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Stranded T&T footballers: We still don’t know what happened

The road to fame and fortune for Trinidad and Tobago footballers Jean-Luc Rochford, Dwight Quintero and Keon Russell took an unexpected detour in London.

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)

The three players were part of a 10-member contingent, led by scout and unlicensed agent Dion Sosa, that left the Piarco International Airport on Wednesday for trials in Turkey. But they only made it as far as the United Kingdom.

Sport Minister Brent Sancho responded to a plea for assistance for the three young men today but, due to an error in the formal request, tickets were only sourced for Rochford and Quintero.

Ironically, Russell, a 24-year-old former Caledonia AIA midfielder and El Dorado West Secondary student, was one of the few players who paid for a plane ticket from London to Istanbul. Still, he was left behind.

Wired868 caught up with the three young men at the Park Inn Hotel in London, as they discussed their fates.

The 24-year-old Rochford, who represented Trinidad and Tobago at the 2007 Under-17 and 2009 Under-20 World Youth Cups, said they were told at Piarco that tickets were still needed for the London to Istanbul leg. But he trusted that Sosa had everything in control.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Jean-Luc Rochford celebrates after scoring against Egypt at the 2009 Under-20 World Cup.
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Jean-Luc Rochford celebrates after scoring against Egypt at the 2009 Under-20 World Cup.

“He said six tickets were waiting for us from Heathrow to Istanbul,” said Rochford. “And he said when we (got there), he would organise the rest.”

In most cases, the agent or club pays for the trialists’ airfare and accommodation. But, in this instance, Sosa allegedly asked players to pay TT$25,000 each.

Most of the players did not raise the full figure and Sosa tried desperately to source funds before their departure.

Once the contingent landed in London, Sosa allegedly asked the players to pool resources to see if there was enough to take them forward to Turkey.

Russell had travelled with 600 Euros in case of contingencies and handed it over to Sosa. Somehow, he still ended up left behind.

Photo: Former Caledonia AIA midfielder Keon Russell.
Photo: Former Caledonia AIA midfielder Keon Russell.

“I am still trying to understand what went wrong,” Russell told Wired868. “I had money for my ticket to Turkey… The (return) tickets came up to 592 Euros for each player, so I said okay and I gave him my 600 Euros.

“But he said we fell short, so I told him to keep my money and use it for us to come across one-way to Istanbul instead.”

Sosa left with four players and promised to book tickets for the remaining six to join them on Friday morning.

Rochford spoke to Sosa on Thursday evening.

“He said he was organising to get the money up from Trinidad to buy the tickets,” said Rochford.

That was the last the players heard from him. On Friday morning, Leston Paul, who was Rochford’s captain on both World Youth Cups, as well as Point Fortin Civic defender Weslie John and ex-St Anthony’s College utility player Leon Whyle were sent tickets and they left.

Photo: Speyside Secondary winger Marcus Caesar (left) tries to escape from St Anthony's College midfielder Leon Whyle during Big Four action. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Speyside Secondary winger Marcus Caesar (left) tries to escape from St Anthony’s College midfielder Leon Whyle during 2014 Big Four action.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

“I heard three players got tickets but I wasn’t one of them,” said Russell.

As it neared time for the players to check out of their hotel, Rochford remembered his father, Timothy Rochford, had a cousin, Keisha Rochford-Hawkins, who worked at the High Commission in London.

They had never met before but Rochford made contact. And she was able to book another hotel for the trio and contacted the Sport Ministry on their behalf.

“Everything happens for a reason yes,” Rochford told Wired868. “Maybe it is a test to see how strong I am mentally. We are praying all the time and talking and making plans.

“We put up to buy meals and we are trying to eat properly. We got stuff to eat from my father’s cousin as well. We are dealing with this as a group.”

Photo: Former Central FC striker Dwight Quintero (left) tries to fire a shot past Defence Force player Devin Jordan during the 2013/14 Pro League season. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Former Central FC striker Dwight Quintero (left) tries to fire a shot past Defence Force player Devin Jordan during the 2013/14 Pro League season.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

The group will split up in a few hours, though. Quintero, who is 21 and was a member of the current National Under-23 Team, and Rochford both leave in the morning.

The three young men chatted through the night to pass the time. Rochford and Quintero do not want to leave their new comrade behind but Russell insisted he would be okay.

The players still hope that, once they get to Turkey, they can salvage their trial and catch the eye of waiting scouts. They feel closer to their dream of becoming football stars than ever before.

“Every setback is a setup for a major comeback,” said Russell. “We are just here chilling and talking and staying positive and hopeful. God is still in control.”

Photo: Former Caledonia AIA midfielder and El Dorado West Secondary student Keon Russell.
Photo: Former Caledonia AIA midfielder and El Dorado West Secondary student Keon Russell.

Thus far, Wired868 has been unable to reach Sosa for comment.

 

Editor’s Note: Keon Russell received a plane ticket on Saturday July 18, purchased by the Ministry of Sport, to attend trials in Turkey with a contingent led by Dion Sosa. He also received a free extension by the Park Inn Hotel until his evening flight from London.

Sosa told Wired868’s readers that the players are safe and sound and the matter is well under control. He promised to say more soon.

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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59 comments

  1. Sorry. He contacted me last night but I was working on story with under-23 team. Hopefully this afternoon we will discuss the trip

  2. So what is Dion’s response? Like cat got his tongue or wha?

  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. OK … no permission from club needed then … but NO DECENT AGENT WORTH HIS SALT would send players to the Turkish meat market trials … and players pay heavily for the privilege

  5. Thanks for rhe correction Las

  6. All were out of contract Sav.

  7. Chris from what i’m reading here the minister decided to assist the 3 young men who found themselves “stranded”. No grants or anything of the sort given. Some were out of contract too

  8. however, government grants are not unusual for sports stars … but were these guys established ?

  9. so the Ministry of Sport are now player agents ? or travel agents ?