Former World Cup 2006 coach and present director of football Leo Beenhakker will not take up active duty with the “Soca Warriors” until all arrears to the Trinidad and Tobago national senior team’s coaching staff are paid.
Sheldon Phillips, the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) general secretary, admitted yesterday that the local football body’s financial problems has affected the operations of its director of football, who is a former Real Madrid and Netherlands international coach.
A month ago, when Wired868 initially asked whether Beenhakker had taken a stance on behalf of the local coaches, Phillips said the Dutchman was only absent from the OSN Cup because he had to attend a funeral.
Yesterday, Phillips insisted his previous claim about the funeral was true but he also conceded that there was more to Beenhakker’s absence.
“His position is until the coaches’ arrears situation is sorted, it will be difficult for him philosophically to come join us,” Phillips told Wired868. “A good chunk of those arrears will be taken care of this week but there is still a good bit that we have to work on. It is something we want to take care of sooner rather than later because it affects so many areas.”
On Tuesday 15 October, Trinidad and Tobago will play its seventh friendly and 11th international fixture of 2013 when the “Soca Warriors” host New Zealand from 7.15 pm at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.
The quality of the opponents, more than the quantity of outings, suggests that the Warriors are back in business for the first time since Francisco Maturana said “adios” and the then TTFF became distracted by the political ambitions and subsequent disgraceful exit of former special advisor, Jack Warner.
And, last Thursday, TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee gleefully rubbed his own back for the forward steps at a press conference in the Hasely Crawford Stadium’s VIP Lounge.
“What we have achieved so far is a little more than even I anticipated,” said Tim Kee. “I don’t want to hazard making comparisons… But, on this side, it looks quite good.”
Tim Kee was elected unopposed on 11 November 2012 to replace interim president Lennox Watson who, in turn, had filled the void left by Oliver Camps. (Camps’ resignation was handed in after FIFA opened investigations into his conduct during the Mohamed Bin Hammam bribery scandal that spelt doom for Warner’s career with the global body).
Tim Kee stated his priorities were to conduct an immediate and thorough forensic audit of the TTFF, change the constitution, find corporate sponsors for the Warriors and repair the relationship with the Sport Ministry.
Wired868 asked which of these goals he had completed.
The TTFA president retorted that the audit was too expensive to conduct and he decided to rely instead on whatever investigative work CONCACAF did, the constitution was re-done but not vetted and the body was on the cusp of signing new corporate sponsors.
The glass, according to Tim Kee, was half-full.
Phillips disagreed with the notion that Tim Kee had been too hasty—if not misleading—to declare his first year to be a success without quite accomplishing any of his stated tasks.
“We have had success with several different progresses that we have made,” Phillips told Wired868. “Have we reached a level of success that we are satisfied with? No…
“Your definition of success is different to most people. Success is a series of progresses… It takes time but we are trying our best. We cannot let perfect be the enemy of the good.”
Phillips listed 30 items that he considered TTFA accomplishments, which included the Joma clothing deal, new TTFA logo and rebranding, the hiring of Stephen Hart, an improved relationship with the government and even the Heart of a Warrior foundation.
Tim Kee was especially glowing about the TTFA’s relationship with the Ministry of Sport on Thursday. The football body will now be housed at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, which will save around $40,000 per month in rental fees.
“Our relationship with the Ministry of Sport is overwhelming successful,” said Tim Kee, who is contesting an alderman position for the PNM on the Port of Spain City Corporation.
At the other end of the room sat assistant senior team coach and former “Strike Squad” star Hutson Charles, who has not received a salary in 18 months.
Charles, like the rest of the coaching staff, is still owed match fees and stipends from Trinidad and Tobago’s Gold Cup quarterfinal match against Mexico and the OSN Cup in Saudi Arabia. The players are also owed promised bonuses from the Gold Cup.
National senior team head coach Stephen Hart has previously also shared his discomfort with the Warriors’ present financial situation.
Tim Kee said that the Ministry of Sport had promised to fulfil those debts. So how could he declare the relationship to be excellent when his employees still had not been paid?
The football president bristled at the suggestion that he was responsible for any discomfort experienced by his coaches. He said there was no money when he took over the post and, arguably ungraciously, pointed out that many of the coaches had other sources of income and, in his opinion, were not reliant solely on salaries from their national team duties.
“You have to gauge me on things on which I have control,” said Tim Kee.
Phillips agreed with his president.
“It is not a case of people dragging their feet,” said the TTFA general secretary. “We are addressing the situation that we met while at the same time trying to carry forward the organisation… We are in discussion with the Ministry of Sport to address their arrears in the new fiscal year; the progress is being made.
“Context has to be fair. You have to look at what the situation was before. Once you do that in a reasonable and objective manner, you have to take your hat off for what Raymond was able to do in a short space of time.”
Of course, Tim Kee and Phillips did get the 2006 World Cup bonus scandal out of the High Court. In May, the TTFA agreed a settlement with 13 World Cup players, which halted court proceedings.
The second payment to the players was due last month but the TTFA missed the deadline. There is a clause in the agreement that can send the dispute back to court if the football body does not keep its side of the bargain but both sides continue to operate on good faith, for now.
For all the bravado of Tim Kee and Phillips and although neither would agree, it seems that much of their claims of success depend on the goodwill of the observer.
Tim Kee’s star is certainly on the rise. The local insurance executive was recently appointed to the FIFA Futsal committee and is set to be placed on the Associations committee too.
And the Warriors are also progressing well under Hart’s stewardship.
Tim Kee praised the players and staff for their showing at the OSN Cup, where they finished third in a four-team tournament played in harsh climate and with the usual administrative issues.
“To come back from 3-0 down (against the UAE) showed heart, resilience and guts which I didn’t think this team had (prior to the present set-up),” said Tim Kee.
But has the football president’s own performance matched that of his football teams?
His much vaunted director of football, Beenhakker, is refusing to show up until Tim Kee and Phillips put some hard currency in the bank accounts of the local coaches.
For some people, sweet words and wonderful intentions are not enough.
(Technical staff members owed by the TTFA over the past two years)
Senior team: Hutson Charles (assistant coach), Derek King (assistant coach), Jamaal Shabazz (former co-head coach), David Muhammad (manager), William Wallace (manager), Peter Rampersad (assistant manager), Dave Isaac (physiotherapist), Jefferson George (goalkeeping coach), Michael Williams (equipment manager), Terrance Babwah (team doctor), Shaun Fuentes (media officer/video/IT analyst).
Under-23 team: Angus Eve (head coach), Derek King (assistant coach), William Wallace (manager), Brian James (goalkeeping coach), Michael Williams (equipment manager), Israel Dowlatt (team doctor), Earl Joseph (physiotherapist).
Under-20 team: Ross Russell (head coach), Reynold Carrington (assistant coach), William Wallace (manager), Devin Elcock (equipment manager), Michael Taylor (physiotherapist).
Under-17 team: Shawn Cooper (head coach), Terrance Marcelle (assistant coach), Leonson Lewis (assistant coach), Ross Russell (goalkeeping coach), Christopher Gouveia (manager), Michael Taylor (physiotherapist), Devin Elcock (equipment manager).
TTFA Technical director Anton Corneal.
Editor’s Note: What do you think of Raymond Tim Kee’s performance in his first year as TTFA President? And what are your thoughts on Leo Beenhakker’s stance?