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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 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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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. 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*

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

  14. “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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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???

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

  18. 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?

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

  20. 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.