On my first visit to London, I took a break from the Euro 2008 action to meet up with erstwhile blacklisted Soca Warriors goalkeeper Kelvin Jack. Though we initially had a mix up in communication, Kelvin picked me up at the Woolwich Arsenal train station, and we headed to the lobby of the Express By Holiday Inn in Greenwich, near the O2 (Millennium Dome). To my surprise, they had a promotion going on; 4 Becks beers for ₤10. Seeing that deals are hard to come by in London, and Kelvin twisted my arm, I decided to partake of said beverages. Since Kelvin opted for an espresso and a cup of soup, and he does not drink beers, I made out like the proverbial bandit. What was initially slated to be a 45 min-1 hour interview turned into 1 hour and 45 minutes, and could have easily gone on longer if there was not the threat of Kelvin getting a buss head from his wife, and me needing to catch a train back to Central London before service stopped for the night. Kelvin talked about his rise through the ranks of professional football, his role in FPATT (Football Players Association of Trinidad & Tobago), his court battles with the TTFF and agent Mike Berry, and his views on T&T football. The interview took place on Monday, June 16th from about 8:45 PM.
KELVIN: My earliest memory in football is the 1982 World Cup. I remember it was a match involving Spain. I was not being a good boy, I was being very naughty, and my father was telling me to behave myself and sit down and watch some football. I remember I just started watching the game and I was like “dis eh looking too bad.” I could remember the atmosphere; there was a lot of confetti on the pitch. So that is more or less my first memory of football.
WN: When did you first get involved in playing football?
KELVIN: Well I always wanted to be a goalkeeper. At that time I was living in Trincity, and a few years after my family moved there, Trincity United was started.
WN: How old were you then?
KELVIN: I would have been about 11 or 12 years old.
WN: So it was around the time you started Secondary school.
KELVIN: It was just before I started Secondary school.
WN: Where is your hometown? You said you had moved to Trincity.
KELVIN: We lived in El Socorro way back in the day, and we also lived in Curepe. Then we moved from Curepe to Trincity. I consider Trincity my hometown. That's where I grew up.
WN: Did you get any encouragement from your family members or peers as far as football is concerned? Were you good from the beginning?
KELVIN: One thing for sure is that I was very, very short. I always wanted to be 6 feet 5 inches.
WN: Like me.
KELVIN: [laughs]. Yeh. I always felt that being 6' 5” would be a perfect height for a goalkeeper, but I was very short and fat.
WN: [laughs]. Doh make joke.
KELVIN: Yeh, I was short and fat. When I say fat, I mean very chubby, not proper fat. I actually used to try and stretch. I used to go in my mom's room and stretch from a bar that she had hanging, so I could get a little taller. I always used to be measuring my height to see how I'm growing. I was desperate to grow. Desperate, desperate to grow.
WN: Was Trincity United your first club?
KELVIN: Yes, it was my first club.
WN: So you spent countless hours on the Eddie Hart ground.
KELVIN: Yes, the late Arthur “Jap” Brown was the coach. He was an unbelievable football man. [Kelvin's mobile phone rings, and he quickly takes the call, turns it off, and apologizes.]
WN: I've read that he was a serious winger.
KELVIN: He was a terrific coach, and I always think about him, probably every day. A lot of people in Trinidad wouldn't realize that in his death we lost someone who was very knowledgeable about football.
WN: Players who were under his tutelage have always said that he was good with them, he was like a father figure, and was a positive influence.
KELVIN: He was a terrific coach, a father figure, everything. He just knew football inside out. He was one of the people that you would really look up to. He was a very, very good man.
WN: You are one of the few national senior team footballers in recent times who did not come through the ranks of the Colleges League. Do you think that missing out on that experience hampered your development as a footballer?
KELVIN: Not at all, I think it enhanced it, and I'll tell you why. While a lot of the guys were playing against players their age, I was with Trincity United and I was trying to break into the first team, playing with big men, getting that experience from a very young age. Of course at that age I wanted to play Intercol football, because of the buzz and excitement. There were times I wished I went to a different school, but I was very, very grateful and happy to have had the opportunity to be exposed to playing against older players at a young age. I used to look at it as being in a professional club. When school finished, I used to see other guys waiting for a special Maxi with loud music. I could remember it had a Maxi called Turbo, and everybody used to wait for that Maxi so that they could go home with the loud dub music. To be honest, as soon as school was finished I would sometimes just jog down the hill from Holy Cross College, and I would go in any Maxi. I could remember some of my friends laughing at me, and I would tell them “nah, nah, ah have training”, and I would just make sure and go home and have something to eat before I go to training. My older brother used to play football as well. He played for St. Mary's and was a very good player.
WN: What was your brother's name?
KELVIN: Nigel Jack. I used to look up to him.
WN: What or who was responsible for instilling such discipline in you? Did you get encouragement from your family and/or friends?
KELVIN: I have always told myself that I'm blessed, because I have a good family and I have good support. I have always had support from my mom and dad and brothers, and now from my wife and extended family.
WN: When did you realize that you wanted to be a professional footballer, and you could make it as one?
KELVIN: I would have probably just started Secondary school when I realized that I wanted to make a career out of football. I also got involved with Jean Lillywhite and his coaching school.
WN: What role did he [Jean Lillywhite] play in your development?
KELVIN: He is another very good coach. Actually, I got my first formal goalkeeping training from him. He introduced me to the technical aspects of goalkeeping.
WN: Informally, which players did you try to emulate?
KELVIN: I liked a goalkeeper named Rinat Dassaiev, a Russian goalkeeper who played in the 1982 and1986 World Cups, and the 1988 European Championships. I also liked Ray Clemence, mainly because he used to wear a green goalkeeping top. It may sound silly now, but I used to look for all kinds of green tops to put on, and imitate him.
WN: How did you end up at Yavapai College in Arizona? I know that Avery John, and Kevin Jeffrey went there.
KELVIN: Kevin was kind enough to recommend me to the coach there. I was desperate to leave Trinidad.
WN: Why is that? Was it for football, or did you just want to get out of the country?
KELVIN: When I got my scholarship to Yavapai, it was with the intention that I would eventually get into the MLS. I just felt that maybe if I went there and did good things that somebody would notice and pluck me out and get me involved in the MLS. Kevin recommended me to the coach there, and I've always been grateful to him for that. He's a good player as well, he just has been unlucky.
WN: I think he only played once [at senior level] for us, but he made a name for himself in the A-League for various teams.
KELVIN: Yes, he did well in the A-League, it's a shame he didn't play at a higher level. So, I went over there and fortunately we won the NJCAA title in my first year, and in my second season we finished third. At the end of my second season I went to Norway on trial, and that more or less solidified the fact that I wanted to become a professional. I had the opportunity to come back home when the Pro League started, and I felt it was a good chance for me to establish myself and get into the international setup. Hopefully, by playing Olympic and World Cup Qualifiers, and being involved at that level, I would eventually get to Europe, and it would enhance my reputation.
WN: At what level did you first represent T&T?
KELVIN: I played at the U-15 level. The goalkeepers then were myself, and Larry Loobie, who I felt was a freak of nature at that time. I'm not joking. He was very, very good. That was one of the reasons why I wanted to get taller as well. He was huge, and although I felt I was quite athletic, his size and his athleticism were superior. It was almost impossible for me to get the number one jersey off of him. It was hard to accept, but as early as then, I realized how hard I had to work to become a goalkeeper of some kind of repute.
WN: Goalkeepers have to possess a certain kind of mentality. Unlike outfield players, if you are on the bench, the only time you have a chance of playing is if the main keeper gets injured or has a string of unbelievably poor performances. What keeps you motivated?
KELVIN: It has to do with one of my philosophies that I adopted years ago. I was the number two goalkeeper at Trincity United; the main goalkeeper was Omo Boxhill who played for Trinity College. He was another goalkeeper I used to look up to. I always said to myself, if every single day I could show the coach that I'm a good keeper, he cannot say that I'm not good enough. He must see me every day working hard and doing the right things. Those are the things that are within your control. You are only in control of your own performance. If the coach decides to pick somebody else, right or wrong, that is their prerogative. But you should never give the coach the opportunity to pick someone else because you are not being professional or you're making errors. He must almost be feeling guilty and going home and thinking about it if he selects someone else besides you, because he knows that you are absolute quality.
WN: You deal with what you are in control of, and leave the decision up to the coach.
KELVIN: Yes. Football is about opinions, and not everybody is going to think that you are the best, although you may think that you are the best.
WN: Let's get back to when you went home and played in the Pro League. How did that experience lead to your first foreign club contract with Dundee?
KELVIN: Dundee came to Trinidad during their winter break, and I was playing with Jabloteh at the time.
WN: Was that at the same time that Sancho got his contract with them?
KELVIN: Yes. At that time I would not have qualified for a work permit because I did not play enough games for T&T, but I knew their manager was asking questions about me. He asked Terry Fenwick, Jabloteh's manager at the time, about me, so I knew they were interested. That season I did not go there, they had a good goalkeeper at the time, Julián Speroni, who now plays for Crystal Palace. The following season when I qualified to play in England, I was on trial at Oldham, and they couldn't take me on for whatever reason. Brent Sancho, who was signed by Dundee, then told the coach that I was available. The manager then called me on the phone and said that he remembered me from a couple seasons ago, and wanted to make an offer. That's how I ended up at Dundee.
WN: Was that period the genesis of your close friendship with Brent, or did that happen earlier?
KELVIN: I have a lot of time for Brent Sancho. He's a very strong man and has good character. I got to know him when I was playing with Jabloteh, during the time when we had a bit of an issue with the Federation.
WN: Hold that thought, because I will deal with it in a little while. Concerning your professional career thus far. I don't know how you feel about it, but I would have to say that you have been unable to fulfill your potential, mainly due to a rash of injuries. It may be down to bad luck, lack of fitness etc. How do you see it, and how do you cope with it?
KELVIN: I'm extremely disappointed with the way my club career has gone, but I'm satisfied with the way my international career has been going. I say “has been going”, because I expect to play for Trinidad & Tobago again. I don't know if it's bad luck. I try to take care of myself, and I try to do the right things. I could safely say that it's not because of a lack of fitness. For some reason it has happened. You try to find reasons why it has happened, and sometimes you realize that you can't find the reasons.
WN: Have there been times when you may have come back too soon from an injury?
KELVIN: Yes, that actually happened to me at Gillingham. I had severe tendonitis in my left knee, and I was put under intense pressure to play. I was the only goalkeeper at the club. Tendonitis is fairly common and extremely painful, but a lot of doctors and physios don't know how to treat it. Fortunately I met Nicola Maffulli, one of the best tendon experts in Britain. He explained everything to me, and advised me of strengthening exercises I must do till the end of my career.
WN: Are you fit right now? When I say fit, I mean have you recovered from the injury you sustained on your recent trial at Barnsley?
KELVIN: [laughs]. That's another instance, call it bad luck, call it what you will. I had an opportunity to go there on loan, because for some reason Gillingham felt that an international keeper was not good enough to play for a League One club.
WN: Well I know you're being sarcastic with that comment about Gillingham. When I saw the outcome of their campaign, I said “what ah ting”.
KELVIN: [laughs]. It's entirely up to them. They made the decision. I had the opportunity to go to Barnsley, and broke my leg in training. It was a real freak injury, but it's one of those that you have seen happen many times. Sometimes it turns out to be a bad injury, sometimes it might just be ligament damage. Just like Michael Owen, who in the last World Cup, ruptured the ligaments in his knee on his own. I ruptured the ligaments in my ankle and broke my leg. I've just started running, so I'm thankful for that. I'm still doing some work on my ankle. It's still a little bit sore, but I expect to be fit for pre-season.
WN: Let's talk about the 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign. When we went to Bahrain, I had a discussion with Lincoln Phillips. He told me that at the time Beenhakker took over as coach of our team, you were the third string keeper. Clayton Ince was first and Shaka was second. However, he said that Beenhakker could not ignore you because you are a beast in training.
KELVIN: I take training extremely seriously, the game is the easy part. I strongly believe that when you train properly, you cover every single situation, so that when it happens in a game, you have seen that situation 200 times before in training so you are totally comfortable with it. Maybe that's one of the reasons I get injured, because I have picked up a lot of injuries in training. Probably sometimes I need to ease off a bit to make sure that I'm ready for the game. I could remember Leo saying that to me. He knew that I had tendonitis in my left knee, and he would always say “Kelvin, you don't need to stay back and do anything. You've already caught 10 million balls in your career, you don't need to stay back and catch 100 more.” But it's what made me comfortable, and it gave me confidence as well. I was extremely determined to become number one, and I knew that Clayton and Shaka were ahead of me. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that. They were playing in Europe longer than me and I only had a few caps for T&T at that time. I did my research on Beenhakker, because I was actually contemplating whether or not to be involved at all in the campaign. I read a few articles about him and I knew that he was a no-nonsense man, and I knew he was a fair man. So I felt that if I could make sure that I train well, and when I have the opportunity to play, play well, then I would have a chance. Fortunately, I got that chance.
WN: We always have this debate about foreign coaches versus local coaches. In my mind, one good thing about a foreign coach, as you have mentioned, is that reputation counts for nothing. There is no baggage, no sort of favoritism per se. So in that way it would seem as though players would get a fairer chance.
KELVIN: A good coach, foreign or local, will already know the players he has to work with through DVDs etc. He will form his opinion of the players through his own experience with them, not someone else's! However, I think that sometimes some players should be considered based on reputation, because they have shown that they can be successful when it counts.
WN: This is true, because under Beenhakker's reign, Stern sort of fell into that camp. Stern could never do enough to please people, but Beenhakker's judgement proved to be correct by sticking with him, because Stern scored those crucial goals against Guatemala and Mexico to take us through.
KELVIN: Don't forget Panama.
WN: Talking about the World Cup, let's revisit the game in Bahrain for a moment. There were two key moments in that game for you. Tell me what you remember about them. First, the drama that unfolded when you attempted to kick out the ball and the Bahraini forward intercepted it and scored a goal that was disallowed. Second, the last gasp save that many said preserved our victory.
KELVIN: The first one when the guy took the ball and scored? To be honest, I was not even bothered about it.
WN: That is kind of hard to believe. Decisions like that could go either way depending on the referee. Of course, the law clearly states that what happened should not be allowed to stand, but who knows, it could be open to interpretation by the referee. I was in the stadium in Bahrain, and I was saying to myself “boy, wha going and happen here now?” To me, it was like marginal offsides or penalty decisions, any number could play. So you had no worries whatsoever?
KELVIN: I had absolutely no worries, because what you mentioned there about offside and penalties, could be borderline decisions. This was not a borderline decision. The law clearly states that if the goalkeeper has the ball in his possession, and he is going to distribute it, he cannot be impeded by an opposing player. If you look at a tape of the game and look at my reaction you would see that I was not bothered, because I knew it was illegal. I've seen it happen many times in football all over the world. Thierry Henry is always trying to do it, and he always getting penalized, and he is always trying to pretend that he isn't sure about what he's doing, trying to be innocent, and it is always disallowed. So it would have been a travesty, and absolute travesty for the referee to make a decision in their favor.
WN: What about the last minute heroic save? Was it a reflex, reactionary save?
KELVIN: From what I can remember, I think it was just a reaction. Sometimes you might just touch it onto the underside of the crossbar and it goes in. This time it went over the bar.
WN: When the whistle blew to signal the end of the match, what was your feeling? Relief, euphoria, a mixture?
KELVIN: It was a mixture, and it is funny that you said that. Because I've looked back at the DVD and I really didn't get involved in the celebrations at the end. I could remember one of the Bahraini players right next to me at the final whistle, and I could see a grown man crying, and I was just thinking that 30 seconds before, it could have been us who were crying. I felt for him.
WN: So you didn't want to rub salt in his wounds?
KELVIN: Of course I was unbelievably happy, but seeing the man on the ground devastated, I just said to myself “there is a thin line between success and failure.”
WN: Fast forward to the World Cup itself. How was that experience for you? I guess it was kind of bittersweet. I remember being in the stadium in Dortmund, and looking at the roster, seeing Shaka's name, and wondering what the hell was going on.
KELVIN: [laughing hard]
WN: Shaka subsequently said that he didn't think he could have made the decision that you did, which was to pull yourself out of the lineup. Were you going through any sort of turmoil?
KELVIN: I picked up a calf strain the week before, yet another injury. I got intense medical treatment on it; the medical staff was good. I trained twice before the game, and it felt OK. [interrupted by the waitress bringing my last Becks beer]. So I'm warming up before the game and soaking up the atmosphere. During the warmup while I was kicking, I realized that I couldn't go full out. I couldn't sprint properly, and it felt as though the muscle was actually going to tear. I was on the pitch, and I really didn't tell anybody, I was just monitoring it on my own. At the end of the warmup session, I went up to Michael Maurice, and I said “Brow, ah tink ah struggling”, and he said “yuh sure?” I said “yeh, ah tink ah struggling big time”. I said “if ah play, ah tink ah could tear it, and if ah tear it, dat go be it, dat go be de end of meh World Cup.” Right then and there I made the decision that it made no sense for me to play for my personal glory when I'm not fully fit, and then let the team down. So I told the coach what was going on, and he asked me if I was sure. He asked “can you try?”. I said “no, ah cyar do it.”
WN: What was his reaction? Did he get vex, was he perplexed?
KELVIN: No, he just said “OK my friend.” Then he started looking at Clayton and Shaka. It's funny, because Shaka was doing a proper warm-up, and Clayton was off to the side juggling some balls and so forth. He looked at them a few times, and he called Shaka and said to him “You are playing. Are you ready?”, and Shaka said “Yes, I'm ready.”, and that was that.
WN: Well he did put in an inspired performance that day. One last thing about the World Cup. What is your personal feeling about Latapy's exclusion? Was it a contentious issue in camp, or was it just football as usual?
KELVIN: I could only give my view on it. Mr. Beenhakker made the decision he felt was right at the time. No one will ever know if we would have won if Latapy played. Russell is a truly wonderful player and I'm just happy he was able to showcase his immense talent in the final game.
WN: I never expected him to play any full games. I had expected him to play something like a half-hour in every game. Significantly though, I remember on the flight back from Bahrain that Latapy told Theobald that the did not know if he was going to play in the World Cup. He did not know if he would be fit enough, and he did not want to just make up numbers. He also didn't want to deny a younger player the opportunity.
KELVIN: That's just a footballer being honest. He knows how he feels, he knows his situation.
WN: There has been the conspiracy theorists who claim that Latas was not played more often because he wanted Beenhakker's job and Beenhakker felt threatened.
KELVIN: To be honest, I have no idea with regards to that. Russell Latapy will always be known as one of our greatest ever footballers.
WN: From that high we'll move into some areas that may not be at all pleasant. We'll run through some things that have occurred in your footballing life since the World Cup. We have the blacklist, or at least the imaginary blacklist, if one is to believe the TTFF. Then there is also FPATT, Mike Berry, and Clayton Ince.
WN: Let's start with FPATT. When was it's genesis? In January 2003, Finland came to Trinidad & Tobago to play a friendly match. I remember it clearly because it was Kenwyne Jones' debut for the senior team. He got the chance because of a strike by the players.
KELVIN: It was not a strike.
WN: Well the players refused to play because of the lack of proper medical equipment, water, bandages etc. Basically, the conditions were not conducive to professional training. The players felt that it was not correct and the situation needed to be addressed. Najjar was the coach at the time. Subsequent to that, the players got called back and we had a failed Gold Cup campaign. A player association was then formed, of which Shaka's father had a role, but soon went dormant. You and Brent Sancho were also prominently involved. Then, after the World Cup, we had the emergence of FPATT. Was it a continuation of what went on in 2003, or was it something brand new with a different focus?
KELVIN: FPATT was actually formed back in 2003. Brent Sancho, myself, Travis Mulraine, and Gary Glasgow were at the forefront of it. You know, I always think about these guys, Travis Mulraine, Gary Glasgow, and the sacrifices they made towards trying to form a players association. Unfortunately, we were blacklisted at that time. Blacklisted for what? Blacklisted because we wanted to ensure that there was water at training. We wanted to ensure that there was tape, so people could do their ankles before training. We wanted to ensure that when someone finished training in 34° Celsius weather that they could get carbohydrates back into them, meals and so forth. Blacklisted because of that? I found it to be absolutely shocking. A lot of people thought we went on strike. We never went on strike, we wanted to negotiate. All we wanted were the things I just mentioned. They probably felt that we, the stupid players, should not be asking for those things. Some other players went and played the friendly, and I find it funny now. Because some of those same players are complaining about things that the Federation have done in the past. But they saw it fit to betray their fellow professionals and go and play for their own personal glory. At the end of the day it is their decision. Whether it is a right or wrong decision, history would give a verdict on that. They decided that they would go and play because they didn't mind being treated that way. Around the world, where does that happen?
WN: Now do you think the reason for that is because some of the players were not exposed to a professional setup? Plus, we have a way in Trinidad & Tobago where we just accept things, shrug our shoulders, and say “wha yuh go do?”
KELVIN: We were not asking for caviar, or to be drinking champagne. We were asking for water, tape, basic things for a footballer to do his job, nothing spectacular. We were not asking for anything that wasn't to be expected in a football team.
WN: Did they give you a reason why they were unwilling or unable to provide those things? Was it a money problem?
KELVIN: I can't remember the exact reasons they gave, but the fact of the matter was that we didn't get those things. All we got was banned.
WN: But that dispute got resolved in a fairly short order.
KELVIN: Yes, it was resolved fairly quickly, but it should not have happened in the first place. It should have never happened.
WN: Doing some of my own research, I found out that many a player before your time went through those same situations. We've had people like Sammy Llewellyn in the 70s who got banned and he didn't even know it. So there is some historical perspective to what you guys have been going through. With that in mind, what is the goal of FPATT?
KELVIN: First of all, FPATT is totally separate from the arbitration dispute. FPATT has absolutely nothing to do with that. FPATT was formed to assist all footballers in Trinidad & Tobago, to look after their rights as employees with regards to clubs, and also the association. People always look at FPATT as an opposition to the Federation. FPATT is here to make sure that its members are just like any other persons working in society. To make sure that its members are not taken advantage of, treated fairly, and have the same benefits as other professionals like doctors or lawyers.
WN: Is it like a union?
KELVIN: It is a union.
WN: I saw one comment recently where Jack Warner said that he was not against FPATT in principle, but he didn't like the fact that you all are operating like a trade union. He has a problem with that.
KELVIN: Well Jack Warner makes a lot of comments, and it's up to people to decipher if what he is saying makes sense. It's up to them to break it down, and I don' think it would be too hard to figure out if he is making sense or not. FPATT is here to assist players not only in football, but to give them options after football. The same way the PFA operates here in England, where they do things like assist a player in learning Spanish or Italian, doing their coaching badges, or doing courses outside of football. At the end of the day, a footballer's career is quite short. We also want to make sure that clubs don't take advantage of players. It's not like we're some big bad wolf who is going to come in and cause disharmony, but we just want to make sure that our members are treated fairly just like anyone would want to be treated fairly. It's beyond me why a player would not want to join FPATT.
WN: Let's take a hypothetical look at a player who is plying his trade in the Pro League or the Super League. He says “Boy, FPATT always in de news and is always some drama wit dem and Jack and Camps and de TTFF. Yuh see me, I looking tuh get some caps so I could fly out and earn ah living and improve my skills as ah footballer. If I join dem, I could be targeted by de Federation and suffer because of dat.” How would you respond to that? When a man is looking at dollars and cents, and thinks that joining FPATT might impede him in that quest, how do you respond? Also, is there a membership drive going on?
KELVIN: I will first tell them that unity is strength, and this has been proven throughout the history of mankind. There is a membership drive going on as we speak. Brent Sancho has been visiting clubs trying to get players to sign up.
WN: Since the World Cup, have you had any personal interaction with any member of the executive of the Federation?
KELVIN: I have received a call from David Muhammad, the manager of the national team. He asked me when I'll be fit. I was surprised by it, but it was good for him to call. I have not heard from anyone else within the TTFF, but that doesn't surprise me. I was thankful that David Muhammad called to find out about my fitness.
WN: You have been quite busy off the field since the World Cup. There was a court case involving you and Mike Berry. In hindsight do you think you ended up in that situation because you were naïve, or were you just taken advantage of, or both?
KELVIN: I think it was a bit of both. But in regards to that issue, there is still something brewing that people would find out about in the very near future. It would be interesting to a lot of people.
WN: When did your relationship with him turn sour?
KELVIN: [laughs] I would not comment on that right now.
WN: Your colleague Clayton Ince was a witness for Mike Berry, and he testified against you in court. How do you feel about that, and do you currently have a relationship with Clayton? Have you spoken with him since?
KELVIN: We don't speak. For some reason he felt it was necessary to come and testify against me. I think everybody saw the outcome of that and what the judge said about his testimony. The judge's comments showed what he thought about Mr. Ince's testimony.
WN: When you first heard what Clayton was going to do, what was your reaction? Were you flabbergasted? Were you surprised?
KELVIN: I was surprised because I was very curious about what he was going to say.
WN: So this begs the question, can both of you play on the same team?
KELVIN: Of course we can be on the same team. You don't have to be someone's friend to work alongside them. You conduct yourself in a professional way, that is where the team comes in. The team comes first. I don't have to ask him to come and sit down and have lunch with me in order to be on the same team with him.
WN: The subject of Gillingham was brought up earlier, but we are going to deal with it now. We know that you had some injuries, but then you came back to full fitness. You were subsequently frozen out of the team. Why? You're on the roster, you're getting paid, you're fit, you're training, what is the scene? Some people have suggested that it may have been a fallout from the issues you were having with the TTFF, and you may have been branded a trouble maker. What were the official reasons given for you non-selection?
KELVIN: I was never given a reason.
WN: Based on your reaction, I can tell that it is something that has you bitter.
KELVIN: It disappoints me that I was doing exceptionally well in training and yet I was being ignored. I could not understand it.
WN: At one point during the season, they told you that you could leave, but you refused. Why did you choose to stay where you were not wanted?
KELVIN: The right opportunity had to present itself, and that is what Barnsley would have been.
WN: So basically the conditions were not suitable.
KELVIN: I did not feel it was right, especially when I heard of the couple of clubs that were interested. It's not like I'm a young player looking for experience. I'm not an 18 or 19 year old player looking for experience. Yes, I haven't played in a while, but I've never doubted myself because I know that I prepare well, and I live football everyday. As long as I am fit, I can go and play somewhere.
WN: What does the future hold for Kelvin Jack? Do you still have hopes of representing the Red, White, and Black?
KELVIN: Who knows what the future holds? I really want to improve my club career, and of course I want to play for Trinidad & Tobago. I'm extremely motivated at the moment, and I can't wait to explode.
WN: How do you hope to get back involved? Obviously you can't control being selected.
KELVIN: That's correct. When I'm fit, hopefully the staff will be fair and hold no prejudices.
WN: Do you think that what has transpired with you and Brent on the club level since the World Cup has anything to do with your disputes with the Federation. It's just weird to just chalk it up to bad luck.
KELVIN: This will be one time I hope it is bad luck!
WN: Have you ever spoken with Wim since the World Cup?
KELVIN: Yes. When I did speak with him, he assured me that he knew what I have to offer. He told me that I would not be needed for some games, but he was looking to me for the more important games. But of course he is not there anymore.
WN: I guess we can treat the missing players as a phenomenon.
KELVIN: It is really sad because you have good players who are not playing. Honestly, what is the reason that they're not playing? It cannot be that they are not good enough. That cannot be the reason. It cannot be that they are indisciplined.
WN: What about the players who did not join the infamous group of 16? How you feel about them? Do you have personal issues with them? I'm talking about Carlos, Theobald, Clayton, Dennis, Dwight, Russell and so on.
KELVIN: With regards to that, it was disappointing that those players did not stand with their colleagues, and stand for what was right. It was very, very, disappointing. It wouldn't happen anywhere else in the world. There is absolutely no way that a situation like this could happen in England, or Italy, or Germany. For example, let's say Wayne Rooney, David Beckham, Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, and Ashley Cole made a stand. Do you think the rest of the team would not support them? To be honest, it is embarrassing. It embarrasses me when people ask why those boys did not make a stand with the rest of their colleagues. They can't begin to understand how a player would do that.
WN: Let me throw something into the mix. When you look at the players who didn't support the cause, about half of them are represented by Mike Berry. Do you think that he had anything to do with the stance they took?
KELVIN: I guess those players would have to answer that.
WN: Since they made that decision, have your relationship with those players deteriorated?
KELVIN: All I could say is that it is a very sad thing that we had so much success two years ago and it has come to this now where you have some players, the minority, who didn't make the stand with the majority, when it was a right decision. Some things in life are yes and no, right and wrong, and this was right.
WN: So why are some of the players who are involved in the dispute, currently being selected for the national team? Like Whitley, Kenwyne, and Stern.
KELVIN: Were they at the forefront of it?
KELVIN: OK. You hear all sorts of comments. The other day, I saw that Jack Warner made some comments about the 16 players, where he said that they would never play for Trinidad & Tobago again.
WN: Yes, that is true.
KELVIN: I find that is absolutely amazing. He's not the coach.
WN: He also said that you all are greedy.
KELVIN: Really? He said that we are greedy?
WN: Yes, and there was a response from Shaka. I believe it was an official FPATT release.
KELVIN: Listen, I''ll say this. If he said that we are greedy, I'm flabbergasted, I can't believe he would say something like that. How could he possibly say that we're greedy when we had an agreement, and he didn't stand by it? How is that greed?
WN: If the TTFF provided you with audited financial statements that showed that they made a profit of $2, would that be OK? Is the main thrust of the dispute the lack of official financial statements?
KELVIN: All the players ever wanted was honesty.
WN: There is a certain segment of the T&T population who only show up to high profile games. I don't know if you heard this from Brent, but just recently someone asked him if he would be playing against England. This shows that they don't know what is going on.
KELVIN: Well that is not a proper fan. I really want people to ask themselves this question and realize what is really happening with Trinidad & Tobago football, and how sad it is. Imagine the English FA leaving out the likes of Becks, Rooney, Lampard, and Rio for no apparent reason? Think how embarrassing it would be for the English FA if they did not pay the players their bonuses. Fans would go ballistic. They would go crazy if Brian Barwick, the head of the English FA, could not account for funds. It would have protests in front of Soho Square.
WN: There were fans who went to the England game with black T-shirts in order to show their displeasure with what is going with the administration of T&T football. The front of the T-shirt says “I support all Soca Warriors”, and the back says “Red, White, and Blacklisted.” Brent and Birchall were presented with jerseys when they appeared on Andre Baptiste's show on i95.5 FM.
KELVIN: If that was done, then I have nothing but admiration for fans like that. That is proper football fans. Those are the fans you want to play for. Those are the people who make you proud that they have that level of passion and commitment towards Trinidad & Tobago football. It's a very sad state of affairs. The funny thing is that the Federation is cutting of their nose to spite their face. I cannot see the logic, that is not common sense.
WN: What would you like to say to the fans of Kelvin Jack and the Soca Warriors?
KELVIN: Fans are very powerful. Along with players, fans are the most important people in football. Without players you cannot have football. Without fans, you don't have anybody to watch the football. There are no wages to be paid without fans. Fans more or less pay a portion of a player's wage. Fans have more power than they think. Do not accept mediocrity. And I'm not talking about the players here. Fans deserve to be treated fairly. When I say treated fairly, they have paid good money to watch the game, and they deserve to see the best players. You can't tell me somebody wants to pay money and then they are being deprived of seeing the best players that are available. I am not having a go at the players who are playing now, because I don't know any of them, so I can't really form an opinion. But the players I know, players who created history with Trinidad & Tobago, I know they are good players, I know they are experienced players, I know they have done it. I know they are the guys you want in the trenches with you. Don't underestimate the power that fans have.
WN: It was a very insightful, informative, and at times humorous conversation. Thank you for taking the time out from your busy day to meet with the Warrior Nation.
KELVIN: It was my pleasure Tallman.