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Sancho saves stranded football trialists; Quintero, Rochford stuck in London

The Ministry of Sport was forced into a rescue operation today as two former Trinidad and Tobago national youth team players, Jean-Luc Rochford and Dwight Quintero, were among three footballers left alone in a hotel in London while their contingent moved on to trials in Turkey.

Photo: Former Central FC forward Dwight Quintero (left) tries to escape from North East Stars midfielder Keithy Simpson during a 2013/14 Pro League contest. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Former Central FC forward Dwight Quintero (left) tries to escape from North East Stars midfielder Keithy Simpson during a 2013/14 Pro League contest.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

The third player, Keon Russell, is a former Caledonia AIA employee while Rochford and Quintero are both free agents but represented Central FC in Pro League action last season.

All three left Trinidad for Turkey with Dion Sosa, an unregistered local football agent, and close to a dozen other players.

However, once in London, Quintero, Rochford and Russell were allegedly informed that there was no plane ticket to take them on Turkey.

Eventually, they made their way to Trinidad and Tobago’s High Commission in London where a SOS was put through to Sport Minister Brent Sancho.

“I was contacted this morning by a lady named Keisha Rochford-Hawkins from the Consulate in London, who said that they had three players there who were stranded,” Sancho told Wired868. “I didn’t get the nitty gritty of the situation. But, from what I understand, a party left for London on a broken ticket to Turkey.

“Some of the members went on and these stayed waiting for help and they eventually contacted the consulate… So I am trying to assist.”

Photo: Former San Juan Jabloteh midfielder Jean-Luc Rochford (right) battles for possession with Police FC captain Todd Ryan during a Pro League encounter last season. (Courtesy Allan V. Crane/ Wired868)
Photo: Former San Juan Jabloteh midfielder Jean-Luc Rochford (right) battles for possession with Police FC captain Todd Ryan during a Pro League encounter last season.
(Courtesy Allan V. Crane/ Wired868)

Wired868 tried to contact Sosa by What’s App and email but was unable to reach him.

By the end of the day, the Sport Ministry did book plane tickets from London to Turkey. But, in the confusion, they ended up a ticket short.

Nathalie Fournillier, Quintero’s aunt, said her nephew contacted her for help this morning. At the time, Quintero and Rochford were together but they could not find Russell and thought he had left them since he was supposedly familiar with London.

Fournillier convinced Sancho that there were only two players in need of help, only to discover later that Russell had resurfaced.

Sancho vowed to do all he can to get a ticket for Russell tomorrow. Eid festivities have apparently complicated travel to Turkey.

Fournillier explained that the contingent, led by Sosa, arrived in London on Thursday morning. However, Quintero, Rochford and Russell were allegedly told that, due to financial issues, there was no ticket to take them to Turkey and Sosa would go ahead with the other players and make the necessary arrangements from there.

Photo: Former Central FC midfielder and captain Leston Paul (right) runs at North East Stars players Keryn Navarro (left) and Taryk Sampson during the 2014 First Citizens Cup final. Paul, who is a free agent, is one of several trialists who left for Turkey with agent Dion Sosa. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Former Central FC midfielder and captain Leston Paul (right) runs at North East Stars players Keryn Navarro (left) and Taryk Sampson during the 2014 First Citizens Cup final.
Paul, who is a free agent, is one of several trialists who left for Turkey with agent Dion Sosa.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

The group of players are due to play three practice matches against European clubs, who are in their pre-season, with the hope of catching the eye and being signed or invited for formal trials.

Fournillier said each player was asked to pay $25,000 for airfare and accommodation, although most did not have the full amount and there were several fund-raising initiatives.

Quintero and Rochford, who roomed together, had not heard from Sosa as they neared the 11 am check-out time.

In Trinidad, Quintero’s mother and relatives were in tears.

“I had a lot of calls from my sisters this morning while I was at work,” said Fournillier, who lives in the United States, “and I got messages saying to call as soon as possible, so I got worried.

“When I called, I was told my nephew (Quintero) was left behind in London with two other players and Sosa and the others went ahead to Turkey.

“It took me a while to wrap my head around that because I felt it must have been a huge mistake.”

Photo: Former Central FC forward Dwight Quintero (centre) goes down under a challenge from Police captain Todd Ryan (far left) while Anton Hutchinson (far right) and Kenaz Williams look on during a Pro League contest. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Former Central FC forward Dwight Quintero (centre) goes down under a challenge from Police captain Todd Ryan (far left) while Anton Hutchinson (far right) and Kenaz Williams look on during a Pro League contest.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Quintero is a former National Under-20 striker and was on the current Under-23 squad, although he missed the Olympic qualifiers and 2015 Pan American Games due to the team’s managerial issues.

Rochford, who represented Trinidad and Tobago at the 2009 Under-20 and 2007 Under-17 World Youth Cups, contacted a relative who works at the High Commission in London and they made their way there for help.

That relative, Keisha Rochford-Hawkins, was able to pay for another night’s stay at a hotel for the players and give them other assistance.

Fournillier said she eventually got a phone call through to Sosa in Turkey and he allegedly admitted that he did not inform the players beforehand about their travel issues.

“He said he didn’t want to let the ticket issue interfere with the trip after they had (done so much work),” said Fournillier. “He asked me if I could work on sponsors to get them plane tickets for Turkey… He said there was still money tied up by sponsors and, once he got back into Trinidad, he would honour all debts.”

Sancho agreed to help.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Sport Minister and Senator Brent Sancho. Sancho is a former World Cup 2006 player and CEO of local Pro League club, Central FC. (Courtesy SPORTT)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Sport Minister and Senator Brent Sancho.
Sancho is a former World Cup 2006 player and CEO of local Pro League club, Central FC.
(Courtesy SPORTT)

The Sport Minister is a former chairman at Central FC, which employed Quintero and Rochford. However, neither player is under contract while the club is not entitled to any developmental fee for Rochford, since he has already passed his 23rd birthday.

Sancho, who was heavily criticised by Sosa during Levi Garcia’s transfer to Netherlands top flight club club AZ, said he was only interested in helping young players in a time of need.

“I’ve been in that situation before and it is not a nice feeling,” said Sancho, who was a former Scotland Premier League and England League One defender. “It happened when I left Ross County and an agent took me to a trial in Romania. And when I didn’t sign, they yanked my return ticket and I was stranded for a couple of days…

“I am not involved with Central with my new portfolio. But these are young men in a jam and guys I know… So I cannot just leave them there.”

Fournillier said she and Rochford’s mother did their best to lift the boys’ spirits and get them in the right frame of mind for what lies ahead.

Photo: Central FC goal scorer Jean-Luc Rochford (front) and his teammates celebrate with the 2015 Caribbean Club Championship trophy. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Central FC goal scorer Jean-Luc Rochford (front) and his teammates celebrate with the 2015 Caribbean Club Championship trophy.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

“I told them that God never lets adversity affect his children unless he knows something good is going to come out of it,” said Fournillier. “They must not be disheartened and they have to forge forward and finish what they started by any means necessary. Whatever drama plays out, keep your eyes on the prize.

“Jean-Luc’s mom also sent them a very inspirational message… They were a bit fearful at one point but they are in really good spirits now.

“They want to say ‘thank you’ to Brent (Sancho) for reaching out to help them.”

Despite the chaos, Sancho commended Sosa for his efforts in trying to find professional deals for local players in Europe.

“I applaud the efforts of Sosa and company for trying to find greener pastures for our players,” said Sancho, “although he obviously fell short in his attempts.”

Photo: SWO member and Central FC operations director Kevin Harrison (right) presents a $12,000 cheque to Dion Sosa, the local manager for then ailing player Akeem Adams. Adams died on 30 December 2013 after failing to recover from a heart attack. (Courtesy Allan V. Crane/Wired868)
Photo: SWO member and Central FC operations director Kevin Harrison (right) presents a $12,000 cheque to Dion Sosa, the local manager for then ailing player Akeem Adams.
Adams died on 30 December 2013 after failing to recover from a heart attack.
(Courtesy Allan V. Crane/Wired868)

Dion Sosa’s trialists: Raheem Belgrave, Curtis Gonzales, Dario Holmes, Weslie John, Jelani Peters, Keon Russell, Jamel Farell, Leon Whyle, Leston Paul, Jean-Luc Rochford, Duane Muckette, Keane McIvor, Xavier Rajpaul, Micah Lewis, Qian Grosvenor, Phillip Borde, Dwight Quintero and Brent Sam.

AboutLasana 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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113 comments

  1. If Sosa is done with football,,, the Debates commission could hire him..
    He seems to have what it takes to organize debates …

  2. Meanwhile, some African players wouldah walked with an extra pack of crix for in case such a scenario arises. I know Sosa. He’s a born hustler. But yuh cannot he halfway pregnant–either yuh in for a penny (and find yuh Pounds Sterling) or find yuh own way another way. The man results speak for themself

  3. All three players got tickets from the Ministry of Sport to leave yesterday. The last player, Keon Russell, left a few hours later.
    I have not being able to synchronise times to speak to Dion Sosa yet.
    But I have spoken to a player and the relative of another player. They are fine, they now seem to be under the supervision of a Turkish agent and their moods have lifted considerably.
    So, the worst seems to have past. Sosa said that it was much ado about nothing.
    But there still has been no real explanation as to why some players were left behind (beyond obvious financial reasons). Hopefully those questions will be answered eventually. But the players are there and hope to make the most of the opportunity.

  4. Need to hear both sides, who knows what has been or hasn’t been going on behind the scenes. I’m intrigued though, especially since the story also noted that a family member convinced the minister that only 2 persons were in trouble when infact there were three.

  5. I have a question here, doesn’t the article say that rochford make contact with a relative who he knew worked in the commission who then in turn contacted the sports ministry???? How exactly is the commission to blame when this is one family member seeking the interest of another??

  6. who gave the funds … Sports Minister ? or Central owner ? … potentially “Warnerish” … this is criminal

    • If it was PNM’ish, i figure you would consider this exact same situation as the minister looking out for his brethren ?

      But alas it is not the PNM therefore it must be criminal …

      nice opinion ! ! !

      Coloured by bias and lack of moral standing …

      GREAT IS THE PNM

  7. The same self praising Mr. Dion Sosa?

  8. It does not matter what these guys do with their private lives when they are big men and not babies. It does not matter what the Minister does with his time as football seems to be attracting most of his attention away from other sports. This is not a one off football fiasco that he has dealt with since in office. What matters is that players are being trafficked on the market without any player’s association. No one seems to care about this important institution because no-one seems to think that there is any benefit unless there is a monetary benefit. I say people big and have sense. Let me see how long it will take for them to form a proper body. Ent it is normal to look to play abroad to try to get picked on a national team? This is working out real good. Yh, call the government when allyuh get tied up everytime. A plane ticket home will solve the problem. Ah don’t care if I get thumbs down.

  9. Can’t argue with any of that Chris. I know that those players’ families went to great expense to get them there for a shot at a pro contract.
    So it would have been sad on many levels if they never made it to Turkey. So I’m glad they got there.
    But I can’t argue with you that it wasn’t the Sport Ministry’s business to get involved with such a venture which is obviously a money making thing rather than a charitable effort.
    Will taxpayers be refunded? Doubt it.