relayed it to FIFA on his own behalf.

And Champagne, by FIFA’s own testimony, was not the only one who seemingly flouted FIFA’s regulations on eligibility for the post of president.

If CAS had ruled for Nakhid, it could have forced FIFA to reveal grounds for invalidated nominations for other candidates too, which might have turned the election campaign—already overshadowed by lengthy suspensions to current president Sepp Blatter and would-be president Michel Platini—into chaos.

The problem, though, is not that CAS refused to be swayed by Nakhid’s legal argument but whether he got a fair chance in the first place.

And CAS, unusually, is yet to offer grounds for its judgment or even provide a deadline by which to explain its decision. In its own December 14 media release, the judicial body stated that: “the full award with the grounds will be notified to the parties in a few days.”

That was 14 days ago and, in its own code, CAS makes it clear that it ignores holidays and weekends in its deadlines.

CAS has not responded to requests for information on the delay.

Thanks to leaked documents, Wired868 has been able to piece together the legal arguments for FIFA and Nakhid to provide the truth of a shocking case that threatened the football body’s eagerly anticipated February elections.

Nakhid’s case essentially has two parts. First, the former Grasshoppers and New England Revolution midfielder and Caribbean Player of the Year argued that the Ad-hoc Electoral Committee violated the principle of transparency by inviting him to submit a letter of support from USVI, three days after it already received a letter from Champagne for the same member association.

El Mir argued, on behalf of the Trinidadian, that: “such (an) act is not only a violation of the integrity and transparency obligation of the Ad-hoc Committee, but a clear manipulation of the election process, by intriguing Mr. Nakhid into a disqualification situation, for an act that he is absolutely not personally responsible of (sic).”

In its written response to CAS, FIFA sought to dismiss the suggestion that it had entrapped Nakhid and played an active role in his subsequent disqualification.

“The FIFA Ad-hoc Electoral Committee merely informed the appellant that it had not received letters of support for him from St Lucia Football Association and USVI Soccer Association, Inc,” stated FIFA. “It did not, however, request the Appellant to submit letters or have them submitted, let alone indicate that letters should be submitted to the FIFA general secretariat directly.”

The governing body further insisted that it had no obligation to warn Nakhid of a potential invalidation under its electoral regulations and pointed to the final sentence of Article 13.1 (c), which states: “If a member association presents declarations of support for more than one person, all its declarations shall become invalid.”

“Through this clear provision, legal certainty, predictability of decisions as well as equal treatment of all candidates is ensured,” stated FIFA. “A duty of the FIFA Ad-hoc Electoral Committee to advise any of the two candidates in context with letters of support (…) is not contained the FIFA Statutes and/or any FIFA regulations.”

However, in the second and crucial part of the appeal, it was “Team Nakhid” that insisted the letter of the law should be followed.

El Mir noted that FIFA confirmed that its only USVI letter of support for Champagne came from the candidate and not the member association.

“Therefore, it appears clearly that the letter of USVI Football Association in support for Mr Jerome Champagne, was not submitted within the conditions of the provisions of Articles 13.1 of Electoral Regulations and 24.1 of FIFA Statutes and therefore cannot be considered a valid letter of support by a FIFA Member,” stated El Mir. “Consequently, the USVI Letter in support of Mr Jerome Champagne being invalid due to its infringement of its submission condition set in Electoral Regulations and FIFA Statutes, the USVI Letter in support of Mr Nakhid submitted by the USVI Football Association directly to the Ad-hoc Committee shall be the only valid support letter issued by USVI.

“And thereby the candidacy of Mr Nakhid shall be considered acceptable and requiring (sic) all conditions stipulated in the Electoral Regulations including the five support letters from FIFA Members.”

Again, for ease of reference, El Mir hinged his appeal on the FIFA Statutes which state that: “Only the Members may propose candidatures for the office of FIFA President (…) Members must notify the FIFA general secretariat, in writing, of a candidature for the FIFA presidency…”

FIFA’s response to this challenge came in three parts.

First, the governing body, which was represented by director of legal affairs Marco Villiger and head of corporate legal Oliver Jaberg, offered its own grammatical interpretation of the word “must” in the aforementioned context.

Curiously, FIFA also suggested that although its own statutes stipulated the way it must be done, it did not expressly say it could not be done in another manner.

“The term ‘must’ used in both article 24 paragraph 1 of the FIFA statutes and article 13 paragraph 2 of the electoral regulations for the FIFA presidency indicates that candidatures can only be notified to the FIFA general secretariat by members and not by any other entities or persons,” stated FIFA. “This follows from the grammatical interpretation of the mentioned provisions, in particular the term ‘must’ following immediately after ‘members’.

“If there was an obligation for members to notify the FIFA general secretariat directly (i.e. if it was FIFA’s intent to exclude letters of support or notifications of candidatures from members to be submitted by other parties), such prerequisite would have had to be expressly included in the FIFA statutes or regulations. This, however, is not the case.”

FIFA followed up on its interpretation of the grammar in its own statutes by explaining that it has, arguably, violated its own constitution in other instances in the current election and in previous ones as well.

Therefore, CAS, according to FIFA, should allow the governing football body to continue doing so, since it was now a “well-established” habit.

“The practice of FIFA Ad-hoc Electoral Committees to allow letters of support from member associations to be submitted by candidates themselves is furthermore well-established,” stated FIFA. “According (sic) submissions have been admitted in the past and also in the present electoral process.”

The third and final line of defence from Villiger and Jaberg was a counter-punch. FIFA claimed that Nakhid had also violated Article 13.2 by allegedly submitting the letter of support for St Lucia himself.

“Should the appellant’s argument that notifications have to be submitted by members directly to the FIFA general secretariat be considered valid and therefore apply,” stated FIFA, “quod non, the letter of support for the appellant from St Lucia Football Association, dated 12 October 2015, would also have to be considered invalid, as FIFA did not receive this letter directly from St Lucia Football Association.

“On the contrary, this letter was provided to the FIFA Ad-Hoc Electoral Committee by Ms Josanne Leonard on the appellant’s behalf.

“The Appellant’s arguing (sic) would therefore make this letter invalid, leaving him, again, with only four letters of support. Therefore, he could still not be admitted as a candidate for the election for the office of FIFA President on 26 February 2016.”

Even more importantly, though, was the timeline.

FIFA’s counter-accusation was dispatched to CAS on December 3 and relayed to Nakhid’s attorney. Hours later, on December 4, El Mir informed CAS that FIFA had tried to mislead the judicial body with “flagrantly erroneous” information, which they intended to expose through written evidence at their subsequent hearing on December 11.

According to Team Nakhid, the St Lucia Association had sent its letter of support for his candidacy directly to the the Ad-hoc Electoral Committee.

“Based on the respondent’s reply letter dated the 3rd of December 2015, and the arguments and allegations of defense presented within,” stated El Mir, “… FIFA regulatory texts (are) flagrantly erroneous and such allegations being refutable by undisputable written evidence.

“Therefore, and based on parties confirmation of availability on the proposed date of 11th December 2015 for the potential hearing before CAS Panel, we would like to request a hearing to be held at the date proposed by CAS.”

But Nakhid and El Mir were, allegedly, not allowed to submit email documents at the CAS hearing, which sought to prove that St Lucia sent its letter of support directly to the Ad-hoc Electoral Committee.

FIFA objected when El Mir attempted to introduce “undisputable (sic) written evidence” on St Lucia’s nominations and CAS supposedly refused to hear the counterpoint to the football body’s alleged false testimony.

CAS’ website offered further information on the procedure for its cases.

“The proceedings before the (CAS) Panel comprise written submissions and, if the Panel deems it appropriate, an oral hearing,” states CAS. “Upon receipt of the file and if necessary, the President of the Panel shall issue directions in connection with the written submissions. As a general rule, there shall be one statement of claim, one response and, if the circumstances so require, one reply and one second response.

“The parties may, in the statement of claim and in the response, raise claims not contained in the request for arbitration and in the answer to the request.

“Thereafter, no party may raise any new claim without the consent of the other party.”

CAS, apparently, issued no directions to El Mir, after he raised his dissatisfaction with FIFA’s testimony via email. And, once the hearing began, it was too late for Nakhid’s attorney to present new written evidence without support from either FIFA or CAS.

The CAS code does offer suggestions as to how Team Nakhid might have proceeded.

“A party may request the Panel to order the other party to produce documents in its custody or under its control,” states CAS code R44.3. “The party seeking such production shall demonstrate that such documents are likely to exist and to be relevant.

“If it deems it appropriate to supplement the presentations of the parties, the Panel may at any time order the production of additional documents or the examination of witnesses, appoint and hear experts, and proceed with any other procedural step.”

Wired868 is uncertain whether El Mir asked CAS to compel FIFA to produce emails, which could potentially prove that St Lucia did send Nakhid’s letter of support directly to the Ad-hoc Electoral Committee.

Wired868 is also unaware of whether the CAS Panel attempted to use its own initiative to order supplemental evidence related to the St Lucia email to be produced.

Here too, the timeline might be relevant.

Nakhid filed his statement of appeal to CAS on Friday November 13. FIFA responded  20 days later on the stipulated deadline of December 3.

If El Mir chose to offer a written response to FIFA, he had just seven days to do so before the scheduled hearing date of December 11.

Article R32 of the CAS code explained how Nakhid’s attorney could have requested a time extension.

“With the exception of the time limit for the statement of appeal, any request for a first extension of time of a maximum of five days can be decided by the CAS Secretary General,” stated CAS, “without consultation with the other party or parties.”

Notably, any such CAS extension would have meant a similar offer to FIFA, which could have significantly delayed the hearing.

“If a counterclaim and/or jurisdictional objection is filed,” states the CAS code 44.1, “the CAS Court Office shall fix a time limit for the claimant to file an answer to the counterclaim and/or jurisdictional objection.”

It is uncertain whether extensions were allowed in expedited matters like Nakhid’s. But nothing seemed to expressly suggest that option was unavailable.

CAS code 44.4 stated only that: “With the consent of the parties, the Division President or the Panel may proceed in an expedited manner and may issue appropriate directions therefor.”

El Mir had successfully petitioned CAS for an extension earlier in the case, although it had just been for roughly three days.

CAS initially gave Nakhid until 2 December 2015 to state whether he wanted an oral hearing or was happy for the judicial body to rule solely based on written submissions. However, FIFA had until December 3 to respond to the former’s appeal.

El Mir objected to the deadline for a hearing offered by CAS.

“CAS has requested from the parties, to express their intention, at the latest on the 2nd of December 2015, whether they will request an appointment of a hearing in the present matter, and such hearing to be held on the 11 of December 2015,” stated El Mir. “Whereas the decision by the appellant to request an appointment of a hearing, is dependent, in the course of fair justice, of the respondent’s reply, which deadline shall expire on the 3rd of December 2015 as per CAS letter dated 23 November 2015.

“Therefore we would like to request the extension of the deadline (…) for at least 48 hours after our notification of respondent reply, or after the expiry of such reply deadline in case of respondent’s failure to reply, allowing the appellant to assess the necessity of requesting such hearing based on arguments and evidence brought in respondent’s letter, taking into consideration the expedite procedure in the present matter.”

Both parties asked CAS  to compel the loser to foot the bill for arbitration while FIFA also requested compensation for its own legal costs. Nakhid threw in the cost of his election campaign and moral damages as well.

Thus far, Nakhid has declined comment on the CAS case.

Although FIFA now looks set to enjoy the last laugh, some important questions remain unanswered.

On what grounds did CAS dismiss FIFA’s apparent violation of Article 24.1 of its Statutes and Article 13.2 of its electoral regulations?

Did Nakhid’s failure to rebut FIFA’s allegation regarding the St Lucia letter of support play a key role in CAS’ decision? And, if so, did the fault lie with El Mir and a technicality?

Or had CAS failed to ensure justice and due process by not offering Nakhid time for a written response to FIFA’s allegations or allowing documentary evidence to supplement his presentation at the hearing?

It may be a while before we hear from CAS on the matter.

“The Panel (…) announced the notification of the operative part of the award for 14 December 2015,” stated CAS. “The full award with grounds should be issued in due course. No specific date can be provided in this respect to the parties.”

Nakhid has lost his case. But FIFA and CAS are not yet out of the woods.

At present, the United States Department of Justice continues to zero in on FIFA’s sordid past. The football body’s ethics committee has made a mark on FIFA’s present, as it called Blatter and Platini to account.

In some ways, Nakhid versus FIFA tells a story about the beleaguered organisation’s immediate future. And maybe CAS’ too.

Nakhid can appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal, according a Trinidad and Tobago sports lawyer, if he can satisfy that body that there was “material injustice in the way that the matter was handled.”

However, there are very limited circumstances under which Nakhid could successfully plead for his case to be heard there.

Yet, CAS has been outed before for being overly sympathetic to sporting bodies.

On 5 January 2014, the Higher Regional Court of Munich overturned a ban on German ice skater Claudia Pechstein, who had been penalised for failing a doping test by the International Skating Union (ISU).

CAS had upheld the ISU’s ban while the Swiss Federal Tribunal twice rejected Pechstein’s appeals.

The Munich court stated that CAS judgment did not satisfy article 6 of the European Court of Human Rights and ruled that: the CAS Award amounted to a violation of German anti-trust/competition law, which prohibits the abuse of a dominant position (or monopoly) in a particular market; and whilst there was no identification of actual bias on the part of the Arbitral Panel appointed to hear CP’s appeal before the CAS, the composition and structure of the International Council of Arbitration for Sport (ICAS)—the body which is responsible for establishing the approved list of CAS arbitrators—was weighted heavily in favour of sports federations, which in turn fundamentally undermined the neutrality of the CAS itself.

“Put simply, sports associations such as the ISU and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had a disproportionately strong influence on the selection of persons appointed as CAS arbitrators,” stated a translation of the Munich court’s ruling. “In turn, this structural imbalance gave risk that the arbitrators appointed to determine individual disputes at the CAS would (or may) have a tendency to favour the governing bodies, rather than acting in a wholly neutral, objective and independent manner.

“There was no rational justification for the structural imbalance identified by the Court.”

Should Nakhid refuse to bend, much more than his presidential candidacy is at stake. FIFA and CAS could be in the docks too.

Maturana, Fenwick, Eve, Hart? Cornell Glen aims at ex-coaches and his own legacy
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868)

“(Stephen Hart) is a coach who knows what he wants and he goes out and selects the exact players (with the specific characteristics he needs) to build his team,” said Trinidad and Tobago 2006 World Cup attacker Cornell Glen. “There are coaches that select players who are in-form and work around that. But he wants this (specific characteristic for his squad) and he selects his players in order to fit within that system.”

In the third and final part of our exclusive three part series, Glen, who now plays professionally in India with Mohun Bagan, talks candidly and at length with Wired868 about the places he played, coaches he worked with and legacy he hopes to leave behind.

Wired868: So can you tell us about your professional career?

Cornell Glen: I have played in Trinidad, Portugal, United States, India and I spent three months in Vietnam. That was a rough three months.

I think the strength of the Trinidad league is the aggression. It is difficult to play (in the Pro League). You have to be tough physically to play here (with) the tackles and all of that.

In India, it is not as difficult in terms of aggression. But it is difficult because they are technically good Indian players and they are bringing in a lot of good foreign players. And there is a lot at stake for the clubs and for the players.

It is not like Trinidad where you lose a game and you go home and forget about it and come back the next day (as if nothing happened). When you lose a game (in India), the owners are pissed off and stakeholders are pissed off. There is a lot more pressure on you as a player.

Also the schedule itself (is difficult) because India is such a big place. Sometimes you have to travel like 15 or 16 hours to a game, so it is really really demanding on the body physically.

Wired868: Why do you say Vietnam was rough?

Glen: I spent three months there at Song Lam Nghe. I will have to give you that story another time. (He laughs).

Wired868: And the MLS?

Glen: The problem I had in the US was that injuries came at a really bad time for me. The worst one was the (2006) World Cup injury. I think if I had gone back to the LA Galaxy in the form I was in, I would probably have scored a lot of goals and it would have helped my career in the MLS a lot.

It is a really tough league. Travelling again is really demanding because there are five or six hour flights to games and the training sessions are really intense.

Also teams sit down and analyse everything and they are tactically and technically on point. Opponents know your strengths and weaknesses going into the game, so it is difficult to beat defenders. It is a hard league to play in.

Wired868: Trinidad and Tobago players seemed to excel in the MLS before like Stern John, Ansil Elcock, Avery John, Scott Sealy, Evans Wise… Joevin Jones is doing well but why are our players not in demand there anymore?

Glen: It is a really demanding league, physically and mentally, and there is a lot missing in our game (in that sense). The physical aspect (of the game) in the MLS and here is different. Here, it is the tackling but there they are physically strong on the ball.

They look at the technical side of the game as well in terms of your technique and positioning. If we don’t get better coaches here to help the players with that we will always have the problem in (getting players to) the top European and US leagues.

But I think it is also a matter of how bad you want it. I think as a youth, I wanted it really badly and that is what made me survive. I was away from my family and my young kids and I was missing home but I knew I had to stick it out. I had no other option but to stick it out to try and help my family.

Now, you see a lot of players going on trials and then crying to come back home. I think that drive and hunger is missing today.

Wired868: What was it like in Portugal?

Glen: I actually loved it there. (Our team played) a nice, fast passing game. I was playing in the second division and my goal was to move up and have two or three seasons there and then try to make it to the England Premier Division…

I learned a lot in Portugal because it was the first time that I was playing in a league with so many different styles of football. You had teams playing long balls and some with short passes and different paces of the game. So I learnt to adapt as fast as possible.

Wired868: What was responsible for shaping you into the player you became?

Glen: I tried to learn as much as possible from every coach I played under. No matter how bad a coach is you can still learn something, even if it is what not to do. (He laughs).

I also tried to work on my weaknesses. Growing up, one of my biggest weaknesses was playing with my back to the goal. So, I used to spend hours working on that.

Wired868: How did you work on that?

Glen: Well, I focused a lot on it in practise and would spend extra time trying to improve my hold up play against defenders. I would just pay attention to that as much as I could because I knew it was my weakness. I also worked on my upper body strength and my core strength a lot and I spent a lot of money on personal trainers to get fit and get strong, even while I was playing in Trinidad.

A lot of players probably go to the gym but to get specific work from trainers, a lot of them don’t do that. I would personally recommend Gregory Seale. He helped me with a lot of strength work, core stability, balance and so on… The first time I worked with him was when Russell (Latapy) was coach in 2009 or 2010 and we kept in touch (ever since).

(Seale) did a lot of stuff that was new to the players and we laughed at it because there were a lot of weird looking actions. But when we started doing it on a regular basis and seeing the results and feeling it, you start realising it is stuff you really need as a football player.

Over the years, the science of football has changed drastically. So to stick with the old school stuff like sit ups and so on just isn’t enough.

Wired868: You have spoken a lot about your admiration for (ex-Real Madrid and Trinidad and Tobago 2006 World Cup coach) Leo Beenhakker. Can you go over what you saw as the strengths and weaknesses of your other former coaches?

Glen: I think my first real coach was the late Arthur “Jap” Brown (with the Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 Team and Futgof). He was a serious disciplinarian. It was hard to play under him because he was really strict. He was a school teacher as well. I got in trouble a lot for coming late, jersey out of pants… I got bouffed all the time. But he knew his football and he kept you in line.

He broke it down for you to understand the game. He taught me how to run off the ball. That was one of the most important things (I learned from him). And we did a lot of technical work under him.

Wired868: And what about (then National Under-20 coach) Peter Granville?

Glen: I think Peter was a good coach. But I can’t remember much about playing for him because that team had so many great players like Nigel Pierre and Jason Scotland. So I was on the bench most of the times. But he is a good coach.

Wired868: And Terry Fenwick at San Juan Jabloteh?

Glen: I didn’t learn anything from Fenwick. (He laughs). Fenwick taught me so much. He is just a class act. People are always coming down on Terry because of his attitude and what not but he is definitely one of the best coaches I’ve played under.

The bad is probably his temper. Sometimes he loses it and gets too emotional but that is just his love and passion for the game. The good is that he fights for his players. He is a coach that makes you want to die for him on the field.

Terry is one of those coaches who can get you sharp and fit and get the best out of any of his players. Thinking about it he is just an all-round good coach. Sometimes I ask myself why is he not coaching in a better league abroad. But he is a really good coach.

Wired868: And Ricky Hill at Jabloteh?

Glen: Ricky is a tactician. He is a good coach and a smooth guy. I think his weakness is that he is a bit too quiet and soft on players. He was a bit lenient on players who were playing in minor leagues and so on. But he is one of the smartest coaches I ever played with.

Wired868: And what coaches stood out for you in the MLS?

Glen: I played under Bob Bradley in my first season in the MLS at (New York/New Jersey) MetroStars. The bad is that you can’t get to read him; you never know if he is happy or angry or sad. He has no facial expressions and there are no emotions at all that come out of Bradley. But the good bit is he is a really good coach tactically and I really enjoyed working under him.

I had so many coaches at Columbus, so it is hard to remember much about anyone. I had (Frank) Yallop at LA Galaxy and then at San Jose (Earthquakes). He is a really good coach and big on fitness. I hate to run and he is big on the long runs. (He laughs). But he is a good tactical coach and a really down to earth guy. I remember the first time we saw him get angry in the dressing room and everybody was so surprised. He is one of those guys who is always smiling and outgoing and calm.

Wired868: What do you think works in terms of how a coach interacts with his players? Is it better to be more friendly or more distant?

Glen: It depends on the situation. Even Terry (Fenwick) who I saw lose it a lot of times in the dressing room; but there were times when we lost and he would just leave the dressing room and go home without saying a word.

You have to know your players. You can’t be up under them and pressure them too much. You have to know when to give them space because we are all humans and we all make mistakes…

(Leo) Beenhakker is one of the best coaches at doing that. He is a great man manager. He knows when to get under your skin and when to shout at you or when to pull you aside and have that private discussion with you. It is really hard to find a weakness in Beenhakker. He is a great man manager and tactically he is a genius.

Wired868: And (ex-Holland World Cup defender and Trinidad and Tobago coach) Wim Rijsbergen?

Glen: I didn’t play under him. I was recovering from the knee injury (suffered at the 2006 World Cup).

Wired868: What about (ex-Colombia World Cup coach and former South America Coach of the Year) Francisco Maturana?

Glen: I think the bad thing about Maturana is that he was he not as demanding and commanding as he should have been. I think he was being controlled by people behind the scenes (at the TTFF) and I don’t think he had the opportunity to do what he really wanted.

A big downside as well was he couldn’t speak English. We would get lost with the translator some times and we couldn’t understand him. When Filippo (Alario) came in late (to act as translator), we finally understood some of the things he was trying to get over to us better. We realised that this guy could really coach. But by then it was too late for him because we went to the Caribbean Cup and we didn’t show up and that was that.

Maybe he should have gotten a year or two more. They fired him way too quickly. I think he is a great coach but he didn’t a chance to express himself with the (Trinidad and Tobago) National Team. His hands were tied.

Wired868: Why do you say he was a great coach?

Glen: There was this one time very early after he came in when he put us to sit down and player by player he was breaking down our strengths and weaknesses. To us, he was like a teacher. He was teaching us the game.

Wired868: What did Maturana say about your game?

Glen: He said i was like a thief in the night. I will never forget that. (He laughs). He said: One minute, you are here, the next minute you are there. And the next minute you don’t see him. And the next minute, he scores…

Wired868: And what about Russell Latapy?

Glen: I think Latas’ problem was he took the National Team way too early in his career. I think he wasn’t ready for it. He should have coached at a higher level for a number of years before he took the job… I think he was pressured into making selections because he was a young coach. Russell could probably be a great coach with the National Team one of these days but he needs that experience.

The plus with him is he is a genius on the field and you can learn so much from the guy whether you are an attacker or a defender. He teaches you to have confidence on the ball.

Wired868: What about (former Trinidad and Tobago head coach and present assistant coach) Hutson “Barber” Charles?

Glen: I think he has the potential to be a good coach but I think he has to (work) under some good coaches first. He was willing to learn and listen. But one of his problems is you can’t be a yes man as a coach. You have to have an opinion and be able to get your opinion across.

I think he was too quiet as a coach… He knows the game because he played at a high level a lot. But one of his weaknesses is getting his point across to the team.

Wired868: And Angus Eve at North East Stars?

Glen: I think Angus (Eve) has the potential to be one of the best coaches in Trinidad in the next few years, given the opportunity and the right resources. I think Angus can be a force to be reckoned with. In terms of weaknesses, I think he experiments too much. He is always changing his squad and trying a lot of crazy stuff. But he knows the game.

Some of the best training sessions I have had as a professional player were under Angus… It is always easy for him to bring stuff across to the players and I think tactically he is a really intelligent coach. He can break the game down and break teams down player for player.

He knows what he wants, how he wants it, where he is going to attack, where we are going to defend, how we are going to defend. Those are the kinds of things that you hardly see from local coaches and that is what football is about.

Football is simple. It is how you are going to get behind the other team’s defence and score goals and how you are going to stop them from scoring goals. He knows how to do that.

Wired868: And current national head coach Stephen Hart?

Glen: Hart is an average coach. He is a coach who knows what he wants and he goes out and selects the exact players (with the specific characteristics he needs) to build his team. There are coaches that select players who are in-form and work around that. But he wants this (specific characteristic for his squad) and he selects his players in order to fit within that system.

Tactically, he has an idea of what he is doing and how he wants to go about doing it. In terms of weaknesses, I think his weakness is the people around him. The assistant coaches around Hart right now are of absolutely no help to him. He needs more experience under him.

(Hart has not selected Glen since the 2013 Gold Cup, although the striker insists he has not retired from international football).

Wired868: There have been regular complaints about the fitness levels of the Pro League players when they join national training camps. Do you think there is a problem there?

Glen: Yes. In the Pro League, players have nothing to lose. You can lose a match and go home and it is not a problem. When you play abroad and they are paying you so much money, then you have to be fit otherwise you won’t play and you will eventually lose your contract. That is the big difference between the Pro League and playing abroad.

I always hated to be unfit. It is the worst feeling ever. So I used to do my own personal training after practise. That is where the professionalism comes in. But then I was exposed to it and I knew what it is like abroad.

Until the local players understand that we will continue to have a problem with fitness. And until the League gives you something to play for and something to push and drive the players, you will continue to have that problem.

Wired868: Were there players who would follow your example of extra training at North East Stars?

Glen: There were a few young players who put in extra work after practise… There are always a few who want to go outside and want to make it and you have to have that drive and passion to do that. It is not only about skill and ability… Sometimes clubs just want to see how bad you want it and how much you want to fit into that club. Sometimes, they sign you because of your aura and how you carry about yourself. It is less about football these days and more about business and marketing.

Wired868: So you are faced with a Europe-based player who isn’t playing regularly and a Pro League player who might not be pushing himself: how difficult is that call for a coach?

Glen: That is why i made a reference to a young Russell Latapy being pressured to pick certain players.

Wired868: So you think it is a matter of the coach being strong and not the standard of league the player is competing in?

Glen: Beenhakker played Aurtis Whitley in front of a lot of players who were playing abroad and Aurtis was playing with San Juan Jabloteh. That is why we need coaches with balls to step up and say if you are not playing you are not going to make the national team. Aurtis was a regular player on the national team because he was fit and in-form.

Wired868: What do you think about the state of the Pro League?

Glen: The Pro League needs a revamp. It needs more advertising (and) more money into the clubs to pay the players better and new faces to help market the League a lot more and get the League into communities. If you are passing every day and you are seeing (Pro League) billboards or you turn on the tv and see advertisements and it is stuck in your head constantly, you will want to come and see the games.

We need to advertise the football and not advertise the lime. Right now, they advertise the lime and they tell people to bring their cooler and all that nonsense. We need to push the football and draw more interest into the football. When that happens and they start to pump more money into the football, there will be more at stake for the players.

(When) you pay a player (TT)$2,000 or (TT)$3,000 a month, how much can you get from the player? I was part of the players association and we went around and asked people to join. But you had club owners and coaches and so on at the time threatening players to fire them if they joined us then. I don’t know what is happening (to the players association) now.

Wired868: And what about the health of the national team?

Glen: I think we have an abundance of (talented) players. But until we get more players playing regularly with their respective clubs, I don’t think our chances would be great in qualifying for a World Cup. That was a problem throughout the years that players would come back unfit (to play)…

Once we have 10 or 11 guys who are consistently playing for their clubs then, with the talent we have right now, I think we have a chance qualifying for the World Cup.

Wired868: What do you think about the young strikers coming through? Are there any that caught your eye?

Glen: I have always liked (W Connection attacker) Shahdon (Winchester). He is a really good player, although I haven’t seen him play for a bit.

Wired868: Do you think he works hard enough for his team?

Glen: For me, it isn’t how hard he works but rather if he gives you what you want or not. Do you want a striker to work hard or do you want a striker to put the ball in the back of the net?

Some coaches like strikers to run and tackle and work hard and all of that. I prefer a striker who gets the ball and puts it in the back of the net and, when we don’t have the ball, you rest and save your energy.

Wired868: What advice would you give to young strikers like Shahdon Winchester?

Glen: Keep scoring goals. That is your job. Once you keep scoring goals, they can’t say you are not doing your job and it keeps your name in the coach’s head regularly so they can’t say they are not hearing about you. Keep scoring goals and keep playing.

Wired868: Do you have any regrets looking back at your career?

Glen: Probably my only regret is not taking seriously back then a lot of things that I know now. I might have prevented a lot of injuries with the strength work and stuff we were talking about earlier. As a youth, you think you are fit and you don’t need to do that. But that could have saved me a lot of injuries.

Otherwise, I think I am satisfied. My career could have gone in a much better direction and there were a lot of injuries at the wrong time that hampered my career. But I think God wanted things to happen (this way) and I am definitely satisfied with the way things have gone.

All in all, I cannot complain. I am loving it in India and I am in my third season now. I hope I can stay for another two or three years and then get into the coaching side of things.

Wired868: What is it like in India?

Glen: India is the closest I’ve been to home in anywhere I have been across the world. The culture is a lot more similar to home and the people are free-spirited, open and friendly. The diversity of the place is what I really love about the country… There are so many different races and cultures and languages. You have something like 300 languages and thousands of different tribes and all of that. It is a beautiful thing that you have to experience yourself to understand it.

Wired868: Is your family with you in India? Have they stayed with you at any club?

Glen: No, my family is not here. My family used to visit when I was in the States but they never lived with me. I am single but I have two kids. Zara-Marie who is seven and Darnell who is 11. Zara-Marie is a gymnast and she is doing well in her gymnastics. The boy is into football. Both are going to (school at) Newtown.

Wired868: How would you like to be remembered?

Glen: I would just like to be remembered as someone who loved doing what he did. I want to be remembered as free spirited and someone who always spoke his mind on what was affecting me at the time. I am never someone to sell out. I am always there to support the younger players and speak out for the younger players.

As a player, I hope I did enough to be remembered as one of the better strikers who played for the (Trinidad and Tobago) National Team. I really thought I would have the opportunity to score more goals but coach Hart decided to retire me. So…

I haven’t retired. I will continue to play and do my best wherever I am playing. I am not expecting a call but if it comes, I hope I am fit and ready to represent the national team. Once the conditions are right…

Pay or no play! Soca Warriors threaten strike for Copa America play off
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868)

The Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team have delivered a stark, public message to the new administration of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA): Pay or we won’t play!
In a press release, delivered by national captain Kenwyne Jones’ publicist, Tenille Clarke, the “Soca Warriors” have threatened to withdraw their services for next month’s Copa América Centenario Play Off against Haiti unless the TTFA satisfies its debt to the players.
Trinidad and Tobago are due to face Haiti on 8 January 2016 at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City, Panama with the winner advancing to the 2016 Copa América competition.
However, the Warriors are still owed match fees for last month’s Russia 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala and the United States and for a friendly against Nicaragua in October.
Jones, who said he was speaking on behalf of his “distressed teammates”, said it was a collective stance.
“We were promised months ago that a payment would be made to the boys after the last game (against the United States on November 17),” said Jones, via press release. “To date, unfortunately that arrangement has not been honoured, and based on recent discussions with the TTFA, there is no indication as to when these financial matters will be settled.”
The stance is a significant broadside to new TTFA president David John-Williams, who was only elected on 29 November 2015.
Williams, who relinquished his role as W Connection president after the elections, was the employer of two national senior team players—Daneil Cyrus and Mekeil Williams, who are both out on loan—up until a month ago. And another five Warriors including the national captain are former Connection players.
His history with the national players now appears unlikely to be an asset during his presidency.
Williams countered that Jones has not contacted him since he became TTFA president  and the debt to the players is an inherited issue, which, after less than two weeks on the job, he is still coming to grips with.
Former TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee, who is also the Port of Spain mayor and PNM treasurer, and his estranged general secretary Sheldon Phillips oversaw the deal with the Warriors. But, although there were over 20,000 spectators at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, the TTFA did not honour its arrangement with the Warriors.
Phillips was fired before the United States match and was replaced by acting general secretary Paula Chester-Cumberbatch.
Read more: http://wired868.com/2015/12/10/pay-or-no-play-soca-warriors-threaten-strike-for-copa-america-play-off/

John-Williams: I’m a victim of Connection’s success; TTFA candidate speaks out
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868)

Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) presidential candidate, David John-Williams, has launched a passionate defence about his motivation and management style, after concerns that he might use the football body to further his own business interests.

John-Williams hopes to unseat incumbent, Raymond Tim Kee, at the TTFA’s AGM on November 29. The other three presidential candidates are Clynt Taylor, Ramesh Ramdhan and Selby Browne and it is felt to be a fairly open race.

As president and CEO of the DIRECTV W Connection Football Club, John-Williams’ bellowing support for his team from the stands and penchant for making public cases for his players to be selected on international teams are well-known within the football community.

So would his possible election as TTFA president merge the green and white strip of W Connection with the red, white and black of the “Soca Warriors?” And will the temptation to manipulate his office for personal gain be too much?

John-Williams moaned that it was the perfect “Catch 22” situation, since it was his success at Connection which made him a frontrunner for the post in the first place.

“The reason why I am in this position (as a TTFA candidate) is because I head an organisation that has been successful in football and that has catapulted me to the nomination,” said John-Williams. “But at the same time, my success has been perceived to be working against me because people are seeing a conflict of interest. If you look at the other candidates, they all have a different business.

“(Raymond) Tim Kee runs insurance, Selby (Browne) runs sporting television rights and so on. It is fortunate or unfortunate that my second job is as W Connection president.

“Nothing I say to the public, whether I resign as W Connection president and CEO or promise them faithfully that there will be no conflict of interest, Trinidad and Tobago will not believe me.

“If I am elected and I operate faithfully, they will believe me. That is the only way. History will absolve me.”

So, is “elect me first and find out” the Connection president’s best line of defence?

John-Williams took a slightly different tact. He argued that the Trinidad and Tobago national football teams will be stuffed with W Connection players whether he becomes TTFA president or not.

And that, according to the presidential candidate, is because they already are.

Two of Warriors coach Stephen Hart’s starting XI against the United States, Daneil Cyrus and Mekeil Williams, are fully owned by W Connection, although they are on loan to United States and Guatemala top flight clubs respectively.

However, John-Williams listed a further five current players—captain Kenwyne Jones, winger Joevin Jones, playmaker Keron “Ball Pest” Cummings, full back Aubrey David and goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams—who he claimed Connection still had a stake in or would be due solidarity payments if they changed clubs for a transfer fee, due to their time with the “Savonetta Boys” as youth players.

He then went through the various national youth teams and counted nine Connection players on the recent Trinidad and Tobago National Under-23 Team, 10 on the Under-20s and nine on the Under-17s.

“Whether I am the president of the TTFA or not, W Connection players will get on to the national team,” John-Williams told Wired868. “The evidence is there already. I didn’t pick the (national football teams)… The natural progression is that you replace your senior players with players from your national under-23 team. So what happens if I become president and five Connection players advance to the senior team?

“It is a no win for me. Do we want Connection players to fall off the radar? Because my programme is successful, they want to kill me for that?!

“I am a real victim of my organisation’s success.”

Hart has clearly warmed to some Connection players more than others and striker Shahdon Winchester has been regularly overlooked, much to John-Williams’ public chagrin.

Should John-Williams be elected as TTFA president, would his mere presence put pressure on the Trinidad and Tobago coach on subjects that he has already been vocal on as Connection boss?

What will safeguard the integrity of the selection process for the national teams?

John-Williams pointed to the manifesto as his defence. Whereas, under Tim Kee, the TTFA’s committees were all either dormant or overlooked; and the president and then general secretary Sheldon Phillips made unilateral decisions, the Connection boss insisted that properly functioning committees will be the backbone of the organisation under his watch.

It would mean decisions over the hiring and firing of coaches would reside with the technical committee rather than the president and general secretary.

“(My manifesto) is going to be the framework and road map for Trinidad and Tobago football under my instruction and you can hold me to it,” he said. “If that wasn’t my intention, I would never have made it public and so comprehensive.”

John-Williams defended his right to criticise Hart over team selection, although he conceded that it would be improper to do so as president. And he insisted that his occasional disagreement with Hart did not mean he wasn’t impressed overall by the success of the Warriors coach.

“As a stakeholder in Trinidad and Tobago football, I am entitled to an opinion,” said John-Williams. “Just as you would question why they’re using Joevin Jones as a left back, why is it wrong for me to voice an opinion as a club owner? All club owners questioned various national coaches and I voiced a footballing opinion.

“But, in the office of the president, I may have to keep my mouth shut because it would not make for good governance. As president of Trinidad and Tobago football, I have to treat things differently, as they will perceive I have a level of authority (that I didn’t have as a stakeholder).”

John-Williams used his history at Connection as a shield against people who feel he might interfere with team selection.

“I never got involved in team selection at W Connection at any level,” he said. “And you can ask Leonson Lewis, Brian Williams, Stuart Charles-Fevrier or any single coach there or who has left my programme. I could have been doing that because W is run by David John-Williams but it never crossed my mind.

“Any coach who is worth his salt will not function under a process like that… The coach is responsible for the results of the team, so how can I go in the dressing room and tell the coach who to pick when he is responsible for the result?”

John-Williams admitted that he was a regular face inside the Connection dressing room and would often join the players for the pre-game prayer. But he said he would not request similar access to the squad as TTFA president and his presence around the players would depend on the respective coaches.

“At W Connection, we have developed a routine over 17 years where I stand in the dressing room when we pray and give everybody a high five or a hug before the game,” he said. “That is traditional at the club because we have developed that over the years. Some coaches would not like that and would feel violated by a president that does that…

“It may not be the same for a Stephen Hart or Leo Beenhakker or Francisco Maturana, so that is totally up to the coach… I won’t impose myself on Stephen Hart or any other coach. For sure, I won’t.”

The Connection president insisted that his only motivation for the TTFA job is to make a contribution and help play a role in turning Trinidad and Tobago’s football around.

“I have been asked and turned down the opportunity three times,” he said, “and I feel I would be letting down the people who asked me to serve.

“And I feel I can make a contribution.”

Those people, according to John-Williams, asked him to run for office because of his success at Connection. So how, he argued, can people now use that same success against him?

“If people see me as the best candidate and the only thing they can find on me is a conflict of interest,” said the Connection boss, “then look at the scenario and tell me how I can get away from it. Because if I resign, they will say they don’t believe me and it is a smoke screen. If I stay, it will be the same story.

“The only way I can remove that stigma is through my performance as president of the TTFA. That is the reality.

“The future must absolve me from this… When I leave office, somebody will say the man wasn’t biased towards W Connection.”

Just three days before the TTFA elections, there is still no clear favourite with Ramdhan, Taylor and Tim Kee—in particular—all receiving support from various quarters.

John-Williams said he is excited to be a part of a historic race.

“I wish the other candidates best of luck,” he said. “It is the first time in over 20 years that there is an election with five candidates. Ollie Camps reigned for 25 years unopposed.

“It makes for good democratic process.”

Naparima earns South Intercol title with lethal second half against Presentation
By Roneil Walcott (Wired868)

Two-time reigning Premier Division champions Naparima College continued their quest for an impressive national double in the 2015 SSFL season as they pipped old foes Presentation College (San F’do) 3-2 to lift the South Zone Intercol title yesterday at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella.
The “Pres Lions” registered the first and last goals of the contest but it was “Naps” who prevailed in the five-goal thriller with three goals in the space of 15 minutes in a relentless period in the second half.
National Under-17 attacker Kareem Riley got the ball rolling for Presentation in the first half with a firm, long range drive but the Pres Lions failed to make full use of a first half which they looked ominous throughout.
Shawn Cooper’s charges would regret not making better use of the first period as the Premier Division champs came out with a vengeance after the resumption, ably aided by the halftime introductions of midfielders Judah St Louis and Justin Sadoo.
What Naparima did in the first half of their semi-final encounter against Shiva Boys Hindu College—score three times inside the first 20 minutes—should have served as ample warning to the Pres Lions, but they did not seem to take heed.
“At the halftime talk I told the boys that we needed to forget about the first half and deal with the second half,” Presentation coach Cooper told Wired868. “Now in dealing with the second half the first fifteen minutes are very important. We needed to get a goal to settle the nerves,” Cooper added.
Pres did not get that goal though.
“If they had scored one (I told them) the momentum would have gone in their favour, and so said so done.”
Naps midfield workhorses Shane Sandy and skipper Michael Basdeo recognized the importance of a good second half start for their team and they immediately made their intentions clear as they both had cracks from outside the box in the 47th minute. Basdeo’s finessed effort, which was parried wide by Pres custodian Ishmael Salaam, led to Naps sought after equalizer.
Sandy’s inviting in-swinging corner was beautifully met by defender Anderson Toussaint who did exactly what the coaching manuals preach--head the ball back where it came from--as his lofted header eluded Salaam and nestled in the back of the net.
“I think after the equalizer the guys didn’t settle down and they were disappointed because we had a lead and it went away so easily,” Cooper said.
Naps’ lively sub Sadoo did not give the Pres Lions a chance to lick their wounds as he combined brilliantly with attacker Jarred Dass on a swift counter-attack in the 55th minute before inadvertently finding Naps sharpshooter Isaiah Hudson who buried with aplomb to give Naps a 2-1 lead.
Read more: http://wired868.com/2015/11/21/naparima-claims-south-intercol-after-lethal-second-half-against-pres-lions/

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