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Hart’s here but Beenhakker absent and assistants in limbo

Former Canada national football team coach Stephen Hart was officially unveiled today as the new Trinidad and Tobago head coach at a media conference at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain and later held his first session with the “Soca Warriors” at the same venue.

Hart, a 53-year-old Trinidad and Tobago native, has agreed a two-year deal with the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) although, according to local football president Raymond Tim Kee, he has not yet received his official contract.

Former 2006 World Cup coach Leo Beenhakker has also accepted a six-month deal with the TTFA to work as director of football. Beenhakker was not present at today’s media conference and will not come to Trinidad before the Gold Cup.

Photo: New Trinidad and Tobago national senior team head coach Stephen Hart (left) with assistants Hutson "Barber" Charles (centre) and Derek King. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: New Trinidad and Tobago national senior team head coach Stephen Hart (left) with assistants Hutson “Barber” Charles (centre) and Derek King.
(Courtesy Wired868)

The remainder of Hart’s technical staff, which includes assistants Hutson “Barber” Charles and Derek King and goalkeeping coach Jefferson George, were not afforded the same security. Tim Kee admitted that Charles and King were not offered any deal and, at least for now, will continue to work on a verbal month-to-month deal.

None of the senior team technical staff members have been paid this year. Tim Kee and general secretary Sheldon Phillips both said they are working on that issue with the Ministry of Sport.

The national football team will have two budgets going forward. One budget will comprise of the salaries of the incumbent coaches and players and will be sent to the Ministry of Sport. The other will include only the salaries of Hart and Beenhakker and will allegedly be picked up by three unnamed sponsors—two local and one international organisation.

Has the TTFA just implemented a two-tier coaching set-up with Beenhakker and Hart in first-class and the rest in economy? Does the TTFA not foresee problems if two coaches are paid at month end and the rest go home empty handed?

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago joint head coach Hutson "Barber" Charles (right) and assistant coach Derek King are among several technical staff members who still have not been paid. (Courtesy Allan V. Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago joint head coach Hutson “Barber” Charles (right) and assistant coach Derek King are among several technical staff members who still have not been paid.
(Courtesy Allan V. Crane/Wired868)

Tim Kee insisted that the TTFA would do its best to address the current arrears to the staff while hoping that future corporate deals offer a buffer for instances when the Government is late in paying. He insisted suggestions that he was disrespectful to the local staff were wide of the mark.

“To say I am finding money to pay other coaches and the (local) staff is just not true,” said Tim Kee.

He said there were no bad feelings between himself and former co-head coach Jamaal Shabazz although the latter turned down the chance to stay on as Hart’s assistant. Shabazz, said Tim Kee, was given an option to take over one of the national youth teams.

“Shabazz’s position is one I might have taken myself,” he said. “… I have absolutely no negatives to say about Shabazz.”

At present, Trinidad and Tobago is ranked 81st in the world by FIFA; Canada, who replaced Hart last October, is two places lower at 83rd.

So why did the TTFA feel so certain that Hart could improve on the foundation laid by Charles, Shabazz and King with just two weeks to go before the CONCACAF Gold Cup?

Tim Kee replied that Hart had the experience at CONCACAF level, which Charles, Shabazz and King did not.

Wired868 pointed out that Beenhakker had no experience of CONCACAF international competition when he came to Trinidad in 2005. Conversely, Shabazz led Guyana to a 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw away to El Salvador, a year ago, and Charles and King both have CONCACAF experience as players.

Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago co-head coach Jamaal Shabazz on international duty with Guyana.
Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago co-head coach Jamaal Shabazz on international duty with Guyana.

Besides, how does one get experience if one is not given the opportunity?

Tim Kee retorted that he did not say the present staff had no experience but that Hart might be the missing puzzle piece. He pointed to the poor recent returns of the Warriors and claimed that Beenhakker described them as “eleven enthusiastic players but (…) not a team” after watching T&T fall 4-0 to Romania.

According to the TTFA president, after researching the ex-Canada boss, the ex-Real Madrid and Netherlands international coach, declared that Hart “knows his football.”

Hart’s last game in charge of Canada was a 8-1 loss away to Honduras. Would Beenhakker have given him rave reviews if he judged him based on that game?

Was it then fair to judge Charles, Shabazz and King on the Romania match, particularly when they were introducing new players to the squad?

Tim Kee stood his ground and suggested that, in Hart’s case, the trend leading up to the 8-1 loss was important to place the lopsided result into context. He said his decision might be proven wrong but insisted that a decision had to be made.

The TTFA president also tried to explain the recruitment of Beenhakker.

He said that Beenhakker found out about Trinidad and Tobago’s friendly against Romania on the FIFA website and asked to come to the match.

“I expect Beenhakker, being the man he is, to be tuned in to the FIFA website,” said Tim Kee. “He said he would be happy to come if we invited him… I thought that was reasonable.”

Tim Kee further claimed that Beenhakker paid his own way and said the TTFA only approached the Dutchman about the coaching post a week after the Romania match, which was staged on 4 June 2013.

Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago World Cup 2006 coach "Don" Leo Beenhakker will serve as director of football.
Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago World Cup 2006 coach “Don” Leo Beenhakker will serve as director of football.

But Tim Kee’s version directly contradicted accounts from Wired868, TTFA vice-president and technical committee chairman Rudi Thomas and his own press officer, Shaun Fuentes.

Wired868 exclusively revealed that talks had begun with Beenhakker and the TTFA long before kick-off on June 4.

Wired868 understands that Tim Kee, through general secretary Sheldon Phillips, has approached Beenhakker for help in a technical capacity rather than as head coach,” stated the article, on this website. “However a return to run the bench, at least in the short term, has not been ruled out by either party.”

In a separate article, Thomas told Wired868 that he was informed on June 4 about talks between the TTFA and Beenhakker.

“I only knew that discussions were initiated with Mr Beenhakker while the general secretary was in Romania,” said Thomas.

And, on June 6, a TTFA release confirmed that discussions were being held with the Dutchman.

“The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association can in fact confirm that discussions have been held with the former Netherlands and Real Madrid manager,” stated the release, “about his interest in having a role with the FA again. Beenhakker met on Tuesday with TTFF president Raymond Tim Kee and general secretary Sheldon Phillips before returning to his homeland the following day.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago veteran wing back Carlos Edwards (centre) trains with teammates (from right) Darryl Roberts, Marvin Phillip, Densill Theobald and Cornell Glen at the Hasely Crawford Stadium. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago veteran wing back Carlos Edwards (centre) trains with teammates (from right) Darryl Roberts, Marvin Phillip, Densill Theobald and Cornell Glen at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
(Courtesy Wired868)

What is the difference between Beenhakker’s new role as “director of football” and Anton Corneal’s post as “technical director?”

Tim Kee said Beenhakker will “draw up a syllabus” to help develop Trinidad and Tobago’s football programmes and local coaches. When asked to compare the Dutchman’s duties with those of Corneal, he said that: “One teaches regulations and the other teaches how to apply regulations.”

Hart, who thanked the TTFA for bringing him back home, said that he can “draw upon (Beenhakker) or off him anytime.” Phillips offered a third description of Beenhakker’s role.

“His function (at the Gold Cup) is to observe, assess and provide recommendation,” said the TTFA General Secretary. “… After the Gold Cup, (Beenhakker) will look at the wider national programmes.”

Phillips suggested that Corneal’s role will primarily be to look after the youth teams while Beenhakker will be involved with the adult set-up.

Tim Kee said he was informed that the players are pleased with the new faces. He added the caveat that this did not mean they were previously unhappy with the old faces.

The TTFA President further proclaimed that the recent resolution of the 2006 World Cup bonus dispute is evidence of his warm approach to the national footballers.

“I have always had a passion for supporting players,” said Tim Kee.

Photo: TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee (second from left) embraces former World Cup 2006 goalkeeper Kelvin Jack while teammates (from left) Brent Sancho, Cyd Gray and David Atiba Charles look on. The TTFA president and general secretary successfully settled the World Cup 2006 bonus dispute. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee (second from left) embraces former World Cup 2006 goalkeeper Kelvin Jack while teammates (from left) Brent Sancho, Cyd Gray and David Atiba Charles look on.
The TTFA president and general secretary successfully settled the World Cup 2006 bonus dispute.
(Courtesy Wired868)

So did the players have bonus arrangements in place for the Gold Cup tournament, which is just two weeks away?

Tim Kee and Phillips admitted that the matter of bonuses has not been sorted out yet.

The only persons within the international set-up who seemed to have any assurances about their immediate and long-term futures are Hart and Beenhakker.

One reporter asked if the TTFA had informed Hart about the minimum expected of him at the Gold Cup.

Tim Kee replied that he hoped to see the Warriors get into the second round.

Did that mean anything less than qualification for the second round would be seen as failure?

“If we see that we lost but we were playing good (football)…” said Tim Kee.

So, Wired868 asked, has the bar been lowered and are three valiant losses all it now takes to satisfy the TTFA?

Tim Kee laughed, along with the press gathering. But he did not answer.

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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6 comments

  1. @ Nick
    The buck has to stop somewhere buddy.My issue is with accepting the said contract in the first place.If one agrees to such, then what it ultimately says to the offering party is that receiving party does not value his/her qualities and is willing to work for anything offered. Psychologically what happens is that the offering party begins to believe that the receiving party is being done a favor by being kept and then the respect factor takes a huge dip. My mother told me from young if you are good at something NEVER do it for free. When I was young I could not understand how very powerful that was but as I got older and understood,I recognized that one really has to value one’s qualities (whatever they may be) and in turn others would do the same.

    On another note however, this could be a very good time for the coaches to meet and form a coaches union (with proper legal persons at the helm) to assist in matters of this nature and any other issues that may arise to prevent these occurrences. A strong union could well prove to be a deterrent to such injustices as it happens too often in sports in our beloved country. Sometimes out of adversity and negativity positive things can be born.One just needs the will and a bit of testicular fortitude to initiate the change that would in turn help future coaches and also the Federation,Ministry or whomever to change the way they deal.

  2. I can’t believe these two big hard back Africans (Hutson Charles & Derek King) working for free while Hart getting paid. They are the epitome of DUNCE… When Charles & King go to the grocery do they pay with their good looks? Never come across two nincompoop like these two guys. No balls, no spine, no brains… Jump high or low, If I provide a service you better pay me my money. Who works for free in this day and age? I wish someone slap some sense into these two negros.

  3. I am reminded, as I finish reading this piece, of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in which one of the characters warns “We have scotched the snake, not killed it.”

    When all is said and done and TimKee eventually reveals his true self to the country and the world, you will be able to say to all of T&T, “I told you so.”

  4. Wow!! After reading this article you know what struck me the most? That Mr. Charles and Mr. King have absolutely no respect for themselves. And once one does not have respect for oneself..then TRUST ME..others won’t either!! Verbal month to month deal?? Is this how professionals operate? And you wonder why you haven’t been paid? Grow some bloody balls and stand up for yourselves na man! Kudos to you for standing up against such utter garbage Mr. Shabazz ! And if Mr. George falls into the similar category as the aforementioned duo, then shame on you too!

    • It’s not that they don’t have respect for themselves, but it shows how hard and stagnant the life of professional sports is in Trinidad & Tobago. Imagine they have to go through this embarrassment to wear the title of ‘professional/national coach.’

      Only Pro League clubs and a few Super League Clubs pay coaches salaries. Of those Clubs there are a few ‘lifetime’ coaches. They won’t likely make the cut abroad and around the corner are other coaches/former players fighting for coach breathing space to prove themselves. National duty is all that may be available.

  5. While attendng University in New York, I read ” Capitalism and Slavery” Eric Williams”s Doctoral thesis which he wrote while he was a student at Oxford University. Reading this dissertation was a life changing experience for me. I held Trinidadians in the highest esteem. I went on to read V.S. Naipaul, Derek Walcott, and CLR James amongst others. . I remember as a child watching as Andy Aleong in his red shoes terrorizing Guyana’s football team. Then a year or two later, they were waiting for Aleong and here came a 16 year old Everald Cummings to mesmerize them making what Aleong did seem like child’s play . So as I grew up in New York, Trini’s held deity like status to me. Then came Austin Jack Warner to burst my bubble, and now because of social media, we are becoming quite acquainted with Raymond Tim-Kee. Reading the above article is like reading the script to a Grade B comedy show. This Tim-Kee guy is a the lead character of the 3 Trini Stooges. To Mr. Hutson Charles and Mr. Derek King, when I was growing up, my West Indian mother always told me,” If you make yourself a floor cloth, people are going to wipe the floor with you”.