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Central FC attack Smith for favouring Super League; Jan-Michael distances self from release

Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams has distanced himself from criticism of Sport Minister Darryl Smith, after a press release from his employers, Central FC, quoted him as expressing disappointment in Smith.

On 5 February 2017, Central became the first club in the 17 year history of the Pro League to win the league title for three successive seasons.

Photo: Sport Minister Darryl Smith (centre) and Minister of Public Utilities Fitzgerald Hinds (second from right) meet players from Morvant Caledonia United before kick off against W Connection at the Hasely Crawford Stadium training ground on 20 January 2017. (Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)
Photo: Sport Minister Darryl Smith (centre) and Minister of Public Utilities Fitzgerald Hinds (second from right) meet players from Morvant Caledonia United before kick off against W Connection at the Hasely Crawford Stadium training ground on 20 January 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

However, a Central release, which quoted Williams, suggested that the Sport Minister has ignored their success—even as claimed to receive congratulations from the FIFA and CONCACAF presidents.

“When we won our second successive Caribbean Club Championship last year, we received no recognition from Minister Smith,” said Williams, according to the Central release. “It was the highest profile sporting achievement by any team from T&T in 2016, yet we didn’t even receive a letter of congratulations…

“It’s very disappointing as a player in our national sport to see the lack of respect for our achievements.”

Williams quotes brought a stinging rebuke from former Trinidad and Tobago football icon and current National Under-17 Team coach Russell Latapy. However, within hours of the Central release, the goalkeeper put out his own statement—curiously, via the TTFA Media—which claimed that his words were “incorrectly interpreted” and that he had been used to make a point against the Sport Minister.

The talented 32-year-old goalkeeper did not say he was misquoted. However, he made it clear that he only hopes to see his name in a sporting context in the future.

Central managing director Brent Sancho served as Minister of Sport under the UNC government and directly preceded Smith in that post while the club’s operations manager, Kevin Harrison, served as advisor to the Sport Minister during his brief tenure.

Photo: Former Sport Minister and Central FC chairman Brent Sancho (second from right) is flanked by ex-Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (right) and former World Cup 2006 star and Central coach Stern John during the opening of the Irwin Park Sporting Complex in Siparia in 2015. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Former Sport Minister and Central FC chairman Brent Sancho (second from right) is flanked by ex-Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (right) and former World Cup 2006 star and Central coach Stern John during the opening of the Irwin Park Sporting Complex in Siparia in 2015.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

“Let me first say that I am not one to play politics with the game that I love nor do I have interest in either attacking the Ministry of Sport or the Sport Minister,” said Williams, via the TTFA Media. “My name has been used a lot in the past by others to get their various points across. Contrary to what was previously reported, my main focus after the game [which secured the 2016/17 Pro League title] was to get mentally prepared for the [Digicel Pro Bowl final on Sunday 19 February], which would be tough regardless of the opposition.

“My statements obviously were incorrectly interpreted. Moving forward my main focus is winning the Pro Bowl then preparing for World Cup qualifiers in March.

“I also hope to do my best so that my name is seen in the media in the future for sporting achievements only.”

Williams was thrust into the national spotlight, three months ago, when National Senior Team medic Dr Terence Babwah and paramedic Dave Isaac quit the team after claiming that then head coach Stephen Hart played the Central goalkeeper against medical advice in a World Cup qualifier against Honduras on 15 November 2016.

Williams was concussed in that outing, which the Soca Warriors lost 3-1 and the resignation heaped pressure on Hart who was fired soon after. But Williams, Hart and much of the technical staff insisted that the goalkeeper was not injured and rubbished the claims by Babwah and Isaac.

Photo: Central FC goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams was the game winner as his team edged Club Sando 5-4 on kicks from the penalty mark in the Digicel Pro Bowl semifinal at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 12 February 2017. (Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)
Photo: Central FC goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams was the game winner as his team edged Club Sando 5-4 on kicks from the penalty mark in the Digicel Pro Bowl semifinal at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 12 February 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

The Central custodian found himself in a tug of war again when Hart’s successor, Tom Saintfiet, refused to select him after a spat with the club’s managing director, Brent Sancho, over their training schedule.

In yesterday’s release, Sancho attacked Smith’s perceived snub of the “Couva Sharks” and said that the Sport Minister: “chooses to ignore us again and instead prefers to give out prizes at coaching schools.”

He also accused Smith of showing more interest in the fledgling Trinidad and Tobago Super League—which is not yet ratified by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA)—than the Pro League.

“Of course, being a former Minister of Sport for the opposition, people would expect me to criticise Daryl Smith,” said Sancho. “I try to steer clear of political statements but I cannot stay quiet any longer. As a former footballer, I am amazed that the Minister has never acknowledged the TT Pro League clubs.

“He has refused to meet individual clubs and has taken no interest in the professional league, yet he’s held meetings with the new Super League owners, which has not yet been formally ratified by TTFA.”

Photo: (Left to right) Lt Ryan Ottley (TTSL interim VP), Keith Look Loy (TTSL interim President), Minister Darryl Smith, Camara David (TTSL Secretary), Kester Lendor (TTSL interim Assistant Secretary) and Quincy Jones (TTSL interim Board member). (Courtesy TTSL)
Photo: (Left to right) Lt Ryan Ottley (TTSL interim VP), Keith Look Loy (TTSL interim President), Minister Darryl Smith, Camara David (TTSL Secretary), Kester Lendor (TTSL interim Assistant Secretary) and Quincy Jones (TTSL interim Board member).
(Courtesy TTSL)

Sancho claimed too that Smith’s attitude to the Pro League was detrimental to the local game and that the Ministry of Sport, which gives at least TT$400,000 per month in subventions to the local top flight competition, has not done enough to make the clubs self-sufficient.

“It’s crazy because on one hand the Minister is cutting funding to the Pro League and saying clubs need to be more self sufficient,” said Sancho. “But he does nothing to help them achieve this. He should be regularly speaking of the accomplishments of the Pro League, which would greatly assist clubs in become self funded.

“Okay, you make cost cutting decisions, but why start at the top? Our professional football is admired overseas. It provides employment for hundreds of people, many of whom would possibly find it difficult to secure meaningful employment elsewhere.

“Imagine what we could achieve with proper support from the Ministry of Sport and Corporate T&T…”

Still Central claimed to be close to closing a deal with a foreign investor that should help secure the club’s future.

“The interest in Central is dependent on several other deals going through in Europe,” said Sancho. “All we can do is carry on winning titles to ensure that the interest remains while they complete their affairs. However, I would estimate that there’s a 90 percent chance of new investors coming on board before we compete in the CFU finals in May.”

Photo: Central FC players and technical staff celebrate their third successive Pro League title at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva, after edging San Juan Jabloteh 1-0 on 5 February 2017. (Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)
Photo: Central FC players and technical staff celebrate their third successive Pro League title at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva, after edging San Juan Jabloteh 1-0 on 5 February 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

Central claimed too that 19 year old forward Nicholas Dillon, who is also a Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 standout, has signed with Belgium Second Division club, K.Patro Maasmechelen, and will soon be joined by his club teammate, Nathaniel Garcia.

Versatile Central attacker Jem Gordon, who played fullback for much of the 2016/17 season, is also due to attend trials soon in the United States.

The Sharks also congratulated assistant coach Stern John after he was appointed as National Senior Team assistant coach by Warriors head coach Dennis Lawrence.

“[John’s] appointment reflects the hard work he has put into the club over the last season and a half,” stated the club release, “and his influence on the team is apparent from the club’s continued success.”

central-nicholas-dillon-connection-terrence-lewis-ftr

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 15 years experience at several local and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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163 comments

  1. Always seems to be too many egos and people on self. Meanwhile, TTPL on life support, TTFA is not properly constituted and the on field product is of low quality..

  2. Interesting stuff. I think this whole situation could have been handle better.

  3. Sancho queries TTFA’s media release on Central FC
    Sunday, February 19 2017

    BRENT SANCHO, owner of three-time Digicel Pro League champions Central FC, has queried a media release issued yesterday by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA).

    The media release quoted Central FC’s goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams as refuting statements he allegedly made in a club media release on Friday – in which the national keeper claimed that the team was yet to receive a letter of congratulations from the Minister of Sports Darryl Smith.

    According to the TTFA, Williams was quoted as saying, “I am not one to play politics with the game that I love nor do I have interest in either attacking the Ministry of Sport or the Sport Minister.

    My statements obviously were incorrectly interpreted.” However, Sancho yesterday wondered why the rebuttal came via a TTFA media release, when Williams is still a member of Central FC.

    “I find it very strange that the TTFA will release such a (media) release at this time,” said Sancho.

    “How is this inclusive of the TTFA? Jan is a Central FC player.

    “I don’t think it’s about the statement,” continued Sancho. “I don’t think anything that was said was not true. I’ve had personal experience where I’ve been blacklisted for standing up for the rights of the players. I understand his position.

    “Central FC is the only club to achieve anything in football regionally (in the past couple years).

    I think it’s a club which should be lauded. I stand by my statement, not even a congratulatory statement was made (by the Minister).” Sancho, the ex-Trinidad and Tobago defender, pointed out, “at the end of the day, if it’s against Brent Sancho and whatever perceived political alliances, that’s something completely different. But, as far as I’m concerned, sports comes first. That’s how I see it.” Asked if the media release from the TTFA highlights a hidden agenda, Sancho replied, “it has to be. How is it that, after all we’ve achieved, that the first statement coming out of the (TTFA) is not even a word of congratulations but to try and antagonise a situation.” Concerning any feedback from the Pro League about the outstanding prize monies for winning the past three league titles, Sancho noted, “the last statement told you that they’re trying to set up a meeting with the Minister and I think that’s where the energy should be flowed, not trying to make something out of nothing.

    The energy should be put in towards making sure that the prize monies, making sure that the League continues and making sure that we have the support going through.”

    http://www.newsday.co.tt/sport/0,240038.html

  4. Defence Force 1:0 Central if anybody was wondering. 1st half

  5. Russell Latapy statement: “For a long time I’ve stood by and listened to some of the younger players voice their opinions regarding the game of football. I would like to share my thoughts, especially, at this time when a player, namely, Jan Michael Williams, in his lack of wisdom and understanding can boldly make statements about the Honourable Minister of Sport and the Sport Ministry.

    “Firstly, Acknowledgement comes with Achievement! The type of achievement required to be successful in football is playing at a high level, motivating other players, and building team spirit and comradery for your team and country while working tirelessly to be at the top of the CFU and Concacaf. It is also taking responsibility for your actions and not blaming others.

    “Secondly, If you want acknowledgement you do not need to ask for it. Acknowledgement involves playing professionally for an extended period in a league that is considered a top professional league and not just for a few months.

    “So kid, my advice to you is: talk less, defend more and I look forward to you being part of a successful National Team.”

    • I disagree with Russell! Without agitation there’s no change. Now that Russell has had success and deep and wide recognition, he remains silent on matters where he as a senior statesman should have a voice. As I’ve said before, making the necessary changes require guts and organization! Of the former players with a voice only kelvin jack has spoken. No Russell, they need to speak up because you are not!

    • Maybe athletes need whistleblower legislation too.

    • hahahahahaha The Magician like some others knows that they must never bite the hands that feed them eh Brian Harry, well maybe until they are fired and only then they does start singing like a canary and maybe they all learn’t that from their ex- Strike Squad Coach Gally eh. Them really good yes.

    • Russell will never talk even after he’s fired. Proven to be spineless on may occasions

  6. Why is it that the Pro-league is continually being compared to the Super League?
    Both have their relevance in the football landscape T&T.
    I am disappointed in both Brent Sancho and Stern John for their remarks about the league. Quite a bit of the players in the Pro-league would have transitioned from the Super League. The meeting with the honorable MOS and the Super League was at our request and no-committal on financial issues

  7. Buh A A all this bacchanal is happening here and I am missing in action eh, well I know that nobody couldn’t put any gag order on my Prof Jamaal Shabazz eh. Them really good yes.

  8. All them pro teams want is money from the government and the league is dog shit what pro league in the world have 10 teams only Trinidad wtf study how to make the league bigger and better get more teams the super league is way better… look at our national team in a fucking mess and that’s pro players smh..

  9. So, Chris, why not come again? If your project is feasible, it’s worth a try. Maybe sportt would fund it? And that is the kind of support that is referred to in the press release. Make the game better. Don’t just leave it to the clubs.

  10. So all the time, this has not been objective discussion, but personal disappointment? I cannot recall why your project was not accepted, but I imagine one issue would be cost? Has it been adopted anywhere else?

  11. Yes not that you do not know. What you don’t know is that they didn’t depend on it to put food on the table, which is what you said.

  12. Timothy has any of your family received a salary while plying their trade in the Pro League?

  13. “It’s crazy because on one hand the Minister is cutting funding to the Pro League and saying clubs need to be more self sufficient,” said Sancho. “But he does nothing to help them achieve this. He should be regularly speaking of the accomplishments of the Pro League, which would greatly assist clubs in become self funded.”….

    Can someone please explains how this works?

  14. Keith Look Loy, you were the first person to comment and immediately took the issue off track. You keep going on about $400k. Do you know what that figure is for? It’s a bond so that if, as in the past, clubs like Ma Pau, South End etc fail, players will get paid by the league. And you very well know that both I and Sancho were supportive of a pyramid system and funding for BOTH leagues.

  15. ” THE FUTURE OF LEAGUE FOOTBALL IN T&T”

  16. No we need to set up a forum where you present your case we present we case and find a way. I say the two leagues can and will exist

  17. ..Nah. not the players. Allyuh paying starvation wages. Check the TTPL office pal..

    • If clubs are paying starvation wages, that that kinda proves that clubs have no money, yes? As for administrators, well that’s an entirely different issue. I don’t know how much your boys are getting paid at Sports & Games for a 40 hour week, but I bet most of our players are earning four or five times their hourly rate. So your kinda digging a hole for yourself there mate.

  18. Keith Look Loy, I don’t know what dream world you’re living in pal! In case you haven’t noticed, Colin Imbert ain’t releasing funds to anyone. 50k per month goes towards player salaries which has to be proved to sportt each month – that’s called transparency. I’m stunned that you are being fed incorrect information and then you publicly state it. You are the biggest danger to the new Super League because you seem to want to fight the pro league based on untruths. But all you are doing is damaging football, both professional and amateur. I don’t know anyone “drawing tens of thousands a month”. Even a child could figure out that twenty five players and five staff “getting 2k and 3k” adds up to more than 50k! Yes, there will be youths on small salaries, but most mature players earn more, and that still is not enough.

  19. ..I ain’t no gangster pal. Not me. This talk gone way off course now yes. I think I really have to givve Wired a rest yes. Later..