There was an apology, gracious speeches and lots of back-slapping as the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) and estranged members of its 2006 World Cup squad officially buried the hatchet at the Hasely Crawford Stadium’s VIP room today and ended an ugly seven-year conflict between the two parties.
“This has been a very difficult last seven years for us,” said ex-Trinidad and Tobago international defender and present Central FC managing director Brent Sancho. “It has been a nightmare… We were attacked on political platforms and called greedy and mercenaries and we were met with total disregard and disrespect (from the previous TTFF executive).
“(New TTFF president Raymond) Tim Kee told me before he won the elections that this was the first thing he wanted to sort out… I want to thank him and (general secretary) Sheldon Phillips and (CONCACAF president) Jeffrey Webb for staying the course.”
Sancho’s World Cup teammates Kelvin Jack, Cyd Gray and David Atiba Charles were among the members of the audience and also posed for photographs after the press conference. This afternoon, the first tranche of the settlement agreed by the two parties reached to a representative of the Warriors.
Absent from today’s press conference, though, was any detail on the settlement figure, the source of the funding or a plan to recover over $180 million in World Cup revenue that, according to the TTFF, was under the sole control of its “renegade agent” Jack Warner.
Sancho explained that some players were concerned about their personal safety and want to avoid the issues faced seven years ago when the then government presented them with a $1 million gift.
“There are concerns from a security standpoint for the safety of the boys,” said Sancho. “Some of the situations that transpired after that award (in 2006)… is not (something) the players should go back to.”
TTFF president Raymond Tim Kee said the TTFF would also remain silent for the players’ benefit and that there was a line between one’s financial business and transparency.
“I don’t know that it is wise for people to know how much more you have,” he said. “It is injudicious.”
Last Friday, TTFF vice-president and former interim president Lennox Watson told Wired868 he did not know the source of the funding and that he was still waiting for Tim Kee to present the information to the executive committee.
But Tim Kee disputed Watson’s account. He claimed that CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb told the former interim president about the available funds at a CFU meeting last year. As such, he suggested that there was no need for him to inform the executive.
“I don’t know why Mr Watson would say that,” said Tim Kee. “(The funding) is something that is new to me but it was not new to them.”
Watson denied the assertion yesterday and threatened legal action unless the TTFF president withdraws his claim.
Phillips could give no further details on the source of the funding, which the TTFF described as “unclaimed commercial and broadcast revenues” from CONCACAF.
The TTFF did not commit to trying to track the missing 2006 World Cup income and Tim Kee suggested that the local body will try to piggy back on CONCACAF’s legal investigations into Warner.
“The TTFF is a part of CONCACAF,” said Tim Kee, “and in their investigating of all the goings-on, I believe that (an) arm will be extended to the TTFF.”
Thus far, there is no indication that CONCACAF is looking into anything relating to Trinidad and Tobago’s 2006 World Cup campaign.
Webb is clearly interested in the local body, though. He issued a congratulatory release today via the TTFF.
“In the interest of the development of the game, CONCACAF is very pleased with the commitment seen throughout our meetings to promote the sport,” stated Webb, “and ultimately reach a final agreement to resolve all pending matters within football in Trinidad and Tobago.
“In an effort to regenerate an environment of trust, we congratulate the Federation and its leadership for their continued quest to move forward past matters and build for the future development and growth of the game in the country.
“At CONCACAF, we were glad to have been of assistance to the Federation and will continue to set a clear roadmap that restores the integrity of the game in the region…”
At the Hasely Crawford venue, the administrators and former players present warmed to the idea of future collaboration.
“I am here to do what is right by bringing our football community back together,” said Tim Kee, who was a TTFF vice-president in 2006. “This journey is not just about dollars and cents; it is about the future of Trinidad and Tobago football…
“I want to sincerely apologise for the pain you have had to endure over those years. And I say come and enjoy the pleasure as we take Trinidad and Tobago’s football into glory and a new era.”
Tim Kee also proposed a “testimonial game” between the 2006 Soca Warriors and the 1989 “Strike Squad”, which he felt was a good opportunity to show the love within the fraternity. Phillips explained that the TTFF will be looking at more meaningful ways to involve the 1989 players in the future of the organisation.
Sancho accepted both offers straightaway.
“On behalf of the 13 players, we accept the apology,” he said, “and look forward to working hand in hand with the new Federation… We also look forward to proper accounting and transparency in the game in the future.
“It is the dawn of a new era… We look forward to contributing in any way possible.”
There was mention too of ex-2006 World Cup player Russell Latapy who is still owed money for his stint as national coach, which ended in December 2010. Tim Kee revealed that he was working on a financial settlement with the former national icon.
Less clear was an agitation for bonus money by eight players who never made it to Germany. Sancho and Phillips revealed that Angus Eve, Anthony Rougier, Leslie “Tiger” Fitzpatrick, Nigel Henry, Anton Pierre and Glenton Wolfe were among several players who have allegedly joined together to lobby the 13 Warriors for World Cup money.
“What we fought for over the last seven years was for the business of playing at the World Cup,” said Sancho. “We are yet to fully understand the claims.”
Eve played in 10 of the 23 World Cup qualifiers while Rougier featured in six, Fitzpatrick and Pierre featured in three each and Henry played once. Wolfe never got on the field for a competitive game for Trinidad and Tobago.
All players involved in the qualifiers were paid from a separate bonus, seven years ago. However, the eight players have supposedly argued that they did not receive their full due.
Wired868 tried unsuccessfully to contact Eve for comment. Phillips said the players have approached the TTFF.
“We came across this issue recently,” said Phillips. “Why didn’t the eight players join with the 13 during the court case? I think this (issue) falls in the cross-hairs of the players but we will keep an eye on it.”
For now, the TTFF is focused on a charm offensive with its most famous past squads.
Sancho and Jack never represented Trinidad and Tobago after the 2006 World Cup as a direct result of their role in the case against the TTFF. A testimonial against the Strike Squad, according to Sancho, will give them a chance to say goodbye to football fans.
Judging by the bonhomie of today’s press conference, it will be a case of goodbye and hello.
The 13 World Cup 2006 players: David Atiba Charles, Cornell Glen, Cyd Gray, Shaka Hislop, Kelvin Jack, Avery John, Stern John, Kenwyne Jones, Brent Sancho, Collin Samuel, Aurtis Whitley, Evans Wise and Anthony Wolfe.