Anthony Harford, the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) marketing manager, said that ongoing High Court action might have influenced the TTFF’s failure to invite the 2006 World Cup players for the Sport Ministry’s 50 Greatest Legends in Sport award ceremony. And he insisted that their absence from the Jubilee function is a non-issue.
Thirteen past and present “Soca Warriors” are engaged in legal action against the TTFF over non-paid bonuses from the country’s historic appearance at the Germany 2006 World Cup.
“We have ongoing litigation with this group of boys and there is no communication apart from in the High Court,” Harford told Wired868.com. “So let the captain (Dwight Yorke) pick up the award. I don’t think the TTFF erred or they are monsters.”
Harford, who was also a convener for the Legends selection committee, said he could not confirm whether the TTFF intentionally snubbed its most famous squad but admitted that he would understand if they did.
“It is a unique situation,” said Harford. “They recently raided the TTFF offices. I’m not saying that (the TTFF) took that into consideration but I could understand if they did.”
The 13 World Cup 2006 players involved in litigation against the TTFF are: Stern John, Kenwyne Jones, Cornell Glen, Collin Samuel, Aurtis Whitley, Evans Wise, Anthony Wolfe, David Atiba Charles, Avery John, Cyd Gray, Brent Sancho, Kelvin Jack and Shaka Hislop.
On 8 February 2012, the World Cup players had a court-appointed marshall seize all removable assets from the TTFF headquarters due to its failure to meet an interim payment of $4.6 million (US$724,000) that should have been paid on 18 October 2011. A large portion of that court-mandated figure remains unpaid.
On Thursday, the TTFF issued a press release that offered its regret about the situation and claimed it was not advised on the possibility of inviting all 24 members of the team nor was there “any discussion over which members should or should not be invited.”
Harford, who held a dual role with the Legends committee and the TTFF, did not feel he erred by failing to advise the local football body to honour its 2006 squad.
“I did not ask (the TTFF to invite them) because it is a delicate matter,” said Harford. “I don’t see it as an issue… I don’t disrespect the players; a lot of them I get on extremely well with and I quite like them. But, if I was in the position of the TTFF, I may have made the same decision.”
World Cup 2006 captain and ex-Manchester United star Dwight Yorke was at the ceremony to collect an individual award and also picked up the team prize. Former Porto playmaker Russell Latapy always received individual recognition while ex-Newcastle goalkeeper Shaka Hislop was invited, by All Sport, due to his role with ESPN but was not formally acknowledged.
Former 2006 World Cup defender Cyd Gray said the circumstances of the players’ omission hurt rather than the fact that they missed a gala event.
“If the country was celebrating 50 years of independence and we were part of something legendary during that time, then I feel we should have been there,” Gray told Wired868. “I have no problem with Dwight accepting the award but the whole team should have been there because it was a team effort.
“If they wanted to mend bridges with us, this would have been a great step to start and try to put whatever differences we have aside and move forward for the best of the country.”
Gray, a former San Juan Jabloteh defender, was one of Trinidad and Tobago’s standouts at the World Cup and excelled when the “Soca Warriors” faced England in its second group match in Nuremberg.
Coach Leo Beenhakker asked Gray was to mark England striker, Michael Owen, and the “Roxborough Rocket” kept the former European Player of the Year off the score sheet although England eventually grabbed a controversial goal in the final eight minutes before sealing a last gasp 2-0 triumph.
Gray could barely walk into the dressing room after the final whistle and a MRI scan discovered that he suffered a tear in his knee cartilage during the match but defied pain to play the full 90 minutes.
After six years of legal battles, the retired player felt the TTFF should have taken the opportunity to be more civil to the legendary squad.
“Mr (Jack) warner criticized the Opposition Leader for not attending the (Jubilee) function but how is this different?” asked Gray. “They say one thing and do the opposite. For me it is already gone now and it doesn’t matter anymore. But it would have been nice to go.”