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Maurice is out; Shabazz, Latapy, Babwah and Isaac are in! Saintfiet names technical squad

Dr Terence Babwah and Dave Isaac are back in the Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team squad and they will have director of youth football, Russell Latapy, and technical programmes coordinator, Jamaal Shabazz, for company.

Former Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) general secretary Azaad Khan, who is also the general secretary of the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL), was also named as interim team manager until the end of the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup playoffs in January.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 coach Russell Latapy (centre) shouts instructions at his players during 2017 Under-17 World Cup qualifying action in Couva on 17 September 2016. Haiti won 2-0. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 coach Russell Latapy (centre) shouts instructions at his players during 2017 Under-17 World Cup qualifying action in Couva on 17 September 2016.
Haiti won 2-0.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

However, the return of Babwah and Isaac is sure to cause heated discussions in the dressing room after the controversial departure of the pair amidst accusations against former head coach Stephen Hart.

Babwah and Isaac claimed that Hart ignored their medical advice and jeopardised the health of goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams by playing him in their last World Cup qualifier, which was away to Honduras on 15 November 2016.

Hart and Williams, as well as goalkeeper coach Michael Maurice and fitness trainer Tobias Ottley, all strenuously denied the accusation against the then coach.

New Soca Warriors coach Tom Saintfiet said he wanted to keep the experience of Babwah and Isaac around the squad.

“I decided to keep the persons who have been in that role in the last year, Dr Babwah and physio Isaac,” Saintfiet told TTFA Media. “I think both have huge experience with the team and in this region and I will like to work in the coming months with them.”

However, Saintfiet did not put a premium on the experience of Maurice and Ottley. Both were replaced by foreigners. German Jo Stock will now serve as goalkeeper coach while South African Riedoh Bierdien will operate as fitness trainer.

Photo: Former Bangladesh coach and new Soca Warriors head coach Tom Saintfiet. (Copyright BBC)
Photo: Former Bangladesh coach and new Soca Warriors head coach Tom Saintfiet.
(Copyright BBC)

Stock, who holds a UEFA ‘A’ Goalkeeping Coaching License (2016) and Coaching License (2006), worked with Saintfiet in Yemen and last coached German Third Division team, FC Magdeburg, in 2015. Bierdien was a member of Saintfiet’s staff in Togo and Bangladesh.

“[Riedoh Berdien] is a high profiled South African physical coach who worked in the past for Bolton Wanderers of England and also for the national teams of Togo, Botswana and Bangladesh,” said Saintfiet, “and he was in the last months the national team physical coach for the South African Football Federation in the women’s department…

“On the goalkeeper coach, I spoke with two local goalkeeper coaches. I had a very good feeling with the discussion with them. But in my observation in local football and my discussion with some other people, I decided for the short period of time to bring a foreign professional with high profile, with high education and with experience in European football. And he will be coming from Germany.”

For Maurice, who worked alongside Leo Beenhakker at the 2006 World Cup, it will be his first time outside of the National Senior Team for well over a decade. He follows Hart, Ottley, ex-manager William Wallace and former assistant coaches Hutson “Barber” Charles and Derek King through the exit door.

Equipment manager Michael Williams and press officer Shaun Fuentes are the only survivors from Hart’s technical staff.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team technical staff members (from right) Michael "Brow" Maurice, Derek King, Hutson "Barber" Charles and William Wallace exchange ideas before kick off against Nicaragua on 13 October 2015. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team technical staff members (from right) Michael “Brow” Maurice, Derek King, Hutson “Barber” Charles and William Wallace exchange ideas before kick off against Nicaragua on 13 October 2015.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

This morning, Saintfiet told Wired868 that there was no room in his 29-man squad for ex-captain Kenwyne Jones or Mexico-based defender Yohance Marshall.

It leaves the Central FC goalkeeper, Williams, as virtually the last influential figure from the Hart era. Williams is the second most capped player in the current squad with 75 full international appearances.

Ma Pau Stars full back and former World Cup 2006 player, Carlos Edwards, has 86 full international outings but has not played international football in three years.

On Monday, Williams made his first competitive appearance for Central FC since he was concussed in Trinidad and Tobago’s last World Cup qualifier away to Honduras on 15 November.

Williams’ injury turned into a political football as Babwah and Isaac accused Hart of ignoring their medical advice and jeopardising the goalkeeper’s health by playing him with an injury. Both men resigned from the team without informing Hart, who found out about it on I95.5FM.

Their accusation was subsequently raised when the board met to discuss whether to remove the former national coach.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team medic Dr Terence Babwah (centre) signals for a change while goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams lays unconscious during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Honduras in San Pedro Sula on 15 November 2016. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team medic Dr Terence Babwah (centre) signals for a change while goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams lays unconscious during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Honduras in San Pedro Sula on 15 November 2016.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Williams denied Babwah’s claims—and went further to claim that the doctor had previously misdiagnosed an injury, which cost him at least three months’ playing time—while, in previous Wired868 interviews, Hart and several of his staff members also reacted incredulously to the assertion.

  • Williams: “At no point did Dr [Terence] Babwah or [Dave] Isaacs tell me they didn’t think I was fit to play the game [against Honduras]… It is very unfortunate that at this crucial time where we all need everyone stick together, people are letting their personal agendas take the forefront.”
  • Hart: “[Babwah] never told me it was not safe to play Jan. He never ever said that! […] Why would I risk a goalkeeper if [according to Babwah] he couldn’t raise his arm? That doesn’t make sense. Something is not reading right here at all.”
  • Tobias Ottley, fitness trainer: “I am actually stunned by this [and] I don’t even understand what can be the motive to [submit their resignations] without a team meeting… I don’t believe in coincidences and I find the timing off considering the current environment. It is widely known that the staff has been under the microscope for the longest while… It is disheartening.
  • Maurice: “That is not true! Jan trained fully [before the Honduras game]! […] I don’t know where all this stems from at all, at all, at all… I don’t know what is going on and this sounds strange to me. But there is probably a lot going on behind the scenes that I don’t know about.”

However, the Warriors will now continue on their Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign without Maurice while Babwah and Isaac are back on deck. It could make for an awkward reunion with Williams.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams is helped on to the stretcher by paramedic Dave Isaacs during their 2015 Gold Cup fixture against Cuba. (Courtesy CONCACAF)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams is helped on to the stretcher by paramedic Dave Isaacs during their 2015 Gold Cup fixture against Cuba.
(Courtesy CONCACAF)

The appointments of Shabazz and Latapy are likely to also raise eyebrows, as both men were rumoured to be potential replacements for Hart although neither actually applied for the job.

Shabazz, who just left his job as Guyana head coach, campaigned for John-Williams during last year’s TTFA presidential elections and in his unsuccessful push to be elected Caribbean Football Union (CFU) president.

Shabazz and Latapy should be cost-effective selections as both are already salaried employees of the local football body. Shabazz was named as an interim appointment and, although no timeline was suggested, he is believed to be unwilling to work beyond next month’s Gold Cup playoffs.

Ironically, Shabazz quit as National Senior Team co-head coach, three years ago, when then football president Raymond Tim Kee hired Hart and offered him a chance to continue as an assistant. However, the veteran coach said he is ready to serve now.

“I have accepted the responsibilities of this temporary appointment as an extension of my current duties,” Shabazz told Wired868. “I may have to fast for three days since I had previously vowed that my days on the field as part of a national team staff [were] over. As a soldier, I am ready to give my total effort towards the success of this project.”

Photo: Former Caledonia AIA head coach Jamaal Shabazz (left) helps defender Kareem Joseph to his feet while assistant coach Rajeesh Latchoo looks on during CONCACAF Champions League action in 2013. (Courtesy Francisco Estrada/Jam MEDIA)
Photo: Former Caledonia AIA head coach Jamaal Shabazz (left) helps defender Kareem Joseph to his feet while assistant coach Rajeesh Latchoo looks on during CONCACAF Champions League action in 2013.
(Courtesy Francisco Estrada/Jam MEDIA)

Latapy told the TTFA Media that his job with the youth team remains his focal point. But, like Shabazz, he will not turn down the request to serve his country.

“I was not expecting to be in this situation,” said Latapy, who is one of Trinidad and Tobago’s iconic former players. “The focus has to be on the new coach and his ideas and his philosophies and we need the players to pull together just like the nation. And we need to come together to do the best that we can to move forward and give the team the best possible chance.

“I have been asked to assist and I will never turn my back on Trinidad and Tobago. The new coach and the president of the association asked me to come in and I will go in and put my best foot forward.

“It is an opportunity for the new head coach to take the squad from where it is at this time and see how far he can take it forward. He will have my fullest support.”

Latapy is in Portugal at present and is expected to join the squad later this year.

Saintfiet will have Shabazz for company at his first training session tomorrow at the Hasely Crawford Stadium from 7pm.

“I think we have a strong squad where we combine local experience, two former national team coaches, with international experience of top level specified coaches for that job,” said Saintfiet.

AboutLasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and 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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87 comments

  1. Did anyone pick up that one of the last teams Tom coached was named Warriors. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  2. This picture says it all!! Never have I heard the likes of the person running a countries football association being present at the team training session!! Should he not be back in the office trying to figure out how to pay debts to players and previous coaches?? You should just change name from Soca Warriors to Connection Army! ??

  3. Reminds me of the Trump administration.

  4. All the people who stood up for Hart have been replaced……loud watery STEUPS.

  5. DJW making Jack Warner look like ah saint.

  6. the resent sacking of Hearth with his assistants in KING AND babber both of whom ability was called into question , what about LATAPYS ABILITY JUDIGING FROM HIS RESENT PERFORMANCE AT THE CARIBBEAN U17 CUP . THEY KEEP SAYING HE IS A NATIONAL ICON WE ACCEPT HOWEVER HIS COACHING ABILITY IS WHAT I AM QUESTIONING.

  7. Counted 5, another out with injury, not sure if anyone is on loan to other clubs

  8. Reminiscent of U20 team where WConnection was languishing in the last 3rd but 10 or players were chosen to form the nucleus of the team at the expense of teams /players from the top 3 teams…Defence Force,Central FC and Jablotet

  9. Someone please confirm or deny if there are now 9 or 10 players on the national team contracted to DJW….WConnection.Well Yessssssss!!!!!!!!

  10. As for Shabazz what a joke. The ole saying he doth protest too much. Liar,liar pants on fire.

  11. They did their dirty work knowing they would be rehired. How do spineless people like that sleep at night?

  12. Well from the looks of it Shawn Babooram… some hands are on the deck… and others are on the d…

  13. Earl Best

    Is there anything in T&T sport that happens completely above board, out in the open, not behind the curtain, not under the table, in the light of day? Jesus, put a hand!

  14. This is so transparent. The TTFA has been crafted in the image and likeness of DJW. The Belgian is his personal stooge. This is Jack 2.0 with more bugs.

    I’m beginning to think that there has to be a cultural/psychological predisposition in Trinis that allows this type of leadership to take hold.

  15. I thought Christmas was cancelled how one of the coaches get Christmas off. Should be all hands on deck .

  16. Head what the Coach said that Prof Jamaal Shabazz didn’t want to return in the coaching department eh, as he said before so he was finally convinced to do so and I know that was a very good decision eh.

  17. Well ….. nothing seen here convinces me any less about the belief that the TTFA is aligned with a bunch of venomous snakes …smh……

  18. Is the conspiracy theory that Dr Babwah and Isaac resigned in a manner to put maximum pressure on then coach Stephen Hart–just when the TTFA were liking to fire him–safe in the knowledge that they would get their jobs back immediately after?
    Because that would be a crazy conspiracy theory. Lol.

  19. A foreign asst coach or a failed asst coach

  20. I guess Jan Michael may not be first pick keeper again. How is he supposed to trust the docs with his health after what just transpired?

  21. And a fresh round of conspiracies theories have begun

  22. Job done Hart out all who supported him out DJW gets his way

  23. It sounds and looks like they forgot about the assistant coaches. Very amateurish

  24. After that I95.5 programme, we know Isaac can double as a goalkeeper coach eh Brian Springer? Lol

  25. The man googled all of them and knows their performance record …..ent

  26. Those two x footballers knuw the deal

  27. Set up… None of these guys have any credibility in my opinion….

  28. Anybody else thinks Jan-Michael Williams better wet his roof?

  29. Ah want tuh see if dem foreigners go get pay

  30. hahahaha and yuh eh see how they setting up the new Coach eh, about he is the one that requested the Doctors to be reassigned steeuuppss. Them really good yes.

  31. The theme from SHAFT comes to mind again.