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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.

KFC Munch Pack

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.

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief 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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  1. There have been well wishes for the boys though Timothy Rochford. But of course they have to focus on their business and we wish them well.

  2. And Lasana I think for the guys mental everyone should do the same as Sosa. Say more later when they have all the facts. Too many speculation and condemnation without all the facts and info. Haven’t heard anyone offer a prayer for the boys yet, but thats ok, God don’t play dice. God Is Good All The Time!!!

    …the human within…

  3. He told me that the ministry bought tickets. After leaving that comment. I asked him

  4. But he wrote that earlier in this thread eh…so just arksing…Its now bery early morning there so we wait for answers

  5. That did seem confusing eh Savitri Maharaj. But, no, he confirmed that the tickets he referred to were bought by the Sport Ministry. Another reason I’m waiting to chat with him…

  6. Im confused eh. Dion bought tickets and the MoS too? What about accommodation in London for those left behin

  7. Savitri Maharaj and Carlos Lee, there are some comments here higher in the thread.

  8. Lasana you know what is surprising about all this…it’s the same hard questions you asked about the Women’s Team last year when they left with US$500 and all of them were happy with your questions to TTFA and the Sports Ministry then, but because its a friend the approach must be soft……that’s way sports is where it is today..behind the 8-ball…One thing I can say you remain consistent to the cause….and I wish all those guys the best and hope that Mr. Sosa go and get his FIFA agent License and learn from this experience….

  9. Daiz wuh ah mean David……..everything is left for the last few days before a tournament and hear nuh; have you EVER heard even one report of any of the administrative staff having problems securing their own travel documents, rooming, etc. or being left behind at Piarco because of “a mix-up”?

  10. You see why we always bungling and find it hard to reach anywhere again? Always some last minute shit.

  11. Lesson to the players and clubs, don’t do business with unlicensed agents and get all your documents, paper works, like tickets , the place you are staying and the clubs that you are going to before you leave your homeland and double check to make sure that all the information is legit.

  12. So when they get to Turkey who are they going by and what club is interested in them? This article has not given much details and has dropped the ball in letting us know some important information on where these young men are going. These countries are not easy places to just up and go to.

  13. I don’t know Sosa and I have no reason to defend him, but I think there has , and continues to be a rush to judgment here. There are always multiple sides to every story, and I believe Sosa when he says that the players panicked… and justifiably so. Whatever the eventual truth/explanation, one thing Sosa is clearly at fault for is the lack of a clear explanation to the three players as to what the plan would be. I’m not going to criticize him for the apparent lack of/breakdown in planning… after all, the best made plans of mice and men oft go awry. But the players should never have been in a situation where they would even be tempted to panic. I think it’s fair at this point to criticize Sosa, but let’s refrain from impugning the man’s character and motives until further facts are revealed.

  14. Oh for some sports administrators with integrity who actually care about our athletes to be given that opportunity to do T&T proud.

  15. some one is lying tru there teeth yes.. badly

  16. In Trinidadian culture there is no such thing as accountability, you can be (and usually are) both indicted and exonerated in the courts of public and personal opinion at the same time.

    That is Trinidad justice in a nutshell!

  17. Waiting patiently for the other side of this story, because hmmmmm!

  18. This is not the same agent for the footballer who died in Poland. or some place in Europe. What is going on?

  19. Sean Powder

    I recall reading on July 3rd or 4th that a fundraiser was being held for 18 trialist, therefore I am not surprised that we have men stranded in UK, others in Istanbul probably without return tickets. I am not sure if this is how trials are handled in TnT, however my understanding is that airfare is the responsibility of the players and the clubs are responsible for food, local transportation and lodging. It is evident that the “scout” and players had not satisfied their obligation therefore the trip should have been rescheduled. Mr. Sosa you must stop the nonsense, if you are now in Turkey “sorting” out matters that you should have sorted since June, then I must believe the players version of the facts. I trust that you understand by you sorting now is an admission that the MONEY(budget) required was not in place, yet you departed Piarco. Unfortunately, our treatment of footballers is too often to strand them somewhere then rely on donations and/or the government to rescue the footballers. Why aren’t tennis, volleyball, and other athletes stranded?

  20. I am glad that Sosa was able to respond quickly given the different time zones but his story not adding up. I find it strangely coincidental that the same travel arrangements that he is claiming to have made is the same travel arrangements Sancho made. As Chandani said…2+2 is giving us 3

  21. Dion should be quick to make an official statement on this…Not lookin good for his brand at all

  22. Players should have never left without a full commitment from the agent or club that they are going to try it for. People like Sosa are crooks looking to make a quick dollar and exploit players. I hope things works out in favor of the players.

  23. Lasana.. Trials are quite pressurised. You do feel that you can’t afford to make errors. But there is nothing wrong with that because if you’re good you shouldn’t be making many errors anyway! They are mentally draining.. As a goalkeeper the most important thing was impressing the goalkeeping coach with sound technique and good work ethic. Then you make an impression on the manager with your tactical nous and leadership qualities.

  24. Time to come clean, cat out de bag arready Dion.

  25. Dion Sosa, your story like 2+2=3, it not adding up

  26. If tickets were purchased then why is it that only two are on their way? Coincidentally the two are the ones who got tickets from Brent Sancho>

  27. Dion Sosa you will give some more details later and I will do an update. Or you can answer as many questions as you can here

  28. Russell salt then! That is some real shit

  29. there is no way the boys panicked and called their families if evrything was alright! Then why were they needing to book into a new hotel? Additionally, YOU Mr Sosa should never have left them alone without resources to pay for their stay!!!

  30. Look at the glass as half full? Or is half empty?

  31. Lasana why you asking hard questions so?

  32. That’s unbelievable…just hope that they are safe. Crazy how lots of players from Africa go through the same thing with people who are not licensed agents and leave them for literally “dead”in Europe. Promising them and their families that they are taken care of and that they can land a contract. Sometimes the grass is not always greener on the other side.

  33. they are flying at 705 am to istanbul

  34. I spoke to the players just two or three hours ago. They hadn’t heard from you and two were coming on tickets from the Sport Ministry. They didn’t say anything changed.
    When last did you speak with them?

  35. a decision was made by me when i got to london so i decided to come across to turkey where i would have been more equipped to deal with the situation at hand i arrived on thurs and i bought 3 tickets that same night for 3 players who came fri morning and i booked the other 3 ob ba678 to istanbul for sat mrn what happened was the players panicked and called their families who made the situation worst when we were handling it so everyone be assured nothing happened all the boys are safe and things are good in turkey

  36. Some people were really shaken up Sosa. It took the Sport Ministry to help out too and pay their way. I was trying to reach you for comment.

  37. What was the nature of this little problem and why do the players seem confused by the turn of events Dion?

  38. i swear people in trinidad does real jump to conclusions yes no players were stranded we encounter a little problem in london and we were sorting it out so people calm down all the players are ok and the last 3 will be here by today and tomorrow

  39. That is when you come from this country called TNT for your ass…but hey we is Trini we will survive

  40. IN a trial, getting there is supposed to be the easy bit. Hope the boys are not too emotionally drained. You’ve been on a few Kelvin Jack…

  41. Can’t believe our boys going through stuff like this in this century

  42. More to the point, you don’t drag people thousands of miles unless you are sure of the arrangements.

  43. You can’t organise games via email and phone calls? Texts and whatsapp? Cause you sure as hell can’t try out for a football team via those methods?

  44. Well, Sosa would have been needed to organise the games and what not to be fair to him. The other seven players plus those who travelled from the US would have lost out too if he didn’t get to Turkey.

  45. “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.”

    So that you could be stranded in Turkey? These kids definitely need some sound advisers around them. They seem like they could get taken for any easy ride in pursuit of this dream.

    And Dion Sosa should’ve given up his plane seat for one of them. Not understanding how his presence at the trials is more valuable than theirs.

  46. But I am glad that the boys are still positive