Thu, Jun

Present Trinidad and Tobago national football captain Densill Theobald is under pressure to break ranks with his 2006 World Cup teammates in a move that could indicate a new, hardened approach to its employees by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (T&TFF).

Theobald, who represents local Pro League outfit Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA, heads a 19-man squad that left yesterday for Central America and international friendly matches against Costa Rica and Panama.

However, the Express learnt that Theobald's participation could carry a significant personal-and, possibly, financial-cost. The 24-year-old Theobald, according to a well-placed source, was allegedly talked into breaking ranks with his senior colleagues by national coach Wim Rijsbergen.

Theobald, said the source, was told that he had been blacklisted by the T&TFF for threatening legal action over bonuses owed as a result of a deal over World Cup commercial and sponsorship money between the players and FIFA vice-president and T&TFF special adviser Jack Warner, who also served as chairman of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) Germany 2006.

The LOC Germany 2006 dealt with all aspects of the team's World Cup preparation including all commercial deals.

The players argued, last September, that the T&TFF failed to live up to its end of the bargain and hired London-based sport lawyers, Athletes 1 Legal, to fight their case. The T&TFF challenged Athletes 1 Legal's claim to represent the "Soca Warriors" but, last Thursday, the company gave warning that it had enlisted 17 clients from the country's World Cup pool.

The players were Marvin Andrews, Chris Birchall, Atiba Charles, Ian Cox, Cornell Glen, Cyd Gray, Shaka Hislop, Kelvin Jack, Avery John, Stern John, Kenwyne Jones, Collin Samuel, Brent Sancho, Densill Theobald, Aurtis Whitley, Evans Wise and Anthony Wolfe.

Notable absentees from Athletes 1 Legal's client list were World Cup captain Dwight Yorke and former stand-out Russell Latapy, as well as vice-captain Dennis Lawrence, Carlos Edwards, Jason Scotland and Clayton Ince. The latter four are represented by British agent, Mike Berry, who was a member of the LOC Germany 2006 staff.

Theobald, who was the only World Cup player to feature in the recently-concluded Digicel Caribbean Cup tournament, might also waive his right to contest the T&TFF in court.

Shaun Fuentes, the T&TFF's press officer, confirmed that Theobald spoke to Rijsbergen and some senior players about the present impasse and the legal threat. However, he said that no official decision has been taken and the T&TFF had no comment. "He did have talks with Rijsbergen and some players," said Fuentes, "but he has not made a decision yet."

Trinidad and Tobago are away to Panama tomorrow and Costa Rica on February 4.

Theobald, who played as a deep-lying midfielder in T&T's second place Caribbean Cup finish, is expected to be a key component of the visitors' resistance and was tipped by Rijsbergen to be a future star for his country.