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Saintfiet allegedly knocks Sancho’s third world mentality; Central block players from T&T training

Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Tom Saintfiet has accused Central FC managing director and ex-World Cup 2006 defender Brent Sancho of displaying a lesser mentality than developing nation, Bangladesh—his former employers—after the pair clashed over the release of players for national training, which began on Thursday 15 December at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.

Saintfiet selected 29 players for his first training squad—Ma Pau Stars midfielder Elton John was added to the initial 28 players. However, none of his three Central FC call-ups took part in training yesterday evening or this morning.

Photo: LA Galaxy coach Bruce Arena (centre) congratulates Central FC custodian Jan-Michael Williams, after their 1-1 tie in CONCACAF Champions League action in August 2015. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: LA Galaxy coach Bruce Arena (centre) congratulates Central FC custodian Jan-Michael Williams, after their 1-1 tie in CONCACAF Champions League action in August 2015.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams, who has been the regular first choice for the Soca Warriors over the past four years, and two-time World Youth Cup midfielder Sean De Silva both turned up. But, according to interim assistant coach Jamaal Shabazz, the two Central players informed the coaching staff that they were instructed not to train until Sancho authorised it.

Bustling Central midfielder Nathaniel “Spanish” Garcia, who is the elder brother of Warriors winger Levi Garcia, did not show up at all. Otherwise, the only absentee was John, who had not yet been informed of his selection due to an administrative mix-up.

“Jan and De Silva came but did not train,” Shabazz told Wired868. “They told the coach they could not train and that Brent said he will come and talk to the coach [first]. Brent came [after the training had started] and did not stay to speak to the coach. Garcia did not show up.”

The situation remained unchanged this morning with the three Central players and John all missing out. It is uncertain whether team manager Azaad Khan has contacted the Stars player yet.

The tension between the new national coach and the Pro League’s defending champions was days in the making, as Sancho allegedly took exception to Saintfiet’s decision to have mandatory training sessions in the midst of the domestic season and outside of the FIFA match window.

Photo: Former Sport Minister and Central FC managing director and chairman Brent Sancho. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Former Sport Minister and Central FC managing director and chairman Brent Sancho.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

On Wednesday, Saintfiet, Shabazz and Khan met representatives from the Pro League clubs but Sancho did not turn up. Khan, according to Shabazz, called Sancho on the phone in the presence of the room to clarify his stance regarding the team’s training schedule.

“[Sancho] explained that he was down to only 17 players,” said Shabazz. “And Tom got angry and said [Central] were not sticking to an agreement made with the Pro League about the release of players, long before he came to Trinidad. And [Saintfiet] said even in a developing country like Bangladesh, they are more serious about their national team.”

Shabazz said the 10 Pro League clubs agreed, at the start of the season, to release players for international duty when required to help the Russia 2018 World Cup campaign and not to postpone matches, so as to ensure an early end to the competition in February 2017.

“As clubs, we had an agreement that even for the FIFA window we will not stop the league,” said Shabazz. “And once the players were required for national duty, clubs would play without their national players.”

The rushed, abbreviated format of the 2016/17 competition is meant to facilitate a switch in the Pro League’s schedule, which will revert from April to December from next year onwards.

Photo: Central FC captain Darren Mitchell (centre) shoots through a crowd of Defence Force players during Pro League action at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 14 October 2016. (Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)
Photo: Central FC captain Darren Mitchell (centre) shoots through a crowd of Defence Force players during Pro League action at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 14 October 2016.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

The change means the Pro League will avoid fixtures around the Carnival and Christmas periods while, ironically, the main beneficiaries are likely to be teams who participate in the CONCACAF Champions League—like Central FC—who will now be facing North and Central American opposition in mid-season rather than pre-season form.

Saintfiet, according to Shabazz, agreed to allow his players to participate in Pro League games on Friday and Sunday but has still demanded they train on mornings on both days. From Tuesday, the national team players enter camp and will not be allowed to join their clubs at all.

Wired868 understands at least one of the three Central players was unaware that he was obliged to train with the national team and suggested, through an intermediary, that Sancho claimed to have agreed a compromise with Saintfiet. The special arrangement, according to the player, would have allowed them to skip national sessions on Thursday and Friday and enter camp after their Tuesday game.

Shabazz insisted that no such pact was in place between the national team and Central. It means De Silva, Garcia and Williams may be forced to choose between the two parties, unless either Saintfiet or Sancho gives way.

However, Central operations manager Kevin Harrison said the the league leaders and defending champions were sticking to their guns.

Photo: Central FC operations manager Kevin Harrison is also the former Advisor to ex-Sport Minister Brent Sancho. (Copyright Lime.TT)
Photo: Central FC operations manager Kevin Harrison is also the former Advisor to ex-Sport Minister Brent Sancho.
(Copyright Lime.TT)

He said the club explained their position to the trio, which is that they would be allowed to have “a few sessions” under Saintfiet in the coming week but will not be released until Christmas Eve, which is on the eve of the national team’s departure for Nicaragua.

Harrison suggested that their extra outings for Central should be a benefit to the Warriors.

“Players will be released from 24th December,” Harrison told Wired868. “However, we also agreed that they can join the camp for a few sessions before that. Obviously they will be more match fit than the players who are in the training camp. And Mr Saintfiet will be able to watch them in competitive action, unlike those in camp…

“Brent told Sean [De Silva] and Jan-Michael [Williams] to tell Saintfiet that we would allow them to train on several occasions over the next week.”

Harrison disagreed with Shabazz’s interpretation of the Pro League’s agreement with the Soca Warriors.

“There seems to be some confusion here. Pro League clubs agreed to play through FIFA windows even when players were with the national team. In fact, I believe it was Brent who proposed this. That decision did not obligate clubs to release players unilaterally outside of FIFA windows.

“While we wish to remain as supportive as possible to the national head coach, we also have three Pro League games in the coming week.”

Photo: Central FC forward Kenwyne Jones (second from right) is congratulated by midfielder Sean De Silva (second from left) after his decisive goal against W Connection during Pro League action at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 12 December 2016. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Central FC forward Kenwyne Jones (second from right) is congratulated by midfielder Sean De Silva (second from left) after his decisive goal against W Connection during Pro League action at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 12 December 2016.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

The actual Pro League clause reads: “All teams have agreed to play their matches through the FIFA international windows without any breaks once matches are not carded on the actual FIFA Match Day.”

Harrison pointed the finger of blame squarely at the national football team’s management for Garcia’s failure to turn up to meet Saintfiet on Thursday evening.

“The only request we received [for our players to join the national team] did not give training times,” said Harrison.  “Garcia [who lives in Mon Repos] arrived for our training [on Thursday] unaware of when national training was taking place. We read it in the papers!

“It made no sense for him to travel home after our training and then travel back in the evening. Jan-Michael [Williams] was asked to explain this to Saintfiet.”

The “Couva Sharks”, who have a six point lead atop the standings, face fifth placed Club Sando this evening from 6pm in the opening game of a double header at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva. Police FC and W Connection clash from 8pm in the second fixture.

Photo: Defence Force striker Devorn Jorsling (left) chases Central FC midfielder Nathaniel Garcia during the Digicel Charity Shield on 10 September 2016. Central won 3-1 from kicks from the penalty mark after a 2-2 regulation time draw. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Defence Force striker Devorn Jorsling (left) chases Central FC midfielder Nathaniel Garcia during the Digicel Charity Shield on 10 September 2016.
Central won 3-1 from kicks from the penalty mark after a 2-2 regulation time draw.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Central are due to face face second from bottom, Morvant Caledonia United, on Tuesday evening. Morvant Caledonia will also be without national goalkeeper Marvin Phillip.

Of course, the hardest hit Pro League club is second place W Connection who have released Daneil Cyrus, Hughtun Hector, Alvin Jones and Maurice Forde to the national team.

In other national football news, Saintfiet will have to do without Belgium-based midfielder Khaleem Hyland for next month’s 2017 Gold Cup playoffs against Suriname and Haiti on 4 and 8 January respectively.

Hyland’s employers, KV Westerlo, have refused to release the midfielder, who returned to the top flight Belgium club with a hamstring injury after their last World Cup qualifier against Honduras on 15 November. Russia-based defender Sheldon Bateau has also been denied the chance to join the squad.

Clubs are not obliged to release players for this month’s friendlies away to Nicaragua on 27 and 30 December or next month’s competitive affairs, as the games all fall outside the FIFA international match window.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Khaleem Hyland (centre) roars during Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying action in Guatemala City on 13 November 2015. Hyland scored in a 2-1 win for the "Soca Warriors." (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Khaleem Hyland (centre) roars during Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying action in Guatemala City on 13 November 2015.
Hyland scored in a 2-1 win for the “Soca Warriors.”
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Wired868 understands that Saintfiet still hopes to have AZ Alkmaar (Netherlands) winger Levi Garcia and Dagenham & Redbridge (England) midfielder Andre Boucaud available but is not assured of landing either player.

The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) is understood to be waiting for confirmation from Louisville City FC (USA) goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh and RC Lens (France) midfielder John Bostock. Bostock agreed to represent the Warriors, under former coach Stephen Hart, but only showed up on one of the three occasions that he was summoned and remains uncapped.

(Trinidad and Tobago 29-man squad)

Goalkeepers: Jan Michael Williams (Central FC), Glenroy Samuel (Ma Pau Stars), Marvin Phillip (Morvant Caledonia United), Adrian Foncette (Police FC);

Defenders: Carlos Edwards (Ma Pau Stars), Daneil Cyrus (W Connection), Sheldon Bateau (Krylia Sovetov Samara—Russia), Triston Hodge (Toronto FC II—Canada), Mekeil Williams (Colorado Rapids—USA), Carlyle Mitchell (Seoul E-Land FC—Korea Republic), Radanfah Abu Bakr (Sillamae Kallen—Estonia), Maurice Ford (W Connection), Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Aubrey David (Dallas FC—USA);

Midfielders: Nathaniel Garcia (Central FC), Alvin Jones (W Connection), Elton John (Ma Pau Stars), Hughtun Hector (W Connection);

Attacking midfielders: Aikim Andrews (W Connection), Cordell Cato (San Jose Earthquakes—USA), Sean De Silva (Central FC), Kevin Molino (Orlando City—USA), Jomal Williams (Murcielagos FC—Mexico), Hashim Arcia (Defence Force), Joevin Jones (Seattle Sounders—USA), Jomoul Francois (St Ann’s Rangers);

Forwards: Willis Plaza (San Juan Jabloteh), Shahdon Winchester (Murcielagos FC—Mexico), Trevin Caesar (Orange County Blues—USA).

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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479 comments

  1. ..THIRTY players called to training and NOT ONE from the Super League. Not even the leading scorer. NOT ONE. TTFA. TTPL. SAME thing..

  2. Sean Powder

    http://thenationonlineng.net/sainfeit-faults-africas-fas/

    “Africa is very close to get the first world champion if they have the right coach, the right selection, tactical discipline and choices.

    He seems to be comfortable with first and third world vocabulary.

  3. Dem fellas look like they go be in good shape boy, ah see dey doing a lot of movements. A least d coach look like he knows what he’s doing.

  4. Buh A A my new foreign base Coach Tom knows what he is doing eh. Them really good yes. hahahaha

  5. I believe if Heart had a sence of the big coaches approach he would of been still there

  6. We must understand what professionals are how they view things differently my first lesson as a young coach that was expressed to me is there are a million and one ways you can lose a foitball game before it is played ab the poison is distraction and i was adviced there is no friend in foitball .

  7. I agree that we have all those issues that we are accused of. No doubt. But I don’t believe we should gaze at our navel because a European is talking.
    Now let me separate that from Saintfiet. Because he clearly did NOT insult us a people.
    But I don’t think we should just accept anyone being able to come here and insult us either. Especially when that person might not be of the caliber of professionals in his field right here.
    Just a general observation not aimed at Saintfiet since he did not insult us. Although he was a bit loose in his comments to Sancho.

  8. These guys ate about themselves they nees to always be in the limelight if a man can go the distance to disrupt and try to disable all national team by seeing there equipment tryed to hold all national teams to ransom what is expected of such individuals ?

  9. Self-worth is at crisis proportions here yes. Martin Daly was right.

    • Sean Powder

      http://www.bbc.com/sport/football/23811998

      Saintfiet accused and filed a complaint with FIFA on the late great Nigerian Stephen Keshi of racism when Keshi called him ” a white dude that should go back to Belgium”. I wonder how his defenders view his reaction to Keshi, after all he is a “white dude” and he is from Belgium why would he file a complaint?

      Saintfeit reactions on this occasion and regarding Nigeria during his time in Africa after self proclaiming himself a “disciple” of Nigerian football speaks loads about this man.

      The late Keshi qualified both Togo and Nigeria for World Cups, won the African Cup of Nations as player and coach and had a special playing career but this clown was offering himself as a replacement. I loved the way Nigerians stood up for Keshi, their culture and their nation due to their pride and self confidence. Daly is spot on.

  10. Put his foot down ….. my ass!! ….bottom line he needs to compromise and work with the pro league owners whether he wants to or not because he needs their players and he doesn’t have much time.

  11. People need to stop being so over-sensitive and get serious. The new coach needs to put his foot down.

  12. And Super League teams will be welcome to use it …as will school and zonal teams…..plus veteran teams …..But knowing the diviseness that exists we will fight alone for our birthright

  13. Well there are two issues here.. the manager making a third world comment and Brent refusing to release his players. Now.. if the manager did in fact make this third world comment I would say he is out of order. Here is why… he is not black and has no slavery ancestry. We were once a British colony and although we weren’t under Belgian rule, we were under the white man’s rule. As such, any third world comment from a white man hits a sensitive chord with us all. If a black Trinidadian person call us third world we may not be as sensitive towards that comment. The reality is as a country our wealth does not reflect our infrastructure and progress. We haven’t progressed as a nation at various levels in my opinion. But a foreign manager should not come here and make that comment. It’s quite a naive thing to say and it would not endear him to trinbagonians. Regarding Brent and his stance.. he should release his players. I do understand his thinking and reasons but for the national cause, and he should make that clear, he should release the players to train. I’m sure he will. But ordinarily.. he is not obligated to especially outside a stipulated FIFA date.. but on this occasion I would advise him to.

  14. I prefer fight for the land in Morvant that my foreparents slave for. Take a ring side seat and watch this fight .

  15. Indeed this is true Pro League men really fighting among themselves. Hence the reason I chuck….this is no fight to fight …..I prefer focus my fight on developing our ground on Morvant so we can collect gates. 3000 x$20 per person X3 home games a month.

  16. We’ve a world boss now we got a 3rd world boss ??????

  17. He is another power struggle c**t. I guess his stance is for the greater good

  18. All I have to say is thank God for developing countries like us his Resume has some length.

  19. All this happening what the head of the pro league have to say and what does the President of the TTFA have to say.

  20. The truth is the best defence against slander. I don’t get why anybody should be offended by somebody allegedly referring to the banana with third world mentality. Everybody know that is how the banana operates. You could jump high jump low it’s the truth.

    We like to think at convenient memory syndrome times that we first world blah blah blah but the harsh reality is we third world with third world mentality from politics to sports administration to performance to development to infrastructure and the list goes on.

    The man damn right. Third world mentality. Just had the balls to say it. Time for people to get off their high horse, accept the truth and work towards doing something about it.

  21. When the shoes on the other foot eh

  22. The premiership and Chelsea didn’t happen over night Vernal Damion Cadogan.

  23. Sancho letting this thing go to his head the Pro League is not the Premiership nor is Central FC Chelsea ….. not by a long shot!

  24. Vernal, because first prize for winning the Pro League is $1 million and Central FC leading by six points…

  25. The government pays the players… clubs don’t make any money.

  26. Also …. would not Central FC benefit from it’s players being exposed to the higher calibre of play that can be experienced only f4om playing with the national squad?

  27. ..Steups. Who pays the players? The clubs. Later..

  28. They ever heard of Tom in Holland and Belgium? ?

  29. The regulations only serve those who drafted them. Wait till the players get some sense and unionize. Every rope has an end.

  30. ..Let Saintfiet call Holland and Belgium and insult them nah..

  31. ..As I said. There’s patriotism, opinion, and football regulations. In the middle of a title race I wasn’t releasing my players either..

  32. Sancho lock up in his audi fraid players beat him for monies outstanding ….Yeah he on real solid ground.

  33. That solid ground is rubbish, skewed in favor of administrators and does nothing for players who are barely being paid in a league that seems to only enrich administrators.

  34. My only question is this Vernal and Brian, are we saying that Brent Sancho and Central FC are displaying third world behaviour (not Saintfiet’s words but arguably his sentiments) by sticking to the rules which say they don’t have to release players for international duty unless it is a FIFA date?

  35. ..People here, SOME, confusing patriotism, personal opinion and football regulations. So be it. Sancho on solid ground..

  36. Of course you are being missed eh my Prof Keith Look Loy, you cannot just keep all your wisdom to yourself eh, and you know what my father God said in his bible about “Quenching the spirit ” eh. hahaha

  37. Give me a break if people think they deserve the same respect. Are they treating the fans and players with the same respect? What is the sense in allowing them time for national team games but not national team practice? Especially since they are domestic players! This is nonsense!

    • From what we have seen so far, the rules allow Central FC to refuse their players outside of the FIFA match window. All it says is that clubs cannot matches DURING the FIFA match window, even if they are without their national players.

  38. ..Mango apparently missing me so here goes. I hold no brief for Sancho but Saintfiet is “farse and outta place”. As I understand it the TTPL clubs have agreed to play without national team players when there is an international match. Does that allow Saintfiet to walk in here and start insulting people or the country? Hardly so. And I guarantee you he wouldn’t talk that way to the administrators at AZ Alkmaar. We always criticize the TTPL for being unprofessional but the league and clubs merit the exact same respect as any foreign club where the release of players for international duty is concerned. This is not an issue of who we like or don’t. I can see how this guy doesn’t last..

  39. Real talk
    Sancho ain’t the only one, most of us have third world mentalities, and the greater share of that are country bookie to boot.

    Lasana when yuh kicking mih out give mih ah heads up please.

  40. Imagine Trinidad is a third world country, everything about us screams third world, but we indignant when foreigners point it out.
    Whah …. we want dem lie and call we first world?
    Look boy!

  41. Anybody offended by Saintfiet’s comment let me know, because I am Trinidadian and I could give a list of Trinis with third world mentalities that sure to get me expelled from this group!

  42. Wait wait wait wait wait …
    What is the issue here exactly, that Saintfiet described Sancho as having a Third World mentality?

    It have antbody here disagree with that?

  43. I would suggest we go to the source in future, not rely on hearsay. Words do get twisted while intransit..lol

  44. Btw Savitri Maharaj, the third world reference was made on I95.5FM this morning too. Obviously an interpretation of what was said rather than what was actually said though.