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Sosa: Turkey-based trialists are doing well; I’d do the same thing again

“I would not  have done anything differently (if I had to do it again),” Trinidad and Tobago football scout and unregistered agent Dion Sosa told Wired868. “I made a decision (to leave some players behind) based on the resources that I had in London.

“I felt it was the best choice to get across to Turkey where I could (better) help everybody.”

Photo: Former San Juan Jabloteh midfielder Jean-Luc Rochford (right) battles for possession with Police FC captain Todd Ryan during a Pro League encounter in the 2013/14 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 in the 2013/14 season.
(Courtesy Allan V. Crane/ Wired868)

Ten Trinidad and Tobago footballers, aged between 19 and 24, left the Piarco International Airport on Wednesday July 15 with the dream of catching the eye of European scouts during pre-arranged trial matches in Turkey. The players paid Sosa between $11,000 and $25,000 for the opportunity.

But six players were forced to stay behind in London while Sosa and four young men completed the journey.

Bookings were made for half of those six players, Leston Paul, Weslie John and Leon Whyle, to leave for Turkey on Friday morning. The remaining three, Jean-Luc Rochford, Dwight Quintero and Keon Russell, went to the Trinidad and Tobago High Commission in London and said they were stranded without plane tickets or money for accommodation and meals.

Their ordeal—and there were tearful relatives—lasted for only a few hours before the Ministry of Sport stepped in to pay for the players to get to Turkey.

However, Sosa insisted that it was much ado about nothing. He said his contingent got to London and discovered their airfare to Turkey was much steeper than he anticipated.

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)

Sosa said he decided to leave half the group behind because he was afraid ticket prices might raise again and he felt he would be better equipped to handle the emergency from Turkey.

“When I came across to Turkey, we pooled our money and got some money from the Turkish agent (who is hosting the Trinidad and Tobago group) to get the additional tickets,” said Sosa. “If I stayed in London, I would have been a dud because I didn’t know anyone there and I wouldn’t have been able to coordinate things properly.

“I made the decision based on the money I had too because the price might have risen again and more players would have been stuck. That was the best I could do based on the money I had that night.

“I had already booked the three boys to come up. But then (Keisha Rochford-Hawkins) called from the High Commission and that is when it went out of my hands.”

Sosa conceded that, although he made bookings for Rochford, Quintero and Russell, he did not pay for them. But he claimed that he sourced the airfare in Turkey and the boys would have been fine, even if the Sport Ministry had not intervened.

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)

“When I realised everyone wanted to jump up and run the show, I said okay let them do it,” said Sosa. “So I just rocked back and let them take all the PR they want. They’re not helping Grenadians, they’re helping Trinidadians.”

But why did their trip end up in such disarray in the first place? And why did the young footballers endure such uncertainty after spending so much money?

“In a nutshell, what happened is a lot of guys didn’t pay their full money,” said Sosa, who calculated the trip at roughly $18,000 for airfare and $9,000 for accommodation. “I decided that everybody had to go because I couldn’t leave anybody back. So I paid for Leston Paul and three-quarter of Dwight’s ticket and a portion of Jean-Luc’s ticket and so on.

“But when we got to London, it was Eid and the price of the tickets (to Turkey) rose from what I saw online. It went from 300 Euros to close to 1000 Euros.

“So I made a decision based on finances I had that I could only bring three guys and I would bring the others on the next day.”

Photo: Central FC midfielder Leston Paul (left) tries to keep a grip on W Connection playmaker Hashim Arcia during the 2015 Caribbean Club Championship final. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Central FC midfielder Leston Paul (left) tries to keep a grip on W Connection playmaker Hashim Arcia during the 2015 Caribbean Club Championship final.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Sosa shrugged off the suggestion that he should have purchased the tickets from London to Istanbul in advance.

“I saw the price online and I said when we get to Gatwick we would purchase tickets on the counter,” he said. “It is nothing new. It is only because it was a holiday weekend that there were problems.”

Long before the players got to London, though, Sosa admitted there were financial problems. Two commercial sponsors, NLCB and I-Tech, contributed an undisclosed sum but there was still enough to meet the inflated cost.

“At first, it was about (TT) $11,000 to get to Turkey and (TT) $9,000 for accommodation,” he said, “but we lost our initial booking and the prices were inflated.”

Sosa said cancelling the trip was not an option.

“Keane McIvor, Phillip Borde, (Xavier) Rajpaul, Jelani (Peters) and (Brent) Sam had already bought their plane tickets by then,” said Sosa, who revealed that Rajpaul left the National Under-23 Team before its final 2015 Pan American Games fixture. “That is five tickets at an average of $11,000 to $12,000 each. They would have lost their money.

Photo: St Ann's Rangers captain Jelani Peters (right) tries to catch up to Caledonia AIA winger Nathan Lewis during a previous Pro League clash. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: St Ann’s Rangers captain Jelani Peters (right) tries to catch up to Caledonia AIA winger Nathan Lewis during a previous Pro League clash.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

“And we sent up 11,000 Euros for accommodation via Western Union and wire transfers for transport and our two week itinerary. That money would have been lost too.

“I would have had to reimburse everybody because everything was non-refundable. And nobody would have trusted me again because they would say my word isn’t worth nothing.”

In London, Russell handed over 600 Euros but still got left behind.

“The reason I left Keon (Russell) with the other boys is that he was familiar with England,” said Sosa, “because he travelled there before with Alcons.”

Russell, a 24-year-old former Caledonia AIA midfielder, told Wired868 last week that he could not figure out what happened. None of the three players heard from Sosa on Friday morning as they neared check-out time from their hotel.

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.

So, they contacted Rochford’s relative at the High Commission. Rochford, a 24-year-old former two-time World Youth Cup midfielder, had never met her before.

“All of a sudden, everyone was calling me,” said Sosa. “She started to call Foreign Affairs and this one and that one and the whole thing went mad and was exaggerated. I don’t think even the players realised what was going to happen…

“Then people decided they want to jump in and looking for political mileage, so I let them go ahead. I already had the boys booked.”

So did Sosa pay for their tickets before the Government? He said he did not.

“We had the money over here,” he said, “but the problem was getting to the airport, as it was three hours away.”

Sosa said he still has not discussed the London fiasco with Rochford, Quintero and Russell.

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.

“I don’t know what happened because I am trying to focus on the football,” he said. “Somehow, they made their way to the High Commission and that is when the whole thing went haywire. I haven’t brought it up with them yet because I want them to focus on football.

“I don’t want them to be distracted in any way.”

Sosa said the players are enjoying their stay in Turkey. They have played two games against Iranian top flight clubs and lost the first outing 2-0 before winning the second match 2-1 with goals from Sam and Quintero.

The Sosa XI, who are led on the field by a Turkish coach, will play two more fixtures against teams from Dubai and Turkey respectively.

“There has been interest in about five or six players so far but I don’t want them to read about it yet,” said Sosa. “We hope the numbers can go even higher in our next games. I hope for half or more of the 14 guys to get through and sign.”

Photo: San Jan Jabloteh striker Brent Sam (right) prepares to drive the ball past Club Sando defender Andre Phillip in the 2015 TTFA FA Trophy quarterfinals. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: San Jan Jabloteh striker Brent Sam (right) prepares to drive the ball past Club Sando defender Andre Phillip in the 2015 TTFA FA Trophy quarterfinals.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

The scout hopes the ends justify the means. But he did promise to try and make things right on his return home.

“I am grateful (to the Ministry of Sport) and I plan to pay them back their money,” said Sosa. “I don’t want to get into that too much. I will answer further questions when I get home.

“I have already talked to the parents and apologised to them. Right now, we are focused on football.

“If my answers were still not good enough, I will deal with that when the time comes. Right now, I want to focus on football.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago scout Dion Sosa (centre) at a benefit match for deceased former national footballer Akeem Adams.
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago scout Dion Sosa (centre) at a benefit match for deceased former national footballer Akeem Adams.

Dion Sosa’s trialists: Raheem Belgrave, Weslie John, Kevin Seabrun, Jelani Peters, Keon Russell, Leon Whyle, Leston Paul, Jean-Luc Rochford, Keane McIvor, Xavier Rajpaul, Micah Lewis, 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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21 comments

  1. I’m sorry, but Sosa is an idiot… and I don’t say that lightly. I am one who has defended him in the past (most notably in the Levi Garcia fiasco involving Central FC) and with this latest incident I urged people to wait until more facts came out. Now that the facts have come out he comes across very arrogant, (the actual term that comes to mind is “wrong and strong”) and incapable of owning up to his very silly and avoidable mistakes. He earns the “idiot” label by his bone-headed decision to purchase tickets at the counter… who does that??? Everybody knows that in order to get the best prices you need to book ahead. Heck… in order to get a seat period… you don’t wait until you get to the counter. That is pure madness. Not only that, but then he arrogantly states that this is “normal”… yeah, if you don’t know the the hell you’re doing it would seem normal… or if you from some sort of Kafkaesque society. Wait, nevermind. And then to top it all off he states that he wouldn’t do anything differently? How about communicating the plan clearly to the players you planned to leave behind If you insist on doubling down on the last minute purchase of the tickets… at least recognize that you failed in your duty to properly chaperone these young men who were under your ward. Epic fail on all accounts.

  2. Here’s some sraight talk. Mistakes were made on this trip by all involved. Some poor planning by Dion Sosa, which was precipitated by several players not paying their financial commitments in time and in full. Dion was likely left in a no win situation, cancel the trip and kill the dreams of players who paid in full and who likely put theirs and their family’s life-savings into this trip, or carry-on, with hopes that things will work out once he makes it to Turkey and work his connections there. Unclear and incomplete communication between Dion and the players left behind in London also appear to contributed to this unfortunate series of event. The players did not hear from Dion and with hotel check out time nearing, they panic and reached out to family members at the TnT High Commission in London. The High Commission, rather than working directly with Dion and possibly housing the boys for a day or two while he worked his connections in Turkey, created a PR mess by getting the Ministry of Sports involved. I’m happy that in spite of the unfortunate series of events, the boys were able to make it over to Turkey to give their dreams of playing professional football in Europe a solid go. Dion Sosa, I support your efforts in trying to create employment opportunities for my Trini brothers. However, you’ve got to do a better job at planning these activities, especially when dealing with young players. I assume that this Turkish footballing fiesta and others, occur about the same time each year. You now have a full year to work with future players to ensure that all $$$ are collected in full months ahead of the event. This will allow for flights and hotels to be booked well ahead of departure dates and obviously minimize the likelihood of a repeat of these unfortunate series of events. Lasana Liburd – thanks for following up on this story and for giving us a chance to get Dion’s perspective on things. Nice work.

  3. Dais exactly what someone alluded to on the article…hhmm eh

  4. wha dem poor boys goh do?..they following their dreams…and once people are following dreams folk are there as sanke oil salesmen

  5. Oh Yes Aaron, I’m not excusing the shortcoming in the arrangement at all…I said that very early on

  6. That may be true Savitri, but this is not a connecting flight to Barbados through Grenada. This is simply poor management

  7. Lasana, from the article, his answers were far too flippant

  8. Sometimes Shaun, it’s far cheaper to buy tickets from London, but he coulda used an agent there anyway…or get the agent in Turkey to make the arrangements.

  9. Who buys a ticket to London.. then purchases a separate ticket to wherever?..lol
    #Trickydadians

  10. what a shambolic disgraceful joke … young footballers and their families should be warned about this guy

  11. Poor planning and execution a la TTFA. Heart in the right place I guess but has to be better organised. This could have ended badly for the young men. Thankfully it didn’t.

  12. Mistakes are what people learn from and improve but this guy is from a different planet….good luck in the future Sir and anyone who would trust you to use the same Blue print with their kids….

  13. This just boils down to poor planning and management. How do you intend to go Turkey but plan to buy the second leg of the trip when you reach London? That makes no sense to me. What is also upsetting about this is the nonchalant way he is behaving about the issue in this article

  14. like i said: Meanwhile, some African footballer would have found a box and slept outside the training pitch and eat Ramen and tuna till they get sign.
    BOTTOM LINE is this: WHAT OTHER SHOW IT HAVE ON THE STAGE?
    Who else is setting up links? MLS? college schols? STEUPS.
    Dion Sosa breds…i know yuh heart in the right place bruh. you hustle harder than anybody else in the game right about now. who vex, loss

    • Good night sir. You don’t know me and I don’t know you. But with all due respect, think about if it was your son, your brother, your family. The idea is not the thing being questioned but the manner of how it was carried out. If dion is your friend then fine. But this is not down south or north this is a different country sir. Consider the mental of these young men hoping to let their dreams come true.

    • i have. and, with all due respect, what i am saying here is simply this: it’s London. not Bagdad or Kiev. The boys weren’t in a war zone. i got kids. of course i want them to have three square meals and a dry bed at night.
      but sometimes it takes trick to make luck. plain talk: if it was easy, anyone could do it. there are not set paths to the next level. every pro you talk to will give you a different story of how they made it

    • Exactly. Not a problem. Agreed. So no hard feelings towards Mr sosa. I am happy for all the youths including my brother. Fact is, they are all there now and I wish them all the best

    • my point exactly! and no hard feelings whatsoever.
      you should see me defend my kids! total respect. family first

  15. Hhmm…I am surprised if he’s had this sort of trip before that he doesn’t have a regular agent to make travel arrangements etc. The stories still don’t gel….the 3 boys left behind said they didn’t know what was happening, did he communicate his position to the team?

  16. My God is the boss. No further comments right now…