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Private donors rescue Warriors; Sport Ministry abandons team again

Trinidad and Tobago national senior football manager William Wallace woke up today in St Kitts and Nevis to discover that he finally had money to pay for the laundry.

“The (Trinidad and Tobago Football) Federation got a couple of small sponsors to donate money to deal with the bills we incurred here,” Wallace told Wired868. “It will mostly go towards everyday expenses like food, water, Gatorade and laundry bills…

“For the last couple days, we have been using our personal money to purchase groceries and so on while we asked for credit for laundry bills.”

The “Soca Warriors” team is on Caribbean Cup duty in Basseterre and Wallace explained that the technical staff is doing its utmost to shield the players from the financial issues affecting their trip.

Photo: The Trinidad and Tobago national football team trains in St Kitts and Nevis.
The “Soca Warriors” participation in the 2012 Caribbean Cup tournament was in doubt due to the Sport Ministry’s unwillingness to fund the team.
(Courtesy TTFF Media)

“At no time did we ask the players to contribute anything,” said Wallace. “We did not even inform the players as to what was happening. We just did what we had to do.”

KFC Munch Pack

However, the players would certainly have noticed the absence of their per diem of US$250, which works out to just under US$40 per day. Their match fees of US$250 per game also remain unpaid.

Sport Minister Anil Roberts promised Parliament, on 5 October 2012, that the Warriors would receive Government funding for the first leg of its 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup qualifying campaign.

The Ministry of Sport’s Permanent Secretary Ashwin Creed also assured the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) executive committee that money would be wired to the team in St Kitts by 12 October 2012 at the latest.

But time seemed to have proved the assurances from Roberts and Creed to be hollow.

A TTFF insider told Wired868 that the football body collected approximately US$3,000 ($19,050) from well-wishers, which was forwarded to the team to afford it some degree of comfort.

Today, a storm watch was issued in St Kitts and Nevis and the tiny two-island country is bracing for rough weather within 36 hours. It is likely that the Warriors would have to cancel their proposed training session this evening.

Trinidad and Tobago defeated French Guiana (4-1) and hosts St Kitts and Nevis (1-0) last Wednesday and Friday respectively and only need to avoid heavy defeat by Anguilla tomorrow to qualify for Caribbean Cup semifinal round.

Photo: The Trinidad and Tobago national senior football team pose before Caribbean Cup duty against St Kitts and Nevis on Friday.
(Courtesy TTFF Media)

Although Anguilla should be at the forefront of the Warriors’ thoughts, the cash-strapped team may be forgiven for worrying about what any travel disruptions might mean.

“It has been raining whole day and it is quite windy with lightning and so on,” said Wallace. “I know there have been travel disruptions for the last couple of days around here. If that happens, hopefully we will have enough funds to survive one more day.”

The national team must hope that Tropical Storm Rafael is more compassionate to the Warriors and better at following deadlines than the Ministry of Sport.

Sport Minister Anil Roberts boasted about the Government’s support of national football while responding to Opposition Leader Keith Rowley in Parliament. Rowley accused the Ministry of deliberately starving the TTFF on the direction of National Security Minister Jack Warner, who is a former TTFF special advisor and FIFA vice-president.

Wired868 revealed exclusively on 7 May 2012 that Warner asked Roberts, via a letter, to withhold funding from the TTFF as retaliation for its supposed reluctance to nominate his longtime colleague, Harold Taylor, to the post of Caribbean Football Union (CFU) president. Warner served as CFU president for over three decades before his unceremonious exit from football while being investigated for his role in an international bribery scandal.

The Sport Ministry has repeatedly broken promises to fund national football ever since Warner’s request and there are unpaid bills for the national men’s senior, under-23, under-20 and under-17 teams as well as the women’s under-17 football team.

Creed and Roberts have given various excuses for the Ministry’s stand-off with the TTFF.

Photo: Sport Minister Anil Roberts (left) shares a warm embrace with former TTFF president Oliver Camps.
Camps quit football last year after being implicated in a FIFA bribery scandal that also involved Roberts’ Cabinet colleague, Jack Warner.

Creed told Wired868 that the Sport Ministry refused to meet its financial promises because the national men’s senior and under-23 teams and women’s under-17 team were losers and needed to “do their homework and come again.” The Permanent Secretary said the Sport Ministry was not obliged to help the national teams.

In Parliament, Roberts singled out TTFF marketing manager and All Sport Promotions director Anthony Harford as the reason the national teams were being ignored and accused Harford of misappropriating funds.

His allegations of discrepancies with the TTFF’s accounts came eight months after Harford passed its financial statement to the Sport Ministry.

The Sport Ministry told the TTFF that the Warriors’ trip to St Kitts and Nevis would be funded once Harford was not involved.

Interim TTFF president Lennox Watson retorted by disputing the veracity of Roberts’ contribution in parliament. Watson also declared that the Sport Minister should apologise to Harford for unfairly tarnishing his reputation.

Roberts’ response was to blacklist Watson as well.

A furious Harford denounced Roberts and claimed that All Sport worked with previous Sport Ministers such as Jennifer Johnson, Roger Boynes, Manohar Ramsaran and Gary Hunt without any problems.

All Sport director Bruce Aanensen, a former Royal Bank director, oversaw the company’s accounts and is set to respond to Roberts in more detail next week.

Photo: TTFF marketing manager and All Sport Promotions director Anthony Harford.

“The truth is I think Mr Roberts has succeeded in making himself a person of no value or reckoning in Trinidad and Tobago sport,” Harford told Wired868. “He is of no value to anybody; the louder he speaks, the less people listen. Sooner or later he would disappear.

“I thought when he heard private citizens were paying for a national team to travel he would do the honourable thing and resign. We, a small private company, paid for four national camps including stipends for coaches while (the Sport Ministry) didn’t pay a cent.

“Out of shame, they ran last week and paid a bill at Cascadia behind our backs. It is nothing short of a disgrace.”

The Warriors will hope that things improve quickly; starting with the weather.

Wallace has been a national team manager for the past eight years and has never seen anything like the issues on this tour with the Warriors.

However, the bulk of Wallace’s sporting experience is in cricket as he only joined the national football set-up in March.

“The politics in cricket made me switch to football,” said Wallace.

He laughed at the irony of his career move.

Local football fans would hope the national players and technical staff members are still smiling next week.

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief 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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  1. If Anil Roberts and Ashwin Creed don’t care about helping national sport teams, then why does the Prime Minister have them in the Sport Ministry?