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TTFA set to appoint obscure Belgian; ex-Bangladesh coach asked to take T&T to World Cup

The coach entrusted with taking Trinidad and Tobago to the Russia 2018 World Cup is not coming from South America. His last job was in Bangladesh!

In a bizarre turn of events, Wired868 understands that Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams is set to name 43-year-old Belgian Tom Saintfiet as head coach of the Soca Warriors at a 9am press conference tomorrow at the Marriot Hotel in Port of Spain.

Photo: Former Bangladesh football coach Tom Saintfiet. (Copyright BBC)
Photo: Former Bangladesh football coach Tom Saintfiet.
(Copyright BBC)

So, effectively, the local football body’s idea of an upgrade on outgoing coach Stephen Hart appears to be an obscure Belgian who has never coached professionally in Europe, was kicked out of Zimbabwe and Nigeria due to concerns about his quality, lasted six months in Yemen, only two matches in Tanzania and just left a team ranked 183 in the world by FIFA—which is 105 spots lower than Trinidad and Tobago, who are 78th.

Saintfiet’s best spell arguably came at youth level when he led Qatar to the 2005 FIFA Under-17 World Cup, which was that nation’s fifth appearance at that age group competition.

His record as a senior coach is much less impressive.

At Namibia, he enjoyed his longest appointment of nearly two years. The unheralded African nation was ranked 126 in the world when the Belgian landed and he took them to a high of 101, although they plummeted all the way to 128 by the time of his controversial departure in 2010.

Saintfiet stunned his Namibia FA employers when he was officially unveiled as head coach of Zimbabwe while in the midst of a four-year contract with the former nation.

Saintfiet was reportedly wooed by Zimbabwe’s offer of US$7,000 per month, which is less than half of Hart’s pay package and roughly one tenth of the market value for a top level coach in CONCACAF—recently departed Jamaica coach Winfried Schafer was supposedly paid in excess of US$50,000 per month.

Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart (left) and Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams enjoy each other's company during a press conference at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Port of Spain on 19 May 2016. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart (left) and Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams enjoy each other’s company during a press conference at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Port of Spain on 19 May 2016.
(Courtesy Wired868)

The Belgian quickly regretted his move. The Zimbabwe government twice refused its FA’s applications for his work permit—amidst a public outcry that he was no better than the local, Norman Mapeza, he replaced—and Saintfiet was forced to leave the country and beg for his old job back.

“[The Zimbabwe FA] promised me that they will talk to the NFA and it was supposed to happen sooner than it did,” Saintfiet was quoted in the Namibia Sun. “The situation forced me to lie and for that I have to say sorry to the Namibian football-loving people, the NFA and the players as well…

“We signed a contract […] and because I terminated it I have to pay them and I’m doing everything I can so that can be done. What happened was so wrong and I would love to come back and coach Namibia again.”

The Namibia FA did not take him up on the offer.

From then on, Saintfiet lasted six games in Ethiopia and barely four months as Nigeria technical director—allegedly because the Nigeria Ministry of Sport felt the country had many more competent locals and refused to support the move.

Next, he spent two months at Malawi and less than a year at Togo along with some largely anonymous stints at the odd African football club—he lasted just two games at Tanzanian club, Young Africans FC, where he was accused of failing to enforce discipline.

Photo: Former Bangladesh coach Tom Saintfiet. (Copyright Ethiosports)
Photo: Former Bangladesh coach Tom Saintfiet.
(Copyright Ethiosports)

In April 2016, Saintfiet pleaded for a second chance as Ethiopia National Senior Team coach.

“I don’t care about the money or a contract,” Saintfiet told Eithosports. “I would just like to help change fortunes and start to build things up on a solid foundation. I’m ready to start immediately!”

Ethiopia did not bite and he ended up in a three-month contract from Bangladesh instead.

So, while Hart was preparing the Warriors—who were unbeaten at the time—to seal their place in the CONCACAF Hex against Guatemala, Saintfiet was attempting to take the “Bengal Tigers” past Bhutan and into the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup.

Bangladesh drew goalless at home to Bhutan before falling 3-1 away.  The only other outing of Saintfiet’s tenure as Bangladesh coach was a 5-0 friendly defeat away to the Maldives.

Bhutan and the Maldives are ranked 154 and 176 in the world respectively.

Saintfiet’s record in Europe is even less illustrious. The only fully professional team on his home continent to ever hire the Belgian was Finnish club RoPS, who once employed Trinidad and Tobago players Ataulla Guerra and Jamal Gay.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Ataullah Guerra (left) in action for Finland Premier League team RoPS in 2013. (Courtesy RoPS)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Ataullah Guerra (left) in action for Finland Premier League team RoPS in 2013.
(Courtesy RoPS)

RoPS sacked Saintfiet during their pre-season in April 2008.

Somehow, the obscure Belgian’s CV ended up on the desk of the TTFA’s technical committee as a possible replacement for Hart, who was twice listed on a CONCACAF Coach for Year shortlist in the last years, is the only coach to take Trinidad and Tobago to two Gold Cup quarterfinal berths and led Canada to the 2008 Gold Cup semifinal.

On Monday night, the TTFA’s board of directors selected him as their next head coach, as he beat out competition that included Colombian Luis Fernando Suarez, who took Ecuador to the second round of the Germany 2006 World Cup and steered Honduras to the Brazil 2014 World Cup.

Former Trinidad and Tobago captain David Nakhid was the only local believed to have applied for the vacant job while Englishmen Terry Fenwick and Ricky Hill, Serbian Zoran Vranes and Colombian Francisco Maturana were said to be among the applicants.

The board, according to a source, was informed that Saintfiet was bright, innovative and extremely affordable. It is uncertain exactly how much information was given on the three coaches before the decision. But, in the end, the board voted for Saintfiet.

Photo: Former Ecuador and Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suarez. (Copyright Alchetron)
Photo: Former Ecuador and Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suarez.
(Copyright Alchetron)

The current TTFA board of directors comprises: John-Williams (president), Joanne Salazar, Ewing Davis and Allan Warner (vice-presidents), Samuel Saunders (Central FA), Sherwyn Dyer (Eastern Counties Football Union), Karanjabari Williams (Northern FA), Richard Quan Chan (Southern FA), Anthony Moore (Tobago FA), Joseph Taylor (Trinidad and Tobago Football Referees Association), Sharon O’Brien (Women’s League Football), Wayne Cunningham (Eastern FA) and Dexter Skeene (TT Pro League).

The TTFA technical committee consists of: Skeene (chairman), Dr Alvin Henderson (vice-chairman), Bertille St Clair (former World Youth Cup coach), Errol Lovell (former national goalkeeper), Jinelle James (ex-national player and current administrator) and Muhammad Isa (technical director).

It is uncertain how many members attended yesterday board’s meeting.

The TTFA board is believed to have made a second coaching appointment last night for the Women’s National Senior Team. In this case, they voted for the well qualified former Italy and Canada national women’s coach, Carolina Morace, who has already visited Trinidad.

Saintfiet must now prepare the Warriors for 2017 Gold Cup play off action against Suriname and Haiti on 4 and 8 January 2017 respectively as well as World Cup qualifying action against Panama and Mexico on 24 and 28 March respectively.

It will be the first time the Belgian has ever coached a team ranked in the top 100 FIFA nations in the world.

Photo: Former Bangladesh football coach Tim Saintfiet is reportedly set to be named Trinidad and Tobago head coach.
Photo: Former Bangladesh football coach Tim Saintfiet is reportedly set to be named Trinidad and Tobago head coach.

About Lasana 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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971 comments

  1. The TTFA at that time didn’t even recognise his application… That was the point of that question. 😉

  2. ..Admires anybody who willing to pay him evidently..

  3. Colin, all this setta spin. De man admire and like all de countries where he looking tuh get ah wuk.

  4. T&T not serious about making the next World Cup we content with being a second rate

  5. Meanwhile, a few months ago, many were cock sure that Latapy was going brought to be Hart’s replacement.

    Hmmm

  6. We should do a poll of who here thinks Hergé going be success or a failure. I vote epic fail.

  7. The man is a proven failure and DJW es in burro mad grande for wasting my hard earned tax dollars to pay this man…… If the man is so good why didn’t he hire him as W Connection head coach instead….. Eh Bass Cleff , Anselm LeBourne Timothy Rochford ………… Earl Mango Pierre them really good yes….. Setta bandwagon Red Army supporters trying TO BRING IN A FRAUD to coach my beloved warriors

  8. I wanna see the team he gonna pick ??

  9. Is games d ttfa on… Literally… Set ah crazy people. Between dem an d wicb… Idk who’s better at making a mess of the only thing we HV going for us… Sports…

  10. Anselm LeBourne… I waiting yuh kno…let me see anyone of them in the stadium in ah red jersey if we win especially Earl Mango Pierre and he partner… I’ll kick dem down the stairs. Lololol…

  11. So most Trinbagonians are mightily upset that our Dictator president of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA ) David John Williams picked a no name coach from Belgium to be the Soca Warriors new head coach, but rather than support the new head coach, most Trinbagonians do what the do best was to criticize the man befire he even lift a finger or drop a ball. Many times Trinbagonians “don’t know that they don’t know and when you tell then that they don’t know, they still don’t know that they don’t know.” Rather than give man an opportunity to try and fail many Trinbagonians already doomed the man to failure. Sometimes I wonder if many Trinbagonians were born on the Noah’s Ark and they know everything? I hope the man takes the soca warriors to the 2018 World because that would be great for our country.

    • People as the buyers of the service or experience own and earn the right to be critical. People want results! And they feel like they’ve not gotten much. The way the process has been handled will also cause people to have concerns. Change of any type is painful and when it is managed as this one was people will get anxious. I don’t see his fit with us either – he has not shown success anywhere else and what concerned me the most is that he did not work out well in Africa and we are asking him to come to TT where he will be coaching a similar demographic. You right people don’t know what they don’t know but the TTFA leadership has a responsibility to be clearer about criteria and assessment. Frankly I’ve lived in eight countries and TT people are not as critical and they need to be . TT people are more accepting than Americans, Canadians, Nigerians, Frenchmen

    • Just not in this case right? Brian Harry

    • Anselm LeBourne I dont know what you mean? If you are referring to my last sentence then I suggest you place it in the context of my full answer. I think people need to be more objective and more critical using objective data. The new coach has his resume online and it does not give people comfort that he’s good for us now . People want better and they want results . This is very simple ! If our people were truly critical a lot of the shit that happens in TT simply won’t

    • But at least give the man a chance to fail nah. Most of allyuh already dig the man grave. What happens if he succeeds? Allyuh ever thought Crawford could win a gold medal in the 1976 Olympics?

    • Anselm LeBourne yes we all knew that Crawford had the potential because it had been demonstrated many times over . There were many RINE he was the top NCAA Sprinter. Poor example , so it helps me make the point! Thanks . Where is the evidence of potential with this new coach? Yiu missing a simple point – people are fed up with underperformance and they want better. I’m glad that you are patient about it

    • Brian Harry yes Crawford had potential but he was not even picked to be a finalist in the Olympics my friend. Did you know that? War Earl Mango Pierre does say again “dem fellas good yes “

    • Anselm LeBourne that’s not true! I do know that history well. None the less that’s a side point. People have a right to demand more and that’s my point! I’m happy that they are starting to ask for more . I’m done on this

    • How come DJW did not say he has the confidence that Tom would take us to the World Cup. Instead of giving him a public ultimatum.

    • Timothy Rochford that’s the strange piece to this puzzle . He gives the man a public ultimatum and we as the PAYING public should sit back and have confidence?? I don’t get it! I’m glad TT folks are speaking up for once

    • Give the man a chance to “fail”? Like you drinking babash with your morning coffee or what? DJW is rubbish …his appointments are rubbish…his philosophy is rubbish …and you are talking ..yes you guessed it ….rubbish!!

    • Malik Johnson yes you are right. I dint know where or how he arrived with that “interesting” suggestion.

  12. Who sleeping with who here boy….ttfa trying to kill our ambitions….

  13. Our problem in a nutshell is that our football is not good. Let’s not try to hold anyone else responsible for that …

  14. hahahahahah Mr. Live Wire is ah top of the line debator eh and I am positively certain that he won all the debating competitions back in his schooldays eh.

    • We are a very special kind of people eh and we always take everything for a joke at least some of us , but just imagine if a Tsuami was really coming to hit our sweet country eh, you know somebody wudda organize a “Tsuami” party eh, the same as when they had organized the parties for the curfew back in 1990 eh hahahaha Them really good yes.

    • And just look at some of the comments when Mr. Live Wire posts his stories eh, especially when the new Coach got hired eh, all I was doing was laughing yes because we really like the satire, pecong, and the jokes eh, and the Coach didn’t even get his chance to prove himself as yet but is plenty pounding in his tail. hahahahaha Them really good yes

    • Yes it surely is and I just love to pound meh players back in meh Coaching days eh just to make them get better eh, it is like the Japanesse father who always turns his back on his son when he is speaking to him because he doesn’t want him to see his love and his emotions for him, he has to remain the strict disciplinarian that he is eh, and I know that some folks surely gets upset with me for calling KJ Mr. bound not to score and our team the Soca Worries and I am positively certain that maybe they think that I am the one who did the picture with the three fellas with the big stones waiting for KJ to eh LOL but I am not so creative but there are the ones in our sweet country who have that kind of talent, You all remember the days back then when yuh friends and supporters would call you a shit hound loud, loud, when yuh playing shit eh and telling the Coach to take you off eh and going forward yuh better brush up on your skills eh because the girls pounding you the same way and that is how our standards use to raise hence the reason why I am always calling for our football to return to the communities and for the fields to be fix in a very quick timing so that we can also save plenty of our youths with the power of the football especially in Diego Martin,Morvant , San Juan, Arima, Enterprise, South areas and other areas where the young folks are crying out for our help eh and I know that most definitely we shall rise again.

    • Most definitely Earl Mango Pierre and I assure you we are doing our part in Arima with Sports and Games FC Santa Rosa

  15. Earl Mango Pierre you is the Constructive type and lasana is the bachannalist nah ???

  16. Hence the reason why ah love meh wired volley 868 eh, we have the bacchanalist group and the constructive serious business group eh and laughter is very good for the soul. hahahahahaha

  17. Allyuh really good yes..put a smile on meh hassled face..lol

  18. I dont no wat d hell dey bring he here for give terry to job

  19. David Gintoki Aguillera And we will be needing a Lawyer for the “Players Association” to eh so put in a good word for me with Reyna Kowlessar eh LOL

  20. Lmaooo!!! Ah hope is the prestigious presidents and not them inflated ones lol

  21. hahahahaha No problem et all eh and you will be getting paid with meh dead men presidents eh. David Gintoki Aguillera

  22. Once u paying me body guard fee uncle Earl Mango Pierre we in business

  23. Ah know ent but most of the times I am misunderstood eh because I like meh pecong, satire, chaining up meh people eh, but when I am ready they won’t like to see the other side of midnight eh. Them really good yes. hahahahaha

  24. Ttff you are all major fucking idiots not to higher Suarez or vranes to choose this quack

  25. Shaka Hislop said it well. If a local with the same CV east Saintfiet had applied he word not have been shortlisted far less selected.

  26. Since Mr. John-Williams plans to fire whomever after we lose those two upcoming games, I guess it really doesn’t matter who is the coach, yes? Sad…

  27. Unless we get our players including our women to the standards that is needed to compete with the real professional players abroad eh, from the youth to senior level, no matter which Coach is hired to coach our national teams we will continue spinning top in the mud, because the problems with our football isn’t with the Coaches, the problems are with our players. Them really good yes.

    • The players do not exist in a vacuum. It’s a relatively young team that needs a coach who knows how to communicate and coach young players and an administration which will give the coach the time and the tools to be successful. And yes the players are responsible for coming to camp relatively fit and be prepared to hit the ground running. We don’t have time for coddling and disciplining players.

    • Gerard Johnson but at the professional and when players representing their sweet countries they all should already be Coached and understands the subject eh, the only thing the professional and the country Coaches should be doing is implementing the game plan for them to win the games, but in our sweet country there are players for example Mr. Bound not to score who cannot collect or even pass the ball properly and I can also include others eh including our goal keepers. Them really good yes.

    • Earl Mango Pierre The funny thing is successive coaches believe they can make him into a forward because of his physique and continue to try even though he lacks all the instincts of a forward. So I don’t blame the guy. I blame coaches who refuse to accept the obvious and continue to play him in a position for which he is obviously unsuited.

    • I agree with you 1000% especially when he don’t have anymore midfield/playmakers like Russell The Magician Latapy, Otis Whitley, Kerwin Hardest Jemmot, just naming a few who can give him the service that he needs to score the goals eh and all he has to do is get in the right position on the field or as Coach Hart said once the opponents are marking him with two or three players our players that is free should always be capitalizing eh, but it seems that they doesn’t really understand the subject. Them really good yes.

    • Another problem I see in our sweet country is that we have to be there for our young players that comes from the single family homes where their moms are trying to make the ends meet especially if she have other children and many times these talented players doesn’t have the funds to attended practice be it the national youth teams or their teams, they cannot afford the right equipment to play the games especially in the wet season, they are not eating the right foods hence the reason why I will keep on calling for the “Players Association” that is needed so badly in our sweet country so that we can do our part with respect to being there for them with seminars and other important things that they should know to help them along the way in becoming a real professional, the Association that I speak about isn’t only about defending their rights and to stop the exploitation it is more bigger than that eh so I am still waiting very patiently for Gordon Pierre for us to get the ball rolling eh. Them really good yes.

    • Earl Mango Pierre call a meeting soon I want to be a part of this players association

  28. ..Like you study under Machiavelli. That sounds like a viable TFFA plan..