Home / Volley / Global Football / Why the TTFA’s self-serving, classless behaviour remains the Warriors’ biggest hurdle 

Why the TTFA’s self-serving, classless behaviour remains the Warriors’ biggest hurdle 

One of the most memorable incidents of Dennis Lawrence’s debut as a head coach for the Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team came before kick off against Barbados at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on Friday 10 March 2017.

As Lawrence prepared to make his international bow at the helm, the 22 players and match officials were greeted by the SPORTT Company duo of CEO Adam Montserin and facilities manager Anthony Blake and Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) vice-president Ewing Davis for the customary pre-match handshakes.

Photo: SPORTT CEO Adam Montserin (centre) greets players and officials before kick off between Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 10 March 2017. TTFA vice-president Ewing Davis (right) broke away from the customary pre-game ritual to take a phone call. (Copyright CAI Images/Wired868)
Photo: SPORTT CEO Adam Montserin (centre) greets players and officials before kick off between Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 10 March 2017.
TTFA vice-president Ewing Davis (right) broke away from the customary pre-game ritual to take a phone call.
(Copyright CAI Images/Wired868)

And then, in an extraordinary show of disrespect and unprofessionalism, Davis, who is also the Soca Warriors’ head of delegation, took his mobile phone from his pocket and began to carry on a conversation. In so doing, the football official—who wore a blue Nike tee-shirt while his country plays in red Joma kit—walked past half of the Barbados contingent and the Trinidad and Tobago players without so much as a nod.

In many ways, Davis’ action encapsulated the behaviour of the local football body under current president David John-Williams: self-absorbed, classless and disrespectful.

Just ask the National Futsal Team players who were asked to leave their hotel in Costa Rica last year—with no alternative arrangement in place—because the TTFA booked their stay for a day short. And this was after the players were offered a per diem of US$20 with no match fee for representing their country, which was deemed so derisory that two players refused to touch it.

Ask former National Under-17 coach Ken Elie, whose emailed requests for information—not money, just information—regarding a promised stipend from the football body were met with silence by John-Williams. And once Elie was sufficiently frustrated so as to skip work altogether, the TTFA then used his absence as an excuse to hire Russell Latapy on a substantial salary.

Former Soca Warriors coach Stephen Hart can tell a story or two as well about a football body that refused to give him the equipment or staff members he needed, virtually damaged his working environment through its interaction with his players and then effectively sacked him at Ruby Tuesdays.

Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart (left) and Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams enjoy each other's company during a press conference at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Port of Spain on 19 May 2016. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart (left) and Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams enjoy each other’s company during a press conference at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Port of Spain on 19 May 2016.
(Courtesy Wired868)

Quite a reward for the only coach to take Trinidad and Tobago to two Gold Cup quarterfinals, the first to lead the Warriors to the Hex in seven years and a man who was twice on CONCACAF’s Coach of the Year shortlist in the last four years.

Then there is gifted France-based midfielder John Bostock, who turned up to represent the “Red, Black and White” against St Vincent and the Grenadines in March 2016, only to discover that the TTFA did not sort out his paperwork.

Despite invitations from Hart, Tom Saintfiet and Lawrence, Bostock has not returned to Trinidad since.

From broadcaster Selwyn Melville—who is negotiating for the use of the Soca Warriors trademark—to Futsal coach and ex-Strike Squad captain Clayton “JB” Morris, there are similar tales of discourtesy from the current local football president.

Former technical director Kendall Walkes, who was hired by former TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee, described John-Williams’ interaction with him as bordering on abusive.

“I would talk to my wife after [our] meetings and she is aware of the ridicule and cynicism I have had to deal with, as he tries to feed his narcissistic needs and ego,” Walkes told Wired868. “He even ridiculed my decision to come here. He has brought the entire situation into something personal.

“I can’t tell you how vindictive his actions were in a lot of instances.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams and new FIFA president Gianni Infantino at the TTFA headquarters on 27 January 2016. Infantino was the UEFA general secretary at the time. (Courtesy TTFA Media)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams and new FIFA president Gianni Infantino at the TTFA headquarters on 27 January 2016.
Infantino was the UEFA general secretary at the time.
(Courtesy TTFA Media)

Belgian coach Tom Saintfiet, who was bizarrely threatened with dismissal at his public unveiling, said his biggest regret was that he did not leave Trinidad there and then.

“From the first day of my unveiling, I did not get the support of the TTFA and its President,” stated Saintfiet, in his resignation letter, “support which is needed to be able to do my job in a professional and successful way. I never got the chance to work with the players nor staff requested.

“Perhaps I should have taken this decision right from day one of my appointment, after the President openly second guessed his own choice of employing me. But I gave him at the TTFA the benefit of the doubt.”

After a year and a half at the helm, does John-Williams still deserve the benefit of the doubt?

The Warriors’ World Cup campaign could be effectively over by month-end and yet the TTFA president has not landed a major sponsor for the senior squad. While his efforts to squeeze more money from an existing television rights deal for Trinidad and Tobago’s home matches is now before the courts.

John-Williams is more of a hindrance than an asset to the burgeoning Trinidad and Tobago Super League thus far, his football body is being sued by the National Futsal Team and his use of TTFA money for the unofficial launch—or at least precursor to the launch—of his unsuccessful Caribbean Football Union (CFU) presidential bid remains a scandal and shocking example of his mishandling of the association’s finances.

Photo: Caribbean Football Union (CFU) president Gordon Derrick (second from left) is sandwiched by TTFA president David John-Williams (second from right) and TTFA employee Sharon O'Brien (far left) before the CFU Under-17 final on 25 September 2016 at the Ato Boldon Stadium. John-Williams tried unsuccessfully to replace Derrick as CFU president on 23 July 2016. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Caribbean Football Union (CFU) president Gordon Derrick (second from left) is sandwiched by TTFA president David John-Williams (second from right) and TTFA employee Sharon O’Brien (far left) before the CFU Under-17 final on 25 September 2016 at the Ato Boldon Stadium.
John-Williams tried unsuccessfully to replace Derrick as CFU president on 23 July 2016.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Other than the competition and tournaments committee, it is uncertain how many other bodies are operational at present and the technical committee—which is responsible for recommending the hiring and dismissal of coaches—still has not been mended after half its membership, including chairman Dexter Skeene and vice-chairman Alvin Henderson, quit last month.

The TTFA’s failure to ensure the successful running of all its standing bodies is another broken campaign promise by John-Williams.

On the debit side, John-Williams landed a TT$8 million NLCB contract for an ambitious elite youth development programme. Early reports from the ground suggested a series of administrative issues, though, and there is still much distance to cover before it delivers as promised to the football community and the sponsors.

As for the publishing of the TTFA’s finances for 2015, one can only hope that John-Williams is as transparent with money spent during his term.

The women’s programme, where the football president secured the services of respected Italian coach Carolina Morace, looks to be the feather in John-Williams’ cap—although his early explanations regarding the financing of that project do not add up.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams (second from right) poses with Women's National Senior Team coaches (from left) Nicola Williams, Carolina Morace and Elisabetta Bavagnoli at a press conference in the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva on 1 February 2017. (Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams (second from right) poses with Women’s National Senior Team coaches (from left) Nicola Williams, Carolina Morace and Elisabetta Bavagnoli at a press conference in the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva on 1 February 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

If John-Williams can give Morace what she needs and keep his bumbling crew out of her way, maybe better days are ahead for the Women Soca Warriors.

And the TTFA president sure knows how to pick a hapless employee.

For the National Beach Soccer Team’s pre-tournament camp in Tobago, television presenter Gordon Pierre was sent to act as press officer. And, on his first TTFA gig, Pierre showed up with a female friend in tow who, on occasion, even accompanied him to the breakfast table with the squad.

Just imagine a staff member trying to take his girlfriend along on international duty under former Real Madrid coach Leo Beenhakker. It beggars belief.

On the eve of the Beach Soccer Team’s departure for CONCACAF competition, it turned out that Pierre did not have a valid passport and could not travel with the squad to Bahamas.

It is a scene that is repeated far too often these days. Last December, Davis, as efficient as always, learnt that his travel documents were not in order at the check-in desk, as the Warriors boarded a flight to Nicaragua.

Photo: TTFA vice-president and Soca Warriors head of delegation Ewing Davis (centre) turns up for breakfast on an overseas tour in an Adidas vest and short pants. The players (background) are outfitted in Joma jerseys and track pants.
Photo: TTFA vice-president and Soca Warriors head of delegation Ewing Davis (centre) turns up for breakfast in Honduras, on the eve of a 2018 World Cup qualifier, in an Adidas vest and short pants.
The players (background) are outfitted in Joma jerseys and track pants.

Current team manager Richard Piper was unsure of Davis’ duties as head of delegation and promised to get back to Wired868 with that information. But a former technical staff member gave his own verdict of what John-Williams’ vice president contributes on his overseas tours with the team, which so far included China, Peru, Uruguay, Honduras and the United States.

“He does absolutely nothing as far as I know,” said the official, who spoke with Wired868 on condition of anonymity. “He may meet with persons from that FA and represent the TTFA in that way. On game day, he would sit in the box with the president of the FA we are visiting. And that’s about it.

“He does nothing on the ground. Nothing really.”

For that, Davis pockets a per diem that is believed to dwarf what is offered to the players. Not that paying the players anything at all is ever a priority.

To date, roughly 22 players are still owed money after putting their bodies on the line—Carlyle Mitchell and Cornell Glen both suffered lengthy injuries while Maurice Ford, Carlos Edwards and Hashim Arcia also picked up knocks—during four international games under Saintfiet.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago forward Cornell Glen (left) nurses his broken arm while head coach Tom Saintfiet looks on after their Gold Cup qualifying loss against Haiti on 8 January 2017. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago forward Cornell Glen (left) nurses his broken arm while head coach Tom Saintfiet looks on after their Gold Cup qualifying loss against Haiti on 8 January 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

You would think that Davis and, by extension, the TTFA would at least show a modicum of respect for the players and technical staff for their efforts. That maybe Davis would at least dress appropriately and keep his phone in his pocket during his far from taxing duties, as he would be expected to if he was watching “Lego Batman” at Movie Towne.

But you would be wrong. Davis cannot even get a pre-game handshake right, which is surely a landmark low for even the TTFA.

At W Connection, players must wear shirts and ties off the field and give 100 percent effort on it. But then, according to present and former employees, club administrators routinely pay them late while the case of Dwight Quintero suggested a reckless approach to the health of their players.

It appears to be a philosophy that John-Williams has taken with him to the TTFA job.

And that, rather than the identity of Lawrence’s starting centre forward or team formation, remains the biggest obstacle to the progress of the local game.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence (second from left) and half of his technical staff who are (from right) Stephen Bradley, Riedoh Berdien, Ross Russell, Sol Campbell and Stuart Charles-Fevrier take in the action during their friendly international outing against Barbados on 10 March 2017. Lawrence was without assistant coach Stern John, who lost his daughter, Nikela, to a tragic mishap on the eve of the game. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence (second from left) and half of his technical staff who are (from right) Stephen Bradley, Riedoh Berdien, Ross Russell, Sol Campbell and Stuart Charles-Fevrier take in the action during their friendly international outing against Barbados on 10 March 2017.
Lawrence was without assistant coach Stern John, who lost his daughter, Nikela, to a tragic mishap on the eve of the game.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

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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144 comments

  1. That man have not changed he was the same way when i was a student at Barataria Senior Comprehensive. He serve himself, not interested if students pass once they repeat and the school wins. He dressed the same way then and carried about himself in an unprofessional manner. What a shame and these are our administrators, sad very sad. This is high disrespectful to answer your phone at a time like this. Also there are stores selling cheap and decent football clothes and suits to be worn and look well. I got my T&T Jersey at a reasonable price he is an executive which he would have gotten the real thing free. Shame on these guys.

  2. Not surprised. That happens when people with ‘palour shop mentality’ are appointed to manage legitimate organisations and State Agencies.

  3. Paying yuh money to go watch football (d national team) supports all d shit they are doing

  4. At every level, and for quite some time, our nation is in a leadership crisis. Not just sport

  5. Just read it over. Don’t know if to laugh or cry in shame. But it does get you irate.

  6. This is a man who denied me a repeat at Barataria Senior sec. 98-2000 a player who stood out, who scored in sudden death extra time against Malick snr. To put us in the knockout under 16 final, which we won, and whiles having 1 pass (a general 2), he repeated players who had no passes, all this because of his personal dislikes to me which the coach had no power over. This is a man who dont care about the youth and the future of our youngsters.

  7. How did that saying “the truth offends” come about? I’ve always wondered because if I’m transparent …. with nothing to hide ….. refuting an alleged claim …is simple …you simply state the factual account. Instead you step out brimstone and fire threatening every and anyone as though that will change the facts. Here’s the thing about facts …it’s either true or not ….. no amount of dressing ….explosions …. melees or dress downs changes that ….. it’s either true …or ….not true ….

  8. Lasana Liburd. I will accompany you to court. Just ketp us informed

  9. Ok so u pointed out certain actions by certain individuals in relation to conduct

  10. Rattans have some nice blue Polo shirts on sale 3 for $100 and similar short pants ….checks and paisley. … 2 for $100… if that good enough for a National football executive. ..it good enough for me to wear in the courthouse. .. ent

  11. Hold dem and wuk dem Lasana Liburd!!!

  12. They that bold to put your reputation on the line. Be as bold as they are to fight for it😬

  13. This is morbidly fascinating to watch….

  14. David John-Williams sure knows how to pick his employees.

  15. Gordon is usually full of hot air

  16. Lasana Liburd, who bring you up? 🙂

  17. Don’t stick.And Courts Easter sale coming up too.

  18. Let them bray….the voice of the people….lest they forget where real power lies…

  19. May justice prevail in this matter. Be well Lasana.

  20. U could do as u wish!! Don’t call my name in shit bc i will defend myself inside and outside the court you all feel u could do what u want and threaten legal this and that!! After i done with u u will learn!!

  21. I have been advised by my attorney to zip my lips. Obviously that isn’t easy for me. Lol.
    All I will say is whenever I post, I can defend what I write in any arena. And I am happy to give anyone the opportunity to do just that in a much bigger arena than an individual Facebook wall.
    I won’t say more now but I’m sure I can give updates as the matter proceeds.

  22. You have no choice. Let’s see how this one plays out.

  23. The truth no longer exists in this country my friend. The new name for truth now is Slander or defamation.

  24. Lasana Liburd, let me know about the go fund me account

  25. The truth always offends…. Stay strong Lasana Liburd

  26. You are one of the few voices of reason around. We need you buddy

  27. “I want the truth!!”
    “You can’t handle the truth!!”
    Truth is de man look like a damn sparanger in he boxers in de hotel restaurant…..classless is an understatement…..gih dem Lasana!!

  28. Stay strong Lasana…As the saying goes “Whom the Gods wish to destroy they first make mad” very applicable in this unseemly scenario.

  29. You must always defend your name and creditability ….let no one take that away or attempt to so do

  30. Stay strong and forward with appropriate actions

  31. The truth got ppl shook huh. Very interesting. Destroy them in court!

  32. I have court clothes but I’ll be walking with popcorn

  33. If Trinis used to work as hard as they bacchanal, we would be a really developed nation, yes. From politician come right down

  34. May the truth prevail, and may untruth be levied with a heavy price.

  35. Bwahahaha! Allyuh really good, yes