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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. So i’m not sure why you are seeming to be offended or defensive.

  2. Debbie have NEVER discredited your contributions ever.

  3. Kester Lendor I am just reading comments one by one. Not sure if this was addressed yet.
    But fact that teams trained there to avoid distraction is irrelevant.
    England FA has training grounds too. That doesn’t mean they would sleep there before a game when another place is more convenient.
    That isn’t relevant. They will simple move near game venue as the game nears like teams all over the world.

  4. And trust me Kester the players were aware of every sinister intention. None of them were blind or stupid. A set up is a set up and none of their heads were buried in the sand. But lets agree to disagree as i probably don’t know one shit about football.

  5. Hats off to both Brent and Kester whose name i remember well for your contributions to football. I hope you two got paid and not screwed.

  6. That’s fabulous Debbie, i think though, the point that Brent is alluding to and that i made is that the players went out on the field and played and what happened behind the scenes, the players were not part of and at the time were probably unaware of any sinister intentions.

  7. Debbie Espinal, both Kester and Brent have made tremendous contributions to our National programs throughout the years. Kester even being an assistant coach if I’m not mistaken, so they do make input to this discussion with considerable credibility.

  8. Totally agree to disagree but i may not have played but been around many, including my late Father in law, who played for Trinidad and my Husband who played opposite Gally in his Inter Col days and went on to play for QPCC and many others from whom i gained a lot of knowledge about the game. Been an avid football fan since before cock had teeth and when there were 100 patrons in the stand to watch a football match after 1989 my Husband and I were two of them.

  9. I would argue you dont know football because clearly you haven’t played at the level Kester Lendor and I played at. Although this is not a discussion about playing but I’ll leave it at that. I rarely argue football bc everyone is entitled to their own opinion and it serves no purpose but we all would have to agree to disagree.

  10. Also if after all Lasana had to say and some of us on this thread, then i’m guessing you Guys don’t know as much about Football as you may think.

  11. There’s something called hush money and some may take and some don’t. That’s the way the cookie crumbles.

  12. Debbie, ah hope yuh ask them why they did not perform better during the game because everything else is bull…. trust me I was close to one of the guys on that team…Kester was a former teammate of one also.

  13. Some people seriously in denial. We were set up by the biggest Con artist to ever grace our shores. Maybe Kester need to sit with some of the Strike Squad and hear their version of events that unfolded during that run up to 1989. We had the opportunity in Germany in 2006 and heard from the horses mouths what took place and some of what they went through was downright nasty and sometimes humiliating. Shameless SOB!!

  14. We are discussing a conspiracy theory so why don’t anyone think that the ref had his part to play to help the US win this game….

  15. k k it is becoming clearer now. I’m remembering the situation better now. I’d still like to see the game now though and try analyse our performance.

  16. I remember the play but many like that haven’t been called one way or another.

  17. He didn’t dive as he stood on his feet trying to still make a play……

  18. i do remember him being tackled heavily in the box and us wanting a penalty. I would like to see that now that I can detach emotionally. I’ve never been able to look at the match after then.

  19. Brian, “possible penalty”? This wasnt Haiti in 1973, come on man

  20. No controversial calls whatsoever in that game Kestor. We lost!!! All the nonsense about stuff stacked against us is simply noise that was irrelevant and unproven.

  21. I believe Philbert Jones had a possible penalty……….

  22. that is speculation Brian we aren’t sure what would happen, as Brent said we didn’t win. So yeah the admin odds were stacked against us but the players were not in or weren’t aware of any plot so they went out and played. Unfortunately for us we couldn’t muster a goal and the US did. Unlike in the Costa Rica game where a goal was disallowed , that didn’t happen in that game and i don’t remember there being any controversial calls or non calls being made. I may need to be reminded though.

  23. I am not so sure about that Lasana. JW attempted to buy/transfer Forest Reserve Club (the acre) to the TTFA as a training base for national teams while the UNC was in power in 95 and didn’t succeed because of the protests, work disruptions and interventions of the OWTU. Subsequent national teams nad the current WNT have stayed and camped in the remote areas of the deep south because of the fact that there are less distractions in the bush down there. (lol). Najar’s U16 & U19 teams that i was part of camped at FR too so it was a place that NT used back in the day.

  24. We were doomed long before the kick-off as the Stadium was packed in and over its capacity. USA would have protested with that FIFA violation alone.

  25. But Lasana again, explain to me how he impacted “the game”?

  26. I don’t think that is true Brent. Chuck Blazer bankrolled Warner’s campaign to be FIFA president and Joao Havelange asked candidates to vote for Warner.
    And blazer and Havelange both had a whole lot to gain from USA qualifying. So, by extension, Warner had stuff to gain too.
    If Trinidad won on Nov 19, USA could have protested any one of a number of FIFA violations on the day.
    You ever thought about why FIFA created a Fair Play award for a country that violated so many safety awards and should have been sanctioned instead?
    Even now people boast about that Fair Play award.
    Jack probably kills himself laughing whenever he hears that.

  27. That’s not true this time Kester. In a previous interview, Gally told me that Oliver Camps said everywhere in port of Spain was booked up. And he trusted the word of his manager.
    Based on what he is saying here, Gally is suggesting that Camps was more loyal to Jack than the team.
    We do know that Camps went on to be Jack’s president for life.
    This is one man’s account of course. We do have a piece from then TTFA president Peter O Connor to follow too.
    But in Gally’s retelling, he always wanted a place in port of Spain.

  28. I am no JW apologist but everyone who believes JW had the power to sell out a country and game is in denial. Explain to me how an administrator who is not playibg could sell out a game? Go back and look at the game, we didn’t play well, end of story. Enough with the conspiracy theories. JW had more to gain by us qualifying (as evidenced by the money he stole in the 2006 edition) rather than us not qualifying.

  29. Debbie, i believe the decision to stay @ Forest Reserve would be to protect the same players who were enjoying a Rock star appeal from the very crowds (mostly women) bombarding their hotels rooms at night and from the distractions that POS would bring in terms of night life and the players leaving for nights out on the town.

  30. Now jack in Parliament and calling people corrupt trinidad nice yes but we like it so ent

  31. When one considers the litany of administrative errors that led up to that match, the mind boggles as much as the stomach churns.

    • 15,000 EXTRA tickets were ordered and sold.
    • Zero crowd control measures on game-day.
    • TeamT+T left deep south for an hour plus journey in a maxi-taxi to reach the venue (the Americans stayed at Holiday Inn – 5 minuets form venue).
    • TeamT+T made a number of stops along the way for pointless patronage purposes that disrupted their mental preparation. Incidently, when the then American Ambassador was asked his opinion on the eve of the game, he replied “..the team that is better prepared mentally..” (or words to that effect).
    • The Americans were allowed to train at the venue.

    Yet, despite these glaring administrative gaffs, that literally robbed an entire nation it’s hopes and pride (even up to 25 years later), Jack Warner, the then General Secretary of the TTFA, was “elected” to the post of President CONCACAF/VP FIFA – unopposed – mere months after the debacle!!!
    Warner has ALWAYS been and may very well continue to be a gutter rat of the most disgusting nature.

  32. I was 10 and heard “the sun WERE in my eyes”.. Never forget that… Looking fwd to the rest.. Everald “Gally” Cummings is truly a national hero and by the looks of it and man who suffered for standing up to nonsense..

  33. What in the dark must come to light somehow

  34. Ask ourselves who sought to benefit by the USA going to Italy and not TnT insofar as FIFA Politics was concerned. Who was Don that passed on the instructions re preparation of the field? Check the roster list of the names of the officers of the representative TTFA Zones and who were also General Council member of the TTFA at the time. Re the overselling of tickets, do some serious investigation of who were the two persons from the then TTFA who went to the USA with the plates for the tickets and who was the one (1) person who collected all the said tickets from a hole in the wall printer in the said USA and who also brought down these tickets in a brief case. While there was some mystery involved everything, it was well thought out and orchestrated, a damn good con job.

  35. Nov 19th Bobolee. Yeah!! Let him come!

  36. It boggles the mind how greed could override your conscience. Invite JW to the march tomorrow. Sorry I cant be there too

  37. Brent anybody with any common sense knew that game was set up for us to lose from the outset. Jack played his cards right. He rode on the euphoria of the Country but those of us who knew the game realized we got set up big time. The players should have been in POS from at least two days before if not the day before in a well relaxed atmosphere, not coming up the day of the game from Fyzabad, stopping to greet throngs of people, stopping to go to church and then their two maxis being bombarded and blocked by angry supporters who couldn’t get into the stadium. My Husband told me at the time and he was Footballer that by the time those Fellers reached the stadium they would have felt like they already played two games. This was confirmed to us by one of their Senior players when we were in Germany in 2006. I understand when they played away games they used to be put up in Brothels while Warner et al were staying in posh hotels. The overselling of the stadium, not wetting the Field and lots more. Do the maths. And nothing has changed since cause our players still getting set up from Jack’s clone. Steups!!

  38. This is good for the country’s learning. Hopefully we can learn from these experiences towards better administration in sport.

  39. Brent Bennett, I agree that protesting the handball was a dead alley.

  40. For the 25th anniversary, Earl Best had an idea about us revisiting the Strike Squad in a different way. Perhaps, over time, people are more open to talking. Or maybe they did not trust their interviewers 25 years ago.

  41. So now Gally is a conspiracy theorist too? Protesting a referee’s decision goes nowhere. Grasping at straws here IMO.

  42. Why bring this up now? These questions have been around for 25 years with no answer.

    Not complaining, merely curious.

  43. Everytime ah sit and watch the penalty we should have ah does get vex! Turn off the YouTube clip. I yet to watch the whole game

  44. Boy everybody know that game was rigged eh

  45. This man was once acting PM of our country. Shame shame shame. He should be in jail.

  46. i was present at the stadium on that day, always thought it was a sell out