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Corneal: I’ve no apprehensions; returned TTFA Technical Director hopes to avoid internal clashes

Former Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) technical director Anton Corneal will re-assume the post he quit three years ago, as part of a settlement with the local football body of a seven-figure debt owed to the former national youth coach.

His appointment means a portfolio change for current technical director Muhammad Isa, who now becomes the TTFA’s “director of football.”

Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago technical director Anton Corneal.

Corneal initially quit as technical director on 1 April 2014 after going two and a half months without full pay. He told Wired868 then that the TTFA and the Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SPORTT) had agreed that each would pay half of his salary. Instead, what allegedly happened is that SPORTT paid half of Corneal’s salary for eight months before stopping while the TTFA never gave him a cent.

Corneal, hired as the TTFA’s youth director in 2004, was appointed technical director under acting president Lennox Watson but when he finally walked off the job, Raymond Tim Kee was serving as president.

He now hopes for better luck under a third president, incumbent David John-Williams, although he admitted that it was in some respects a marriage of convenience.

“We came up with a long-term agreement to pay me off on a contractual basis,” said Corneal. “The courts would have done nearly the same thing, so this is a better way. We are still working out the details between our two lawyers.”

At present, the TTFA appears to be offering Corneal the job for three years with an option to pay him off more quickly if possible. He will receive a monthly salary on top of the money already owed to him.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams (third from right) poses with Women’s National Senior Team coaches (from left) Nicola Williams, Carolina Morace and Elisabetta Bavagnoli at a media conference in the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva on 1 February 2017.
Also in the photograph are TTFA vice-presidents Joanne Salazar (second from right) and Ewing Davis (third from left) and TTFA technical director Muhammad Isa (far left).
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

Corneal said that, as technical director, he will oversee all of the TTFA’s football programmes, which include national youth football, the Elite Football Programme, grassroots football and women’s football.

However, in the TTFA’s announcement of the changes to its technical staff, the local football body suggested a split in duties between Corneal and Isa.

“Under his portfolio, Corneal will oversee the TTFA’s long-term football development plan, with a special emphasis on the National Youth Teams, accreditation of academies, registration of coaches, research and coach education.

“Muhammad Isa will assume the role of Director of Football and will be accountable for all aspects of the Grassroots and National Elite Programs, which are fundamental to the future of football in Trinidad & Tobago.”

Corneal insisted, though, that he will have overall charge although he pointed to the positives of the current set-up—which also includes Russell Latapy as “staff youth coach”, Stuart Charles-Fevrier as head coach of the Elite Youth Programme and Jamaal Shabazz, who acts as a de facto technical director of the women’s game and was, up until a month ago, head coordinator of technical programs with special authority over the Elite Youth Programme.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 Team coach Russell Latapy (centre) reacts during 2017 World Cup qualifying action against Bermuda at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 18 September 2016.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Since Corneal was not responsible for hiring any of the people who will now presumably report to him—and the TTFA did not make it clear whether he or Isa will have responsibility for recommending the hiring and firing of national coaches—was he concerned that it might have an impact on his effectiveness as supervisor?

The incoming technical director admitted that it was “not an ideal situation.” However, he suggested patriotism and love for the game could make it work and transform a muddle of job responsibilities into an efficient technical department.

“This is a chance for a real technical department because, when I was there before, one person did almost everything,” said Corneal. “So now it is about putting a technical department in place, which is important. It is not the best-case scenario but, once we put Trinidad and Tobago first, it should work out and I have always done that.

“I am going to go into it with a very positive frame of mind.”

Corneal noted that, as youth director, he took charge of a National Under-14 Team that went on to qualify for two World Youth Cups at Under-17 and Under-20 level and included current Soca Warriors players like Kevin Molino, Sheldon Bateau, Khaleem Hyland, Daneil Cyrus, Curtis Gonzales, Leston Paul, Aubrey David and Sean De Silva.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Sean De Silva (right) tries to flick the ball over Egypt’s Ali Mohammed during the Egypt 2009 Under-20 World Cup.
(Copyright Khaled Desouki/AFP 2015)

Corneal said his first action as technical director will be overseeing a situation analysis of all current football programmes to see how they can fit a common agenda. He explained that he will ensure feedback from all stakeholders, including the various leagues and schools bodies, academies, referees and media.

“I know there will be hurdles, with the main one being financial,” he said. “We will need finance to put certain things in place, such as ensuring the exposure of young players, who we must get to play at a level comparable to CONCACAF.

“If we can’t do that, then it slows down their progress and we have seen in the past how teams have excelled with the right exposure. Youth development is about patience, consistency, monitoring and evaluation—because you may have an 11-year-old player but it is only when he is 19 that you can see his true potential.”

Corneal’s impending TTFA appointment resembles a deal struck by the local football body with Latapy, who was owed a significant sum from his time as head coach between 2009 and 2010.

According to an informed source, the John Williams-led football body has fulfilled many—though not all—of its promises to Latapy so far.

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 ,media conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Port of Spain on 19 May 2016.
(Courtesy Wired868)

Close to TT$14 million is believed to be the TTFA’s debt to past employees, including former men’s head coach Stephen Hart, technical director Kendall Walkes, women’s head coach Carolina Morace, general secretary Sheldon Phillips and referees head Ramesh Ramdhan. The football body will contest all of the claims but has already suffered at least partial defeat to Phillips and Ramdhan.

Hart, Walkes, Morace and Ramdhan all fell out with the football body during the John-Williams era.

Corneal, who worked as a FIFA technical development officer (October 2014-December 2016) and CONCACAF coaches’ lecturer (2017) since leaving the TTFA, said he has no qualms about returning to national football service.

“It is a great feeling to know you are part of developing your own [football infrastructure],” said Corneal. “[…] If I had any apprehension, I would not go into the job. I always believe in a positive mindset in life.”

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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80 comments

  1. Only ah set ah bootleg Coaches, TD, and Administrators running the beautiful game in our not a real country, hence the reason why it is always heading backwards instead of forward eh. Them really good yes.

  2. Despite many many criticism towards him, Anton Corneal is a needed asset in T&T football

  3. Can’t realistically see them finding a way to resolve the payment funding for him. Especially since 3 foreign coaches just left us.

    Are they relying on, “he issa Trini?”

  4. What corneal and them really after he ain’t find he help destroy our football enough

  5. Lasana Liburd call out the line up for me let’s see if you’re right. Call the 1990 team .

  6. Why? Why? Revolving door! Clique!

  7. Back to the Future. “Anton Corneal returns to TTFA technical director job after three year absence, as part of debt-settlement arrangement; takes positive view of potential overlapping of duties with Muhammad Isa, Jamaal Shabazz, Stuart Charles-Fevrier and Russell Latapy” Good luck with that!

  8. What the article missing is Corneal’s track record as a head coach of any of the national teams he was involved with…and especially the scores in the youth WC games.

    I think he just come back in it for the many opportunities for foreign travel, business contacts, and side deals he stands to make.

  9. I know Anton pumpkin hand strong…but let’s be real here: that money dead and everybody knows it. TTFA not in no “long term arrangement” with nobody cause today they broke and tomorrow they broke same way.
    Anton sees where he can make a contribution and doing this for the love of the sport.
    There are many individuals in public life working as volunteers. There’s no shame in that. But don’t mamaguy we.

  10. Lasana …Corneal is very talented but the problem is when you have interfering micromanagement from whales. He coached a 1996 TnT Olympic team with Stern, Avery, Shawn Garcia, Dwarika, Shawn David through olympic qualifying and although we didn’t qualify it was knocking a vicious brand. This guy knows his ball ….

    • Wait I think Zoran Vranes was head coach of that team. Corneal might have been his assistant. I think.
      But fair point all the same.

    • Malik Johnson whatever rum that you is drinking change the brand nah, Corneal needs to stick to coaching Alcons eh because like all the other recycling bootleg coaches he has failed miserably when coaching our national youth teams and now he is the TD just because he is owed plenty of millions by the corrupted TTFA eh. Them really good yes.

    • Lasana you’re correct Zoran coached the team….Anton was an assistant. I remember him because he came to skinner park to recruit and he ran a decent session. Oh yeah Earl not much of a rum drinker …my point is on terms of coaching ability he has some quality about him. How you gonna talk bout bootleg coaches when the first coach off your lips is Stuart Charles!!

    • hahahahahaha Well yeah he has a little something, something with respect to his coaching abilities eh, and of course any coach in our sweet country that went to my greatest team in the universe sweet country and got their coaching licenses ain’t no bootleg coach eh so try your bestest. Them really good yes.

    • Earl you know Jan was running the 3-4-3 and 3-5-2 systems with benedicts to ridiculous effect in the 80s with Ivan and Glen Benjamin and Webb and these guys? All now those sysyems are being talked about because Mourinho and these f**** using it now or advertising it but its been around forever and we say we doh have coaches and we don’t want to recycle old coaches. But we never respect the ability of “experienced” coaches. Jan Steadman is one of the best I’ve played under.

    • Well look at that he is also responsible for my Coaching abilities today eh and also when I first left our sweet country at the age of 15 yrs old to go to my second sweetest country he was my first ever real professional coach before he decided to return to our sweet country and give back to his old school St. Benedict’s but they never liked him as you know because he doesn’t stand shit and will cuss your tail in a minute hence that reason why he was never given his chance with any national team be it youth nor senior teams because he wudda never be no corrupted Jack Warner puppet the same like many other bootleg coaches in our sweet country. He wanted me to leave my playmaker/dribller / goal scorer midfield general to play wing back because of my dribbling skills and I said no way Coach eh, it was only until years after when I saw my Brazilians Carlos Alberto, Alberto Carlos, and others overlapping and scoring goals it was only then that I understood what he saw in me eh. Oh well those were some great days with him yes and when his first daughter Janika born, I was very honored to be asked to be her God – Father. hahahha

    • Malik Argentina played 3-5-2 in 1986 and 1990.

    • Las how many people knew that argentina played that system without googling it? Not common knowledge …the point is we’ve had coaches locally who have implemented those systems locally with significant success yet their expertise are not being utilised for the youths.

    • Jan is a guy I’ve huge respect and admiration for and yeah he’s cursed me out in practice a few times lol

  11. What we do not want to overlook is that this management malaise has put us back in the rear in all sports…Football..cricket..netball..gymnastics..We are holding on to one athlete at the Worlds hoping for a catharsis via the 200.m men/s hoping for a medal. sport is not the province/playground of a priviliged few..It is part of national development..Check the World’s again…Botswana, Japan Zambia, Guyana is on it’s way back, Norway breaks through..These actor administrators hold us

  12. When they speak of recycling, I thought they meant trash, not people.

  13. Seems like the only time the David John-Williams-led TTFA isn’t hiring Connection coaches or members of his campaign team, is when they are hiring people they are forced to due to debts.
    I can’t think of a hiring on the men’s team that is based on merit and made through a proper recruitment method (leaving out Dennis Lawrence who was forced through when the board outvoted the DJW-led executive who wanted to give the job to Stuart Charles-Fevrier).
    I’m with Brent Bennett on this one though. I think Corneal is a rare case of someone being hired who can actually point to successes on the job.

  14. Who makes a deal with David John Williams??

  15. Going around in circles….. Getting giddy yes!

  16. At present most of the national appointees positiin is a result of finincial agreement

  17. A blind man could see this will not end well……

  18. Is his appointment base on ability or due to finiancial agreement

  19. They owing him about 4 million he will tack on another 2 by the time this idiot tenure is up and then the new president comes in facing more debt again

  20. Yuh see how is always best to bat for yourself in this place…

  21. Best person for the job. Just sorry he’s not on the field coaching the U11s or U13s.

  22. I hope he ain’t loss it by Friday

  23. I kindly ask ..Is this a kind of drawn out Cabinet re-shuffle? The names are very familiar

  24. But I do agree with his sentiment eh. You always would prefer to use your talents at home first once possible…

    • I am probably (more than) am sceptical of this spin on it. I would be interested to hear the view of one of my former work colleagues and some whose opinion on matters football I certainly respect (EMcD B) on this..

    • You MIGHT be able to persuade him to comment on this ‘development’ publicly .. (both of us know why I wrote ‘might’!! Lolol)

    • Bill once more I disagree. This is about a lot more that football. Leadership and integrity (yes that word again) has nothing to do with qualifications. Let’s talk about motivation, ethics, etc. In this current conversation there’s a lot of meat to discuss

  25. I know it’s not easy to migrate and get work sports unless u are a player overseas in places like USA or England etc as a Caribbean person due to well documented political dynamics in those countries for foreign workers

    But situations like these always makes me wonder why Caribbean people who complain about & were burnt in past in the working environment in region – always go back into it instead of looking for opportunities outside region

    • Are they ‘competitive’ out there? Rhetorical question really..

    • Colin Benjamin, that comfort zone and as William J Carter said in other words, is he really employable?

    • Savitri Maharaj I guess it depends on your qualifications before leaving Caribbean etc

      Shaka doing well at ESPN

      Kendall Walkes was doing stuff in USA before

      Leslie Fitzpatrick involved in youth soccer coaching in USA & Canada

      Jason Scotland recently got job back in UK coaching

      I would think Stephen Hart could get something

      David Nakhid, Lawrence before he became coach

      It’s a bit of luck, but I’m just amazed Corneal would go back into TTFA system considering few people in TT football sports world/wider Caribbean got burned by system as him

  26. You all do things differently in football. Just a little bit…

  27. Sincerely hope that this works out for him.

  28. We have the best football administration EVER

  29. Hope he is allowed to do his job.

  30. Now tell me you eh get paid for doing the job last time but you settle the debt by ttfa giving you back the job instead of paying you. Only in T & T