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Who is calling the shots? Central question “foolhardy” omission of Jan and Nathaniel

Pro League leaders and defending champions, Central FC, are continuing to question the omission of goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams and Nathaniel “Spanish” Garcia from the Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team, after postponements meant both players are available for the rest of the year.

Central controversially refused to release the duo, despite the request of National Senior Team coach Tom Saintfiet, after insisting that their own fixtures were first priority outside of the FIFA international match window.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Tom Saintfiet (centre) and Dr Terence Babwah (left) talk to defender Carlyle Mitchell during training at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on 15 December 2016. (Courtesy Nicholas Williams/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Tom Saintfiet (centre) and Dr Terence Babwah (left) talk to defender Carlyle Mitchell during training at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on 15 December 2016.
(Courtesy Nicholas Williams/Wired868)

Saintfiet responded by leaving both players out of the Soca Warriors team that travels to Managua on Christmas Day for friendly matches against Nicaragua on 27 and 30 December. San Jabloteh coach Keith Jeffrey and Club Sando coach Angus Eve also criticised Central’s decision to prioritise the league over the country.

However, the Pro League’s postponement of all matches today has again brought the decision of Saintfiet and Central bigwigs Brent Sancho and Kevin Harrison into focus.

Williams, who was a nominee for the CONCACAF Goalkeeper of the Year accolade in 2013 and 2014, and Garcia have now missed the opportunity to feature in Saintfiet’s first squad for a solitary match against second from bottom Pro League team, Morvant Caledonia United.

Harrison, the Central operations director, reiterated that the Warriors’ new Belgian coach, Saintfiet, was to blame, though. And he expressed doubt as to who is actually calling the shots for the National Senior Team.

“Saintfiet [allegedly] told the players it wasn’t his decision [to drop them],” Harrison told Wired868. “I wrote to [TTFA president] David John-Williams and asked if he could intercede and ask the coach to compromise. And David said it’s the coach’s decision. So I don’t know who is making [the] decisions there.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams enjoys himself at new head coach Tom Saintfiet's maiden training session at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on 15 December 2016. (Courtesy Nicholas Williams/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams enjoys himself at new head coach Tom Saintfiet’s maiden training session at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on 15 December 2016.
(Courtesy Nicholas Williams/Wired868)

Thus far, no official reason has been offered by the Pro League for the fixture postponements. Local teams have not received Government subventions for the past two months and the 10 member clubs met yesterday evening to discuss the financial issues and the challenge of finishing the season.

Harrison feels the Pro League’s loss should be the Warriors’ gain, though, and suggested it was ridiculous that Garcia—a two-time Caribbean Club Championship and Pro League champion—is ready and available to play but has been left out. He also questioned the omission of club captain Darren Mitchell and midfielder Leston Paul, who is a two-time World Youth Cup captain.

“At the end of the day, we’ve compromised twice [by allowing the players to train] and, as you know, the games have been called off, so there is no problem anyway,” said Harrison. “There is no [club versus country] conflict now… There are not many players locally that are winners [and] Nathaniel Garcia is a winner.

“He is a Caribbean Club champion [for] two years running. He has played at Vancouver Whitecaps [and] Sporting Kansas City in big games. It is foolish to cut someone like him out of a squad to prove a point to a club…

“If the coach is determined to prove a point then he is foolhardy because at the end of the day, the most important thing for everybody concerned is qualification for the Gold Cup and preparation for the World Cup… I can see no reason other than pride why he is not training at [the] Mannie Ramjohn [Stadium] this afternoon.”

Photo: Defence Force striker Devorn Jorsling (left) chases Central FC midfielder Nathaniel Garcia during the Digicel Charity Shield on 10 September 2016. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Defence Force striker Devorn Jorsling (left) chases Central FC midfielder Nathaniel Garcia during the Digicel Charity Shield on 10 September 2016.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Harrison questioned too how Saintfiet could justify leaving out the Central duo because they could not join his residential camp in Claxton Bay yet allow overseas-based players like Cornell Glen and Kevan George to meet the team in Nicaragua.

He was not placated by Saintfiet’s vow to Wired868 that he would not close the door on Garcia and Williams due to their club’s stance.

“I’m very pleased that [Saintfiet said] he won’t hold it against the players. However these players that are arriving straight from America and different places, they haven’t trained with the squad either. So I find it scary that he is prepared to gamble on Gold Cup and World Cup preparation and qualification just to prove a point…

“Jan not going to Nicaragua is okay as he is already established as a top goalkeeper in the Caribbean. But excluding him from the Gold Cup qualifiers would prove to be a major risk both on the field and in the dressing room.

“Without Kenwyne [Jones], Jan is probably the next natural leader—not necessarily captain, but certainly leader. And it’s ridiculous to gamble Gold Cup qualification to prove some point.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams muses over Mexico's decisive goal in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal. (Copyright Getty Images/AFP/ Mike Zarrilli)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams muses over Mexico’s decisive goal in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal.
(Copyright Getty Images/AFP/ Mike Zarrilli)

Trinidad and Tobago play Suriname and Haiti in Gold Cup play off contests on 4 and 8 January while they also host Panama and Mexico in vital Russia 2018 World Cup qualifiers on 24 and 28 March.

John-Williams stated publicly that Saintfiet will have to look for a job if the Warriors do not take at least four points from the March qualifiers.

AboutAmiel Mohammed

Amiel Mohammed
Amiel Mohammed is a sports enthusiast and has worked in communications for Central FC and the Women's Premier League TT. He has also pioneered numerous projects geared towards creating opportunities for the differently abled such as the Differently-Abled Football Camp 2015 and Focus Football Coaching Academy.

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133 comments

  1. Now when we lose .will this benefit our country and is it a waste of the country $$$ in this hard times

  2. ..We send players to the USL and it’s a “big ting”. Work and play. But we can’t do that here if that is what the budget allows?…

  3. ..”Team-mates worked elsewhere, too. One made calls for his mum’s security company. Another took a few afternoon shifts in a Tulsa clothing store.”..

    • I know with some USL teams the team covers their room (normally having roommates) …get a modest salary and they get them coaching gigs as well so modifications are def encouraged

    • ..EXACTLY! The players get a monthly wage AND HOUSING and sometimes MEALS. AND THEY STILL WORK! But we want to play 2,500 or 3’000 a month – IF you gettin’ dat! – is full time money to live on. Dat is for boys livin’ in dey mudda house..

  4. Malik Johnson, right or wrong, it’s very positive to see Jamaal, as part of Saintfeit’s staff, supporting him so strongly in public. He’s not had the most auspicious starts in many ways and he needs the support of his staff to give him the confidence to make his decisions. Whether I agree with those decisions is irrelevant. What’s important is that Jamaal is showing 100% for his coach and that should be applauded. All at Central genuinely wish the squad the best of luck in Nicaragua as it’s in all our interests to see the national team prosper. Merry Xmas to the squad, the staff and all Wired 868 readers!

  5. when your country calls you train , If they did not make themselves available they dont play …This is how it should go …exactly this way ..enuff said

  6. Jamaal I trying to be fair but don’t throw armchair vs real life coaching to negate a valid point. There are men talking to you on here with coaching badges as well who don’t flash that aspect to relay their points. Yuh have a short temper and a lil outspoken but yuh have a degree of integrity about yuh so peeps link with yuh pon that vibe because its solid common ground to base communication. Lass point valid and fairly simple …the man choosing upon his preferences …. so be it but he stated a specific criteria of selection which he is veering away from in some instances. You’ve no need to defend him (and realistically you can’t ) because his chinks of inconsistency on his armour shows his makeup …. not yours. He says one thing and does another he hadda ketch fire for that. Clearly you like some of what he is doing so if he gets the required results he’ll get the props …but during the process if he f#### up then allow him to get his required stick….

  7. He’s a puppet, I’ve said this from the first day

  8. Lasana Liburd I don’t know if this has been asked and I can’t read through all the posts at the moment,so I apologize if it’s been asked already.

    Don’t clubs in Europe, England and elsewhere refuse to allow players to go for national duty if the games aren’t on the FIFA schedule for internationals/tournaments? I understand the angst that we have critical WC qualifiers coming up and it would have been magnanimous of Central FC to release the players in the interests of National duties and qualification but we accept such decisions from our favorite non national clubs yet we kick up here and talk about 3rd world mentality?