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TTFA confirm Sierra Leone talks for August friendly; African nation ranked 113 by FIFA

Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams has confirmed that the local football body is in talks with African nation, Sierra Leone, for an international friendly between the two countries in late August.

John-Williams’ statement came after Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) general secretary Chris Kamara claimed that the two bodies were in talks for a clash in the United Kingdom.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago playmaker Kevin Molino (left) celebrates his goal against Costa Rica with teammate Joevin Jones during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the National Stadium in San José on 13 June 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

Kamara said John-Williams and SLFA president Isha Johansen were heading the discussions for their respective bodies and that the match was likely to happen “on a FIFA calendar date between 28 August and 5 September 2017.” The Sierra Leone football body aims to use the affair to launch the new “Leone Stars” official jerseys, after recently announcing a three-year kit deal with Singapore-based sport apparel manufacturer, MAFRO Sports.

John-Williams admitted that the close proximity of Trinidad and Tobago’s must win Russia 2018 World Cup qualifier against Honduras on 1 September at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain created a potential logistical problem, though.

“We are in preliminary negotiations for two friendlies in August that [Sierra Leone game] being one of them,” John-Williams told Wired868, via What’s App. “Timing could be an issue based on our [World Cup qualifier] on September 1.”

The earliest date that clubs can be forced to release their players, based on FIFA rules, is believed to be Monday 28 August. If they agreed to play in London, the travel involved meant that the teams could not meet sooner than Tuesday 29 August. And, even then, Soca Warriors head coach Dennis Lawrence would not be able to hold a single session with his entire squad.

An early morning departure from London on Wednesday 30 August would see the Warriors return to Trinidad with less than 48 hours to go before they face Honduras. And the team would have spent a minimum of 16 hours airborne—exclusive of time spent at airports—in three days with almost no time on the training field.

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)

And all of this to lock horns with an African nation ranked 113th in the world by FIFA. At present, Trinidad and Tobago are ranked 77th.

It is uncertain whether Lawrence was involved in the discussions on the Sierra Leone outing or was even informed that they were going on.

Wired868 asked John-Williams whether any of the two proposed August friendlies were in Trinidad, why Sierra Leone was selected and whether the shortlist of potential opponents was drafted by the head or coach or the football administrators. The TTFA president had not responded up until the time of publication.

However, a source close to former National Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart claimed that the issue of international friendlies was often a matter of friction between Hart and the football president.

“When Raymond Tim Kee was TTFA president, [general secretary] Sheldon Phillips would usually ask for the preferred type of opposition and [Hart] would say what he had in mind,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “[The problem then was] we didn’t work with an operating budget [since FIFA had temporarily blocked its annual subvention and there were no major sponsors], so you couldn’t go after teams six to 12 months in advance.

“With John-Williams, it was more about him saying ‘I have this game’, [Hart] saying ‘no thanks’ and then the two arguing.”

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)

Hart had four friendly matches in roughly a year under the John-Williams-led administration. They faced Grenada on 19 January 2016 before a whirlwind tour that saw the Warriors play away to Peru, Uruguay and China in the space of 11 days.

Belatedly, John-Williams tried to pencil in a fifth international game against Equatorial Guinea in Port of Spain, which was scheduled for a few days after Trinidad and Tobago faced China in Qinhuangdao.

Hart refused out of concern for the medical safety of his players and their need for a rest. It prompted a remarkable confrontation in which the TTFA president allegedly walked on to the field—in the middle of a national training session at the Ato Bold Stadium in Couva—asked Hart to step aside and pitched the Equatorial Guinea outing directly to the players in an apparent attempt to have them overrule their coach.

The players declined the proposed fixture, via email, and Hart never got another friendly international contest from the TTFA up until he was fired at the Ruby Tuesday’s Restaurant in Grand Bazaar, six months later, in a meeting chaired by John-Williams.

So far, Lawrence has received just three friendly matches as head coach, which were Barbados (ranked 169th by FIFA), Grenada (ranked 164th) and amateur United States team FC Boulder.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence (left) passes on instructions to Aubrey David (right) and Curtis Gonzales during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against Costa Rica at the National Stadium in San José on 13 June 2017.
Costa Rica won 2-1.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

Trinidad and Tobago can keep their 2018 World Cup dreams alive with 12 points from their remaining four games. The Warriors play Honduras and United States in Port of Spain and Panama and Mexico in Panama City and Mexico City respectively.

Honduras, Panama, Mexico and the United States will compete at the CONCACAF Gold Cup next month while Mexico also have the FIFA Confederations Cup to look forward to.

In contrast, the Warriors have no internationals lined up and are further disadvantaged by the fact that the next FIFA international match window swings open just five days before Trinidad and Tobago host Honduras.

The TTFA, according to John-Williams, is trying to arrange two friendly games for Lawrence’s outfit. The devil might be in the details.

About Lasana 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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67 comments

  1. Ravi..Ravi,,Did you say best we play Venezuela? That was an April 1st typo right? They just played a World Cup U-20 final where traditional powerhouse, home of the Premier League, England beat them 1-0…Teams are wary in South America of playing Venezuela in play-offs for World Cup places..

  2. The Sierra Leone friendly makes no sense given the timeframe

  3. So close to the WC qualifying games I think that arrangement seems like a logistical nightmare. If we have to play a friendly it should be in Trinidad so you can keep traveling to a minimum.

  4. OMG why those shit sides i say again Venezula closer and cheaper to go or bring here we can play them for food stuff thats a best deal they not serious

  5. I stop attending Pro League, its very lonely watching these games

  6. Super League just opened to empty stadiums…that hurts, Pro League club owners getting subventions from Government to offset their club expenses….football is sport and business…not charity and handouts….how many years will this continue….what about television rights, gate receipts, sale of players, sponsorship deals, betting agency deals, are these club owners modelling after MLS clubs? My answer is NO……they model their clubs like URP.

  7. We have some young strikers with the potential. Apart from Jamille Boatswain, there is Shahdon Winchester, Ricardo John, Rundell Winchester, Dwight Quintero and Shackiel Henry.
    They need exposure and coaching. The talent hasn’t dried up. Our talented young players aren’t polished like before.
    I remember seeing Shahdon and Shackiel when they were about 16 or 17 and they were as good as anything we had before. The problem is what happens to these players between about 14 and 22 is very different to what happened to Dwight Yorke, Stern John, Russell Latapy and Leonson Lewis between 14 and 22.
    The mindset might be a softer with some of the current generation too.

  8. we are in need of goal scorers…..goal scoring is not a habit in our football. Pretty dribbling and footwork is all we cheer…….when last we hear about a Trini scoring 20+ goals in a proper football league worldwide. We don’t even have an EPL striker or player. Seems the MLS is the league our players aspire to play at.

  9. we want to play at the world cup, we need to play teams that actually challenge to win the trophy…….USA, Mexico, Costa Rica have been playing high-ranked teams, that’s why their fitness level and football is superior to ours. DJW a fete match promoter and fete match turn “pro club” owner only sees fit to engage in teams less developed than ours to play. Its better we play W Connection so we not be embarrassed by a 113 ranked team.

  10. I don’t think anything I just read makes sense..

  11. DJW as mad as Trump. Think we could impeach him too???

  12. We need a win bad, bad, bad… eh!

  13. Imagine St Kitts & Nevis getting games against countries like Armenia and Georgia…but we’re playing teams like Sierra Leone??? Come nah TTFA, get allyuh blasted act in order! This ain’t no Sunday sweat, we need better opposition to push the fellas *double steups*

  14. A big flicking steups….is better we play Venezuela rite next door or El Salvador

  15. “Hart refused out of concern for the medical safety of his players and their need for a rest. It prompted a remarkable confrontation in which the TTFA president allegedly walked on to the field—in the middle of a national training session at the Ato Bold Stadium in Couva—asked Hart to step aside and pitched the Equatorial Guinea outing directly to the players in an apparent attempt to have them overrule their coach.

    “The players declined the proposed fixture, via email, and Hart never got another friendly international contest from the TTFA up until he was fired at the Ruby Tuesday’s Restaurant in Grand Bazaar, six months later, in a meeting chaired by John-Williams.”
    Nigel Myers and Brian Springer, I’d actually never thought of this before.

  16. This friendly doesn’t seem feasible if you can’t hold a session with your full squad. Can’t they get opponents closer to home and schedule that Sierra Leone game at a later date and fulfil that with the local based players.

    • I checked the Sierra Leone team and they are made up almost completely of overseas players all around Europe. So there is very little chance that they can play us outside of a FIFA match window.

  17. For brevity’s sake: Madness with the logistics involved to get the team back here to play Honduras after all that travel.
    Better get Jamaica or — God forbid — try (??) to get Venezuela or some other Central American team…for OBVIOUS friggin reasons???

    • The World Cup qualifier is Sep 1

    • LL r u sure cuz d last time djw spoke on i95.5 he assured d public it won’t be in d HCS so check dat again. I can’t be wrong.

    • Michael, the venue isn’t confirmed yet but the TTFA would miss out on around $2 million in revenue by not playing at HCS. The attendance at HCS is 22,000. The other venues are 10,000.
      So unless there is some catastrophe, it is a no brainer really.

    • Surely he must have been referring to something else yes…

    • Ok dat was his reasoning dat patrons don’t full d HCS anyway so it might as well move to couva after watching d attendance of d last 2 matches but he assured Andre dat it won’t be at d HCS let’s wait and c. And I know u can contact Andre and confirm.

    • DJW did hint that it won’t be HCS

    • So far, we have never gotten an attendance at a World Cup qualifier that is small enough to fit into the HCS.
      Not by a long shot.
      Even though the attendances have fallen since Hart was fired, we still got around 15,000 for the last home qualifiers.
      That would be a loss of about $1 million if that game was played in Couva. But for sure you can never take DJW’s reasoning for granted.

    • Ok but my questions is does d ttfa has to pay a fee for d HCS? and wen it’s not full do dey lost revenue anyway? And what’s more important atm lost of 1 or 2 million or qualifying for d wc? Cuz 2 me by now d HCS is also a home game for d visitors lol if u understand wat I mean so I believe switching up d venue also d times 2 gain some sort of home advantage at d cost of a couple millions is worth it. If we do qualify I’m sure it will cover wat we lost in match revenue.wats ur take on dat opinion Lasana Liburd.

    • And taking into consideration our two recent games lost d interest of our fans and knowing how we operate as supporters I think d attendance wud drop tremendously so it may well b d best move at dis time.

    • Michael the TTFA doesn’t pay a fee for HCS. And from the last national youth games played in Couva, attendances dip further there because it is a difficult ground to get to if you are traveling.
      I’d expect we would full it though. You think that would create a better atmosphere?
      Maybe. Maybe not. Not sure that the environment would make our fans less passive. Lol.
      I didn’t see any more energy when the national under-17s played their qualifiers there under Russell Latapy and were eliminated in the group stage of the Caribbean tournament. At home!

    • It’s now or nvr try sumn while u can and I’d it has to b dun it’s now .

    • Michael, we might interpret that as a sign that the president has given up when the team is still fighting for its life then.

    • I don’t mind a gamble. But someone has to be responsible if it fails.
      And I won’t be slow to point out who that someone is. ???

    • Nah man dats ah bit harsh Lasana Liburd dat came on d bk drop dat dz other nations make it hard for us by all means so we will want to exercise same it my well be cuz it will be a full house and closer to d team d energy more hype and realistic. But I won’t compare d u 17 with d national Snr team it’s totally different ball park in terms of support.

    • Come Lasana Liburd u no dat person wud trow d blame if it fails lmao u may hear well dats wat d fans ask for lol but let’s think positive man.

    • If Dennis Lawrence started at Bateau at center forward and Carlos Edwards in center midfield, I’d hold my hands up and say brilliant if it works.
      If it doesn’t, I will say so just as emphatically.
      Nobody is above criticism. Everyone must be accountable for their actions.
      I’m not going to change now Michael.

    • There is such a thing as a well thought of gamble. Something that evidence suggests might work.
      This isn’t it for the reasons i mentioned above.
      Playing football in Couva has been done before and there is a valid reason that we don’t play big games there.
      So he would have to justify his decision and then hope he is right.

    • Well as I said b4 I support dat move so I’ll also take blame if it fails but if it doesn’t u will apologize lol but 4 real HCS is like a home game for our visitors mainly because our supporters unlike d Azteca and d office and so on. But I believe if Dennis and dis coaching staff stay for a gd 2-3 yrs dey will definitely change d face of football in trinidad & tobago holistically.

    • Lol. Dunno if I would have to apologize. But I’d definitely say you two were visionaries who executed that gamble brilliantly. ???

  18. venezuela is a gd team lately

  19. Central America opponent would be nice or Haiti who seems to have our number

  20. Sounds like more of the Bull meets China shop approach.. Hope the coach can get a Latin American game scheduled. Why not Venezuela or El Salvador or Guatemala?

  21. That is a big side they won the lion hunting / gorilla swinging champions league in 2016

  22. lol I don’t know what to do again but laugh yes

    • Earl Best

      It’s either that or cry yourself silly; what other options are there realistically?

      We’re caught between the Devil and the deep red, white and black sea.