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Remember 19/11: When Gally mashed Jack’s corns on Road to Italy

Strike Squad coach Everald “Gally” Cummings talks to Earl Best in the first of a two-part interview about the Road to Italy and an explosive fall-out with TTFA general secretary Jack Warner

PART I:

“The sun,” Michael Maurice said about his failure to stop Paul Caligiuri’s long-range left-footed shot on the afternoon of November 19, 1989, “was in my eyes.”

Thanks to the defensive midfielder’s 31st minute strike, the Americans claimed the second of two CONCACAF places, leaving Trinidad and Tobago in third place, all dressed up with nowhere to go.

“Yeah, right.”

The popular national response to the custodian’s explanation in the days and weeks after the USA’s 1-0 win at the National Stadium in Mucurapo is summed up by those two words.

Photo: United States celebrate at the Port of Spain National Stadium on November 19, 1989.
Photo: United States celebrate at the Port of Spain National Stadium on November 19, 1989.

But to that particular chorus of scepticism, one important voice has never been added. Strike Squad coach Everald “Gally” Cummings has never questioned Maurice’s version.

“The sun,” he says, “is always there. So I had no reason to believe thenand still don’t 25 years laterthat he was not telling the truth. In normal circumstances, he would simply step across to his left and haul in that shot without any trouble.”

In “normal” circumstances? What was abnormal about the first half-houror the first halfof the game which the T&T Strike Squad needed merely not to lose to make it to the 1990 World Cup Finals in Italy?

Just before the play that set up the winning shot began, Cummings explains, Maurice had been focusing on something on the T&T right side; he had not quite as he would normally do readjusted his position to follow the ball when the then 25-year-old Californian pulled his left-foot trigger.

For the national coach who should have been one of the persons who stood to gain most from World Cup Finals qualification, that is the end of that story. He refuses to bring grist to the mill of the conspiracy theorists who see something more than human error in Maurice’s crucial, costly miss.

But there are other stories that need to be told, Gally assures us, convinced that there were things taking place behind the scenes to make only one result possible on that mid-November day.

For instance, Cummings explains, he and team manager Oliver Camps went to the Stadium on the eve of the game and discovered that the floodlights had been left on during the night. The Strike Squad was training “in the slushy conditions in Forest Reserve” and the technical staff would have preferred a wet field.

Usually, team manager Camps handled all liaising with officialdom. But back in camp, Gally was present as Camps called Frank Stephen, who was in charge of operations at the Stadium, to tell him to turn on the sprinklers and soften the field.

“Tell Mr Cummings,” came the alleged, unexpected reply, “I am not doctoring any field.”

It turns out that the instruction not to “doctor” the field had come from one Don somebody, “a nobody” who was one of the myriad hangers-on in the TTFA Secretary’s slipstream with no clear portfolio, title or role.

“I can’t get out of my mind,” Gally says, that the minion had merely been the mouthpiece for transmitting his master’s message.

Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago national stand-out footballer and coach, Everald "Gally" Cummings.
Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago national stand-out footballer and coach, Everald “Gally” Cummings.

And then there was the curious case of the missing protest. And the troublesome television time slot.

When Gally, as coach and technical director, tried to advise the TTFA that the May 28 home game against Costa Rica should be played at 3.30pm, Warner cut him off unceremoniously.

“No way,” he said tersely, “The television schedule requires the game to be played at 5.30 pm.”

“It was our home game,” Gally lamented. “If we really wanted to get three points, why was the television tail wagging the dog?”

Two weeks later, in the away game against the same opposition, Hutson Charles put T&T back on terms after the home side had taken a second-minute lead. To the consternation of the entire celebrating T&T contingent, players, technical staff and mediamen, the referee ruled that Charles had handled the ball in the act of chesting it down and waved off the goal.

Replays showed clearly that there had been no hand contact.

Cummings was furious. At the end of the match, he and Camps approached the TTFA Secretary, present at the game, and demanded that an official protest be lodged.

“You see me,” Gally remembers Warner as saying dismissively, “I not interested in no protest foolishness, nah.” Or very similar words.

And that, as they say, was that; one vital point dropped, one tiny window opened. Just in case…

Warner would be far less brash, far less dismissive the first time Cummings met with him after the 0-1 loss.

It is mere days after November 19. Camps has invited the coach to meet him in his Maritime Life office in Port-of-Spain. When Gally arrives, the TTFA Secretary is also present.

Photo: Ex-TTFA general secretary and CONCACAF president Jack Warner (centre) chats with FIFA president Joao Havelange (left) and former Germany World Cup captain Franz Beckenbauer. (Copyright AFP 2014)
Photo: Ex-TTFA general secretary and CONCACAF president Jack Warner (centre) chats with FIFA president Joao Havelange (left) and former Germany World Cup captain Franz Beckenbauer.
(Copyright AFP 2014)

The pleasantries out of the way, Camps lays his cards, well, the cards on the table.

“Jack needs a favour,” he begins, “from you.”

Cummings grunts non-committally, playing for time, reluctant to put into words the thought that Warner probably suspects is taking up residence in his brain.

But it isn’t Warner who breaks the uneasy silence that ensues.

“The Stadium was oversold,” Camps begins stiffly, looking at Warner rather than at Cummings. “Somebody has to go on television and tell the country why.”

Camps falls silent. Gally waits, poker-faced. Warner shifts uneasily in his chair, staring not at the latter but at the former.

“Jack would like it,” Camps continues, taking his time to form and deliver each of the four words, “if that somebody … is … you.”

Gally chuckles soundlessly.

“Sonofabitch!” he hears himself thinking.

“I can arrange for you to get a car,” Warner allegedly said, as finally broke his silence. “Mr Rock will give you any car you want.”

“Mr Rock” is not his real name. Gally has asked us not to reveal who was the well-placed TTFA official Warner identified.

Or to disclose the actual words he used to tell Warner and Camps where to get off.

And what to do with their car.

About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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79 comments

  1. What a story! this is part one. for twenty five years this was a secret. why Gally what were you afraid of? that your coaching career would be over? still look at it now, maybe you could have shifted the paradigm if you had only come forward then.

    There would have been different persons in charge after that. That being said we are still very grateful for the effort you and these “band of brothers” attempted against all the odds, scouting local talent the way you did with no funds, poor working conditions, meager salaries. all for”the love of the game”. in these times we may never again get players to play for “the love of the game”

    But sir, you still have a contribution to make to the sport you have loved all your life. put this in your experience account, hate the treatment in your heart forever and work with the youths and help develop the right mentality which is needed. ” GAME FIRST”

  2. And we see it in Cricket too Lasana it’s happening much more than we care to believe in all sports

  3. Gerard Emile Zatopek Pinard, I just don’t know. So I can’t convince anyone.
    I know that the people who benefited from this result helped make Jack Warner the CONCACAF president within months of this result. And FIFA helped get Jack Warner out of a Gov’t Commission of Enquiry through the FIFA Fair Play award, which was essentially rewarding highly irresponsible behaviour that put the lives of tens of thousands of fans at risk and violated umpteen health and safety codes.
    An official cannot give away a penalty or whatever Brent Bennett. But if he did want to give one team an advantage, he could not have done more than Warner did.
    In any case, an entire team is never involved in match fixing. The experts will tell you that you only need one or two key players.

  4. Ok Gerard, fair enough…let look at stiff individually…1) was the ‘journey’ the team had to take, including church, normal procedure? 2) is it out of the ordinary for teams to request things done to their pitch for home advantage..eg extra or less grass..or wetness of field? And 3) is it true or not that the referee was changed at a later stage? Now, I’m not asking about any conspiracy or anything like that..im jus asking if those three statements are abnormal or not.

  5. ^^^^^Lawd…dis man placing mih wid Jack yes. Although ah wouldn’t mind having his bank account eh. And Lasana, as my photo post says, “I’ll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it…” Conspiracy theories generally require more than ole talk and utterly believable incompetence on the part of those involved.

  6. I don’t care what the small minority of 2 ( Pinard and Warner ) say . That November 19 strike squad vs USA game was fixed .

  7. I suppose the 1974 team didn’t get tief in Haiti either right Gerry!!

  8. One of the biggest ‘elements’, Lasana, was the decision to have the team make the trip from Forest Reserve, stop off in Oropouche for church, then journey to POS in a motorcade for the game. Where else on earth that would have happened? They were not mentally ready to play.

  9. Lol. Note that I never said Nov 19 was definitely fixed eh Gerard. Just that I cannot see why people are so dismissive of the theory.
    There were all the elements of a fix in play.
    Do people think that all the mistakes in the management of the game were just gross incompetence?

  10. Funny that people are naive to make this suggestion when hundreds of sport games are fixed every year for much less.
    I attended a conference with Declan Hill once and spoke to him about his investigative work.
    And it is the fans who don’t think any football games are fixed are the ones who are being naive.
    Not only that but a Concacaf club game involving Trinidad teams over the last few years was also under suspicion for being fixed.
    FIFA investigators were right in Trinidad interviewing players Gerard Emile Zatopek Pinard.
    I knew about it. But, like I said, even when there is reason for suspicion. And even when one or two people made incriminating statements to witnesses, match fixing isn’t easy to prove.

  11. T&T never lose a game yet in any sport according to some folks…is either we get teef or we sell out! Daiz just de way we does roll…gotta love us yes! LOL

  12. I am going. I saw in the papers that they leave from the top of Frederick Street.

  13. “Warner has ALWAYS been and may very well continue to be a gutter rat of the most disgusting nature.” With November 19, he “played his cards right.” If the whole Wired868 readership is not quite convinced of that before this series is over, I would feel we have not advanced the game significantly. Wait for Lasana’s damning piece on the man himself which, with luck, he will headline “High (Nov 16) Low (Nov 19), Jack (?), the game.”

  14. Looking all over for the story since i last commented.

  15. Debbie Espinal I think it is opposite TGIF. There is a story on the site though for confirmation.

  16. Boss man, Arnold Dwarika you talking bout there.(lol) Nothing else but hand cuffs and a cyro cell would be able to keep him indoors.

  17. Lasana still waiting to hear what part of the Savannah is the starting point for the walk tomorrow. Have to go and support meh boys, Clayton, Brian, Leonson etc. We limed fuh so in Germany.

  18. Lol. They wouldn’t hear St James from Hilton or Holiday Inn bedroom.
    And if they would break curfew before a game like that they wouldn’t deserve to go.
    Not even Ronaldinho or Dwarika would have broken curfew on November 18.

  19. That is like saying if you bad drive me and I don’t crash, I wouldn’t go to the police. Of course he wouldn’t have complained so much if they won.
    Brent, we know at Arima we would meet from lunch time on game day. Eat together, relax, fo blackboard, think about the game…
    Now think about if we were rushing out of the class at 2.30 to get dressed for a match in say 15 minutes.
    Would our performance be totally unaffected?
    I’m saying the Strike Squad was not prepared to play at their best due to the pre-match happenings.
    Would you say that is true?

  20. Lasana, i was referring to the use of FR as a training venue but i did not agree that they should make the drive on the day of the game. I was really good friends with Russell’s girlfriend, she and the girl i dated at the time were best friends so we hung out at times. These fellas were treated like rock stars and POS meant they were close to the party arena. The city that doesn’t sleep St. Jame and Chez Mois (i think) were kicking in those days. (lol)

  21. Maybe you right Brent. I always wonder how JW shoot up the Fifa ranks after that game. In the end we were rubbed in the Costa Rica game and in that game. Also Brent JW recent history doesn’t help his cause.

  22. By the way Lasana any idea where the walk starts from tomorrow? Will like to try and make at least a part of the route if not all.

  23. Gally talking shit and ill continue to say that. He has an axe to grind and everyone knows this. Had we won yuh would have not heard one iota. We loss…..

  24. My point exactly Lasana and they just don’t seem to be getting it hence my questioning myself about my own knowledge of the game.

  25. Brent, Gally claimed the field was prepared to suit the opponent, there accommodation was messed with, the teams had to be bodily lifted to dressing room, etc.
    You can look at the non call with Philbert Jones. Then watch the 1990 World Cup at the same ref give a penalty for a very similar infringement. Arguably a lesser infringement. Between holland and Germany.
    None of that is clear proof. The only proof of match fixing is when you have a money trail.
    But there were a lot of things that went wrong with this important game. And the result was beneficial to the person in charge at Trinidad end.
    Yes, the players didn’t perform.
    But I defy any team to perform after their experience on the way to the field for kick off in the biggest game of their lives.

  26. Fortunately i didnt get screwed. I willfully took up the opportunity presented to me and ran with it. I am really sad to see some of my heroes from that ill fated game never really made it but such is life