Hart transplant: TTFA hires ex-Canada coach… locals still unpaid

The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) appears set to announce another new face on its technical staff on the eve of the July 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Wired868 understands that former Canada national football team coach Stephen Hart has accepted a two-year offer from TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee and should be in charge of the “Soca Warriors” in time for next month’s tournament.

Former 2006 World Cup coach Leo Beenhakker is still on the way but his position would be as a director of football. Wired868 tried unsuccessfully to contact Tim Kee and TTFA general secretary Sheldon Phillips for information on the new structure and responsibilities of the technical staff.

But David Muhammad, another new recruit, confirmed that Hart will join the staff.

Photo: Trinidad-born former Canada coach Stephen Hart.
Photo: Trinidad-born former Canada coach Stephen Hart.

“My understanding is that a press release should be sent out to give the details,” Muhammad told Wired868. “But, basically, Stephen Hart is head coach and Leo Beenhakker is director of football… Stephen Hart will run the bench and will have the final say on all team matters.

“Beenhakker will be there to lend his knowledge of the game and to offer guidance and advice.”

So, based on present information, Anton Corneal continues as technical director while Beenhakker comes in as director of football with Hart as head coach. New St Ann’s Rangers head coach Gilbert Bateau also joins the squad as a trainer. And, within the support staff, Muhammad is now head of the delegation for the Gold Cup with William Wallace and Peter Rampersad continuing as manager and assistant manager respectively.

And what is the fate of the coaches who booked Trinidad and Tobago’s place at the 2013 Gold Cup?

Co-head coach Hutson “Barber” Charles was formally invited to be interviewed by Beenhakker for an assistant coaching position while his fellow head coach Jamaal Shabazz and assistant Derek King were privately asked to do the same.

Shabazz initially agreed to work under Beenhakker, a former Real Madrid and Netherlands international coach, but refused the offer of an apprenticeship under the less celebrated, Trinidad-born Hart.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago national co-head coach Jamaal Shabazz. (Courtesy Allan V. Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago national co-head coach Jamaal Shabazz.
(Courtesy Allan V. Crane/Wired868)

“What is the basis of our demotion?” asked Shabazz. “The fact that we have not scored a goal in six matches against opposition that coaches of higher pedigree have struggled to beat? I am getting a whiff of a North American solution to all of Trinidad and Tobago’s football programmes.

“Down the road, I’m predicting that North Americans will be coming in to deal with our women and youth teams too.”

Phillips, who was appointed as general secretary last month, resides in the United States and travels here intermittently to oversee important TTFA matters in person. It is uncertain whether he intends to relocate to Trinidad or if he hopes to conduct the business of local football through phone calls and Skype.

Hart, a former Texaco midfielder, left Trinidad for Canada in the 1980s where he attended St Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He lived there ever since and worked for the Canada football association in various capacities between 2004 and 2012, during which time he lost both competitive meetings with Trinidad and Tobago.

Hart led Canada’s under-17 team twice and its under-20 squad once but failed to qualify for a World Youth Championship. In 2007, the Trinidad and Tobago under-17 team, coached by Anton Corneal and assisted by Charles, defeated Hart’s youth team 2-1 en route to the 2007 World Youth Cup. And, two years later, Zoran Vranes was head coach with Charles as assistant as the young Warriors defeat Hart’s Canada team 1-0 to book a place at the 2009 Under-20 World Cup.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago co-head coach Hutson "Barber" Charles was part of two coaching staffs that outdid Stephen Hart's Canada teams. (Courtesy Allan V. Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago co-head coach Hutson “Barber” Charles was part of two coaching staffs that outdid Stephen Hart’s Canada teams.
(Courtesy Allan V. Crane/Wired868)

In the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign, the Soca Warriors got to the final CONCACAF qualifying round while Hart’s Canadian team was eliminated in the semi-final phase. And, in 2014, Hart again failed to get to the final six CONCACAF teams as Canada again fell in the semi-final stage as did Shabazz with minnows, Guyana.

Hart’s record is better in the Gold Cup, though. Canada was a losing semi-finalist in 2007 and again got out of its group in 2009 although he failed to advance to the knockout stage in the 2011 competition.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Bertille St Clair remains the only coach to take the Warriors into the knockout stage of the Gold Cup when, in the 2000 tournament, he steered the side all the way to semi-finals. Ironically, St Clair’s team was defeated 1-0 by Canada although Hart was not coach at the time.

Shabazz suggested that Central FC coach Terry Fenwick and DIRECTV W Connection coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier, an Englishman and St Lucian respectively, could add more to local football than the Canada-based Trinidadian.

“If Hutson and myself were being demoted on the basis of competence,” said Shabazz, “I would have put forward Terry Fenwick or Stuart Charles as our immediate successors before I looked anywhere else. After that I would have put forward (Wigan assistant coach) Dennis Lawrence once he gets a little more experience…

“At least Fenwick knows the players but does Stephen Hart know the players? If the team does badly, he can now say that he just come and he didn’t have a lot of time with the team. If the team does well he is a hero.”

Shabazz said he now just wants to be paid for his work over the last six months, which, with bonuses, match fees and per diems, is estimated at just over $200,000 (US$31,000).

Photo: The Trinidad and Tobago national football team at the 2012 Caribbean Cup finals in Antigua. (Courtesy Antigua Independent Media/ Wired868)
Photo: The Trinidad and Tobago national football team at the 2012 Caribbean Cup finals in Antigua.
(Courtesy Antigua Independent Media/ Wired868)

Tim Kee told Wired868 that the Government owes the coaches and not the football body. He said he would do his best to ensure the coaches are paid but he will not try to raise funds from the private sector to cover debts.

Shabazz accepts that the Ministry of Sport allegedly made a verbal commitment to pay their salaries but countered that it was the football body which employed him. He insisted that the new TTFA leadership would lose credibility if it does not ensure its outgoing staff is paid before unveiling highly compensated replacements.

Ironically, Charles, Shabazz and Charles worked without written contracts as the TTFA said there was no money to offer them long term deals. But, after taking the Warriors to its first Gold Cup in six years, Hart will take the team to the tournament with the security of a two-year contract.

“We kept the only bargaining chip available for football alive, which is the national football team,” said Shabazz. “We rolled up our sleeves and went in the filth and in the mud and worked like slaves. And now we cannot even get the wages of indentured labourers? That is not right.

“I spoke with Sheldon Phillips and he seems very amenable and he has shown an inclination for us to work together to ask the Ministry to cover same. But I will not accept someone coming here and making enough money to feed their dog steak while our families have nothing to eat, especially after I left a contract in Guyana and two month’s salary to come and work hard for my country.”

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About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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  1. I agree with some of the writers with the usage of Mr. Fenwick as head coach of the Soca Warriors and even Mr. Earl “spiderman” Carter…. well Mr Shabazz I guess you are too BIG for the game (or sorry you coached a less cachet team who beat up T&T) you just can’t learn anything again oh my….we need a coach who is preaching development development development. we need to target the primary schools and grow from there 2018 & 2022 here we come…

  2. People remember when B.A.T.A made sneakers for our nations children way back when and it was not good enough despite how strong and how long it lasted. I bleed when brothers are treated with contempt the way these brothers were treated. Imagine in our little and I say little country allows a general Secretary to live abroad? Has slavery returned? Ex-party landlords governing from overseas? That’s why slavery failed.

    In one stroke Mr Phillips has shown me he cannot be trusted. There is no money for local coaches, but you offer a two-year deal to a foreigner? Really? Really, sir? You want a good team as I said earlier if you believe the “DON” has the technical expertise missing from these two brothers by all means let him assist in that avenue.

    This new move by the T.T.F.A is disrespectful to local football, Mr. President there is no “QUICK FIX” to our football you don’t have to be:”Sheldon Cooper” to see this. “WE NEED TO FIX OUR YOUTH DEVELOPMENT FIRST” have proper grounds and ground staff to maintain said grounds. Just take a look around, the rainy season has started, and see what you want Professional players to play on and think how can they produce quality on that!

    F.I.F.A built white elephants for us. No one wants to go see football there. The communities need their teams “HOME” not have A.I.A. play a Champions league game in Couva. That is impossible. Where and how will your General Secretary see this? on Skype? come on people stop insulting these two brothers for the sake of smelling like a rose, just to show you are doing something. What you did is and will always be WRONG.

    • To be fair to general secretary Sheldon Phillips, he has informed Wired868 that he does intend to relocate to Trinidad. He became TTFF (now TTFA) general secretary in May and explained that he needs more time to complete his move.

  3. I can’t help but feel these coaches pain. I like the fact that the Federation or Association (not sure which it is) has placed in their sights developing a system of football for Trinidad and Tobago teams. I am glad Hart is Trinidadian with International experience but what message do we send to local hard working coaches. It amazed me to listen to and read all the local commentators and fans who begged the Dutchman to return when he exited so willingly after the World Cup. He had a chance then to direct T&T’s overall football plans for 2010 and beyond. Today we have no money but we go back to him and select a coach just based on his say…But foreign and outside is always better even in our workplaces. I have gone on record as saying if we want a foreigner let’s use the local based one we have a man who clearly has a stake in our future – Terry Fenwick.
    On another related note, I am monitoring with enthusiasm Mr Tim Kee’s revelation that we will now get new uniforms and will market and merchandise these. I am sure most of you will agree that to purchase a T&T football, cricket, hockey, volley ball, athletics national team supports kit is near impossible. It is my hope that this statement signals a recognition that these sports can only become sustainable through the gate receipt that fans pay to view the sports, the leveraging of well marketed media coverage (broadcast rights) and final carefully merchandised attractive team kits and supporter paraphernalia. It is my hope that TTFF/TTFA, the Sports Company and Tourism and Development Company will enter into a long-term contract that benefits all of the sporting bodies and develops a careful plan to market and merchandise our brand of sport product leading to self sustainability for each sport…

  4. I agree …it should make us angry.

    “Co-head coach Hutson “Barber” Charles was formally invited to be interviewed by Beenhakker for an assistant coaching position while his fellow head coach Jamaal Shabazz and assistant Derek King were privately asked to do the same.”

    Why? Oh so he in charge of T&T football now?

    So now there is a technical director, a director of football a head coach.a trainer, a head of the delegation, a manager and an assistant manager. Then there is the possibility of assistant coaches, Hutson Charles, Jamaal Shabaaz and Derek King.

    Wow…we have a winning team…They better come back with the cup.

    Lasana, it is TIME for the panel discussion on the state of football.

  5. If I still had enough passion left in me to feel strongly about anything in Trinidad football, this story would have made me angry. But I’m long since beyond the place where I feel that strong feelings will get us anywhere. Plus ca change, as the man said, plus c’est la meme chose.

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