The “Soca Warriors” received a TT$100,000 donation from Barataria businessman Sham Mohammed on Friday night and team manager William Wallace is praying that corporate Trinidad and Tobago follows his lead to help finance the football team’s Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.
The Warriors finished second at the last two successive Caribbean Cup competitions in 2012 and 2014 and were quarterfinalists at the 2013 and 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cups.
Yet, just five weeks before Trinidad and Tobago’s opening qualifier away to Guatemala on November 13, the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) is again indebted to its players and without a confirmed match schedule after November 17.
At a TTFA press conference on Thursday afternoon, Wallace pleaded with the business community to help support the team, even if payments were made directly to service providers rather than to the football body’s bank account.
Within 24 hours, Mohammed, the owner of Miscellaneous Marketing Limited, presented Wallace with a TT$100,000 cheque, which is stipulated to go directly to match fees for players.
“Mohammed is a Barataria small business man and he responded to the clarion call for help for the team,” Wallace told Wired868. “He told me he believes this team can make it and he is asking corporate Trinidad and Tobago to also believe and help the team.”
Wallace said the money will go a long way towards helping to settle outstanding match fees for the Warriors.
At present, the TTFA owes its senior players roughly TT$192,000 for their outing against Mexico in Utah last month, which ended in a 3-3 draw. And, at present, there is no money to pay captain Kenwyne Jones and his teammates for upcoming friendlies against Panama and Nicaragua on October 8 and 13 respectively.
Wallace explained that new Sport Minister Darryl Smith can offer little financial help until the next Budget and it leaves the Warriors in a precarious position.
Coach Stephen Hart and the squad depart for Panama today but Williams will remain in Trinidad to help the TTFA’s fund raising initiative. The team manager said bMobile has offered to foot the bill for match fees for at least one game and he hopes to soon be able to pay the players for at least two of their three pre-World Cup qualifying friendlies.
“I am trying to raise just under (TT)$400,000 right now for match fees for the Mexico game that are still outstanding and at least the Panama game,” said Wallace. “I am supposed to be meeting with bMobile this week and we are hoping to get help for one match fee. There will also be discussions about them coming on board for the 2018 campaign…
“I want when the players come to Trinidad next Friday, we are able to deal with them and make them comfortable.”
At last Thursday’s press conference, Hart refused to describe the Warriors’ upcoming calendar as a ‘campaign.’
After Trinidad and Tobago’s two World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala and the United States in November, the team has no confirmed activity for the next four months until they meet St Vincent and the Grenadines in two qualifiers on 25 and 29 March 2016.
Wallace explained that the TTFA requested international games from the Sport Ministry but nothing is confirmed yet.
“The national team only has a schedule until November,” said Wallace. “I don’t know what will happen in January and February (but) in the budget we sent to the ministry we proposed games for those months leading up to the March games.
“Hopefully, we will be able to put something in place to put a game together because we cannot go straight up from November to March without playing any games.”
Wallace hopes that Mohammed’s generosity and ability to spot the potential in the Warriors will be replicated elsewhere in the business community.
“As I said in the press conference, they don’t have to give money to the TTFA in the traditional way,” said Wallace. “They can pay our service providers, or pay our airlines or pay match fees for players directly and so on.
“That is my position and I stand by that. So I hope we can get continuing support to pay two of the three match fees at least.”
Mohammed, whose company deals primarily in the automobile business and has branches in Barataria and Miami, is no stranger to football. He said he owns the franchise for Football 7s in Florida and recently introduced the version of the game to Trinidad. He is also the vice-president for American Professional Soccer League (APSL) team, South Florida FC.
“I made the trip to Argentina last year and I’ve seen the team grow since then,” said Mohammed. “But I have also been seeing the challenges they are facing and hearing about it from the people actually involved.
“And I thought well there must be some way as a loyal supporter, I could make a contribution to the team and really give them that extra push.”
Mohammed urged other businessmen to also support the team and rekindle the spirit of 2005 when the Warriors created history by qualifying for the Germany 2006 World Cup.
“We all know the positive effects success of a national team can have on a country, the spirit, and the mood,” said Mohammed. “We saw it in 2005 and 2006 and we see it all the time with other countries.
“So to me, this was an opportunity to play a part as a faithful supporter of Trinidad and Tobago and I’d like to encourage other persons to come on board and be part of the World Cup qualifying effort and football in general in this country.”