DJW’s Warriors debt, Cato kerfuffle, Hyland’s commitment and Lawrence’s toughest test

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Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams has insisted that National Senior Team players will be paid outstanding monies for their World Cup qualifying win over Panama at the pre-arranged time, despite grumbling in the team’s Denver camp today over the FA’s priorities.

The edginess over finances has created a stir for the Soca Warriors, who are still reeling over the sudden departure of United States-based winger Cordell Cato for “indiscipline.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Cordell Cato (left) eludes Panama midfielder Miguel Camargo during the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal.
(Copyright Jewel Samad/AFP 2015)

The Warriors are owed match fees and win bonuses for their 1-0 win over Panama on 24 March at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain. According to a team source, the payment should have been made to the players within a month of the match.

Regardless, the players had not made an issue about the outstanding money until Saturday evening when the TTFA announced that it would pay US$100,000 and US$25,000 to the Pro League and Super League respectively for administrative costs.

The release upset players who felt that the TTFA should settle its debt to them before offering money to anyone else.

However, John-Williams disputed that the local body was late in meeting its obligations to the players and said the Warriors misunderstood the specifics of the payment to the Pro League and TTSL. He said that the money used for the local leagues came from a special FIFA fund, which could not be used to satisfy other debts.

“FIFA money cannot go to pay players,” John-Williams told the TTFA. “The money (to pay the Pro League and Super League competitions) was accessed from a special project fund and we made that very clear…

Photo: TTFA president David John-Williams (centre), media officer Shaun Fuentes (left) and new Soca Warriors coach Dennis Lawrence at the TTFA headquarters on 30 January 2017.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/TTFA)

“I am not going to answer [any question about when the players will be paid]. I know clearly what is the arrangement with that and the players know what the arrangement is for that. They know exactly when the money will be paid.”

Undoubtedly, the TTFA is more financially stable at present, although this has much to do with its ability to access FIFA funding, which rarely existed under John-Williams’ predecessor, Raymond Tim Kee.

But it has not all been rosy for the Warriors and current head coach Dennis Lawrence was afforded just two friendly internationals so far against Barbados and Grenada—lesser quality opposition than even what was offered to former coach Tom Saintfiet, who got two matches away to Nicaragua last December.

And some tension remains between the squad and the football president, whose relationship virtually started with a threatened players’ strike, two years ago, in the build-up to a crucial 2016 Copa America Centenario Play Off fixture against Haiti.

On the weekend, though, the Warriors suffered a self-inflicted wound when the TTFA Media announced that Lawrence had cut Cato from the team to face the United States for “disciplinary reasons.”

Photo: Honduras winger Boniek Garcia (right) and Emilio Izaguirre (left) vie for the ball with Trinidad and Tobago winger Cordell Cato during their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier in San Pedro Sula, Honduras on 15 November 2016.
(Copyright AFP 2016/Orlando Sierra)

Neither Lawrence nor Cato have spoken publicly about the fall-out so far. However, Wired868 received information on the issue from an informed source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Cato, according to the source, contacted Lawrence during the week and asked to be allowed to spend Saturday night with his wife, Jonelle Warwick, and report to camp on Sunday morning. Cato lives with his wife in San Jose where he is employed with Major League Soccer (MLS) team San Jose Earthquakes.

Lawrence, a former World Cup 2006 player and Everton assistant coach, blanked Cato’s request and insisted that everyone had to make sacrifices for their World Cup drive—including the coach who did not travel with his own wife.

Incidentally, Warriors midfielder Khaleem Hyland got married last weekend and asked for some days off with his wife before joining the squad. Lawrence answered in the negative and Hyland agreed to postpone his honeymoon to link up with the Warriors at their Denver training camp instead and prepare to face the United States on 8 June.

Cato, according to the source, wanted special consideration. So Lawrence suggested a compromise. The Warriors winger was told that he could spend Saturday with his wife and family in Denver but should then show up alone for camp at 8.30pm.

Photo: United States defender Geoff Cameron (centre) tries to keep up with Trinidad and Tobago midfielders Khaleem Hyland (right) and Cordell Cato during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Instead, Cato allegedly turned up to the team’s hotel at 8.45pm with his wife and son and told the coach that he would see them to their room before he joined the squad for dinner.

Lawrence insisted that Cato’s suggestion was unacceptable and the winger promptly left with his entourage. The player still had not contacted the technical staff by Sunday morning when the head coach named his 24-man squad and explained to the players why Cato was excluded.

Wired868 has so far been unable to reach Cato for his own version of the incident.

The winger’s absence is a blow to the Warriors since they are already shorthanded with a growing list of injuries that now includes Levi Garcia, Willis Plaza, Jomal Williams, Akeem Roach and Carlyle Mitchell while veteran forward Cornell Glen only recently returned from injury and was not included.

Lawrence proved to be resourceful in his maiden World Cup qualifier against Panama when, despite injuries to Radanfah Abu Bakr and Mitchell and the suspension of Sheldon Bateau, the Warriors kept a clean sheet with a rejigged back four that comprised of Mekeil Williams—who was dropped for “poor form” by Saintfiet—and the Pro League trio of Curtis Gonzales, Daneil Cyrus and 38-year-old Carlos Edwards.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Dennis Lawrence (centre) makes a point to his players during World Cup qualifying action against Panama at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

And a wrongfully disallowed item from Joevin Jones denied the Warriors the chance of a point against Mexico, four days later in Port of Spain.

Lawrence will face his toughest test as coach in Colorado on 8 June, though, against a team that has not dropped a point at home against the two island republic in 28 years.

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About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief editor at 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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  1. Well if they finally will beat up my second sweetest country tomorrow eh , I will be paying them their long over due match fees and bonuses and I dun talk. Them really good yes.

  2. It’s going to be an uphill task and I’m praying for a “good” result with points for the good guys..

  3. AHEM!!!! it’s not that I don’t believe in our Soca Worries I am not one for the continuing mediocrity, just imagine that there is only two goal scorers on the team Molino and Joevin. Them really good yes….

    • Earl mango Pierre, I couldn’t agree more. I wonder if winning is a bad thing for us. If we win, it creates the idea that we can do everything administratively, managerially and otherwise and be lucky and win. I said a few month ago here, it’s best for us to lose and restart and hope that we learn some lessons, and get to the next World Cup. The mediocrity has to stop! I’m a real patriot therefore I want better, I’m not a fanatic who simply wants to sit on the corner and talk about the best pass or a nice goal, even when we lost badly.

    • Just imagine that the Gold Cup is going to start in my second sweetest country just now eh and our Soca Worries isn’t even representing our sweet country eh but they are talking about going to the World Cup 2018 in Russia. Them really good yes.

    • I got this one a few years ago by the Kenny’s sports store located in West mall in West Moorings and it seems that it isn’t made anymore because it was a Adidas product and you know how they does change up their jersey styles ever so often, but maybe you can still give them a check.

    • Well ah could sell you mines eh, because ah have about twenty something red, white, and black jerseys eh, that one time two teams had the same color jerseys to play a game in the over 40 league in Brooklyn and I had to go home to get meh jerseys to lend them yes. hahahahaha Them really good yes.

  4. And ppl want to bad talk Hyland, These are the type of players we need. Fellas who strong willed enough to put country first!

  5. Hislop needs to change the brand of rum that he is drinking yes, because as the other fella said on ESPN that our sweet country isn’t one of the great Caribbean squad either, and just imagine he had the nerve to mention Cornell Glen eh, is he even on the squad. Them really good yes.

  6. The Soca Worries should just let the USA team score about 5 goals on them to send a serious message to my dictator president and the corrupted TTFA once of all that they are really tired of the exploitation no wonder why Bostock doesn’t want to represent our sweet country eh steeuuppss. Them really good yes.

  7. if ah man cud get fire fuh 15mins…then the team should refuse to play if their cheques are 5 seconds late

  8. John Williams if you don’t pay the team fees the team will have challenge.

  9. Nobody see the outstanding fees

  10. If what the coach say is true then dropping Cato was justified especially since another player WHO JUST GOT MARRIED postponed his honeymoon to be with the team. Good for one…good for all. Mr. Cato cannot just do what he want, that’s why the team had a coach. A team is everybody not everybody except you and if a player could be so patriotic as to postpone his honeymoon for the cause of the Country…who is you? But…I willing to bet that business has its Genesis at the insistence of the female half of that union. Could it be that she was born in the United States?

  11. this is simply POOR MANAGEMENT..lorse..ah black man watingvto spend time with his family?..steups…not like he running hoes or on the treasure queen wining on every bottom…sorry..this is petty ..and we cannot afford this with our limited options…

  12. People fail to realize what the word professionalism means. Can you turn up to work with your wife and children? No. Can you call your boss and tell him you can’t make it for 8:30 you want to spend time with your wife? No . Cato and these fellas have no respect. Am sure he wouldn’t take God out his thoughts and ask his Club Coach for those request. Hyland got married and postponed his honeymoon to be with the team. He want to spend the night with his wife.. smh.. And people picking up for him here? You all lack discipline the sameway

  13. Discipline is key to progress was his family going to die or had a threat. You are going to work.

  14. Why this no money talk must always come up before important games? sigh

  15. Guess you lot go to work with your wife and kids . Smh. This is work it’s not a holiday.

  16. this is the stupid ego thing ..ban the man for no valid reason ..pissing contests

  17. So wait my dictator president giving the Super league plenty monies eh and my players still haven’t receive their match fees and bonuses to this date and they are still representing our sweet country eh, well I guess that they like it so eh, so why continue to complain and Coach Dennis really feels that our Soca Worries will ever qualify for another World Cup under these continuing exploiting practices by the corrupted TTFA eh. Them really good yes.

  18. Very good! Nice jumble vibes just when we effin need it!! smfh.

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