Home / Volley / Global Football / “I feel like a total failure!” Ex-T&T World Youth Cup star, Rochford, still awaiting surgery after 18 months of runaround

“I feel like a total failure!” Ex-T&T World Youth Cup star, Rochford, still awaiting surgery after 18 months of runaround

“I does watch myself in the mirror every day,” former T&T national youth and senior team midfielder Jean-Luc Rochford confessed. “[I ask myself] how you come from being a national player, from scoring in a World Cup, from creating history, to being somebody who cyah even play the game they love? I feel like a total failure.”

Rochford has an ACL injury, which requires surgery. With luck, the tired Arima native will be able to get it done at the San Fernando General Hospital soon.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Jean-Luc Rochford celebrates after scoring against Egypt at the 2009 Under-20 World Cup.

“Mt Hope say they don’t do the surgery there,” a still hopeful Rochford told Wired868, “but San Fernando seem like they really willing to help. They already ordered the equipment and thing already. I on top the list so I am just waiting on a date.”

It may happen. If it doesn’t, it won’t be the first time. And the 27-year-old will see his whole world, built around a promising football career, continue to crumble…

In 2009, T&T football fans all celebrated as an 18-year-old Rochford wheeled away in celebration after silencing a 74,000-plus crowd at the Borg El Arab Stadium in Alexandria, Egypt, in the opening match of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup against the hosts.

That was then. Today, a forgotten, struggling, almost broken Rochford battles with his harsh new reality, far from the eyes of the world, the fans and, worst of all, those who have it within their power to render assistance.

“This is the worst thing that ever happened to me,” he told Wired868. “Angus [Eve] drop me in the [Trinidad and Tobago National] Under-23 and that never hurt me like this. It’s so much. It’s just depressing.”

Let’s go back: It is 12 August, 2016. Rochford is at the Larry Gomes Stadium training field. North East Stars pre-season training is in progress and he is bidding to earn a contract with the club for the 2016/17 season.

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)

Fate steps in. His foot goes down in a hole on the field, he twists his knee and tears his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

Fast forward 18 months to the present.

“You feel I wanted to get injured?” he asks Wired868 rhetorically. “You feel I put my foot down in the hole for spite to twist my knee? No!”

“I find it ridiculous,” he continues. “I represented the country since Under-15, Under-16, Under-17, went two World Cups, represent in the Under-23s, get my first senior team cap in 2012.”

“I dedicated my life to football and to the country,” he adds, “and I just asking for a lil bit of help. I not even asking for money, that’s the thing. I asking for a letter to go to the public hospital (to get to the top of the list) to get the surgery done.

“I asked the people who I think I should have asked—the Minister of Sport, the Federation (TTFA), North East Stars, Ross Russell (North East Stars head coach at the time). They ain’t even help me do nothing. When I get injured, it was just like whatever.”

Photo: Ma Pau Stars players (from left) Glenton Wolffe, Carlos Edwards and Jason Scotland stand over a free kick during the First Citizens Bank Cup final against Defence Force at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port-of-Spain on 2 December 2016.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

To be fair, although the people and entities he identifies have not been very helpful, others have been in Rochford’s corner, 2006 World Cup veteran Carlos Edwards among them.

Edwards, who has suffered similar injuries in the past, returned from the UK to play for North East Stars for the 2016/17 season, the first time in 16 years that the former England Premier League winger—nicknamed “Rolls Royce” by Sunderland fans—had suited up in local club colours.

Rochford turned to Edwards for advice soon after his injury and, under the guidance of former National Team doctor Terence Babwah, he was advised to have an MRI done to confirm the extent of his injury.

A request to North East Stars for assistance in getting the MRI done met with repeated run-arounds and fob-offs for several months.

Completely disenchanted by North East’s lack of real response, Rochford contacted Minister of Education Anthony Garcia, both his former principal at Fatima College and his Member of Parliament.

Thanks to Garcia, NCRHA Health Director Dr Rodney Ramroop arranged for the MRI to be completed at Mt Hope in December 20. Free of charge.

Photo: Education Minister and Arima MP Anthony Garcia.
(Courtesy News.Gov.TT)

The MRI confirmed the existence of an ACL tear which, it also confirmed, would require surgery. The surgery at a private institution, Rochford discovered, would cost some TT$30,000.

Knowing that that was well beyond his financial means, Rochford began some fund-raising initiatives and actively sought assistance from various bodies.

In April 2017, he successfully raised about TT$14,000 through a BBQ. Still short of his target, he reached out to another medical doctor specialised in sports medicine who began working to see what could be done.

In early May, she presented the beleaguered former national player with a list of private and public institutions he might try. Because Sangre Grande Hospital had openings in its orthopedic surgical list at the time, it was decided to try his luck there.

At last, a glimmer of hope!

A mirage! To date, there have been four surgery appointments—and four postponements. From lack of equipment to shortage of beds to surgical doctor absenteeism, Sangre Grande Hospital cited a number of reasons for the delays.

Photo: Sport Minister Darryl Smith (right) makes a point to Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 26 March 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

“They told me the surgery was 19 August,” Rochford told Wired868. “My grandmother had died right before but 18 August I went up to the hospital because they told me I had to get warded but they had no beds. From 8am to 4pm, I was up there waiting and nothing.

“Then they told me come back October. Then they told me come back January—same thing.”

His frustration mounting, Rochford turned his focus to getting a letter from Minister of Sport Darryl Smith and TTFA General Secretary Justin Latapy which attested to his service to the country over the years. With it, he hoped to make a request for priority surgery at one of the hospitals in the country.

“I asked Cornell Glen, who is my personal friend [for help],” Rochford explained. “He knows the Minister of Sport pretty well so he called him. The Minister said he would dig into it and try to help me out as soon as possible.”

“That was five months ago,” he added, holding up an open palm. “No word from him yet.”

“I asked the Federation (TTFA) and I was told I didn’t get injured on the national team so they can’t help, they don’t have no money, this, that and the other.

“But I was just asking for a letter. I spoke to Justin. Same thing: run-around!”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago forward Cornell Glen (centre) poses with staff at the San Fernando General Hospital after breaking his arm in a Gold Cup qualifier against Haiti on 8 January 2017.

Currently, the funds raised from the BBQ have all but disappeared, for medication, painkillers and therapy expenses having whittled away at them. And Rochford is hurting—in more ways than one.

“It hurts,” he told Wired868. “This is my career! I just trying to get back on the field because this is my way of making a living.”

Rochford’s family is rich but in footballing talent. Older brother Jovan is the assistant coach of TTSL 2017 runner-up FC Santa Rosa and his younger brother Jean-Paul is a former T&T National Under-17 midfielder and a QRC standout. But they are a family of modest financial means.

“I doh really depend on [my parents],” the middle brother told Wired868, “I doh really ask them for anything. But still like, if they need help, I cyah do anything,”

“They seeing me hurting,” he continued. “As my mother say, she doh like how depressed I does be, how down I does be. She doh like that because that’s not who I am. She seeing that it hurting me and she find I shouldn’t take that hurt and change who I am.”

“She seeing that I want it to happen and it not happening.”

Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 midfielder Jean-Luc Rochford (second from right) is congratulated by teammate Jamal Gay (top) after his goal against Egypt while goalkeeper Glenroy Samuel (right) looks on during the Egypt 2009 Under-20 World Cup.

There are three things he wants to happen. The first is that the help he needs materialises so that he will be able to join his siblings on the field of play once more.

“First of all I want to play football. That’s the love. I just don’t want to say alright career done, that’s it. I would like to play until about 32 or 33 and then I could see myself going into the coaching.”

Number two is that his dream remains alive.

“Like I had an agent working for me and I was getting through for El Salvador and these places. I just come and get injured.

“[Playing overseas], that’s my dream complete. I never thought I’d represent the country and I end up doing that. I never thought I would go to two World Cups and I end up doing that. So all that was just a bonus.

“The only part of my dream that I ain’t fulfill as yet is playing abroad. Once I can play abroad, that’s it for me then.”

But for him, the really big, urgent one is to get the surgery done.

“…because I know later down in life it will humbug me. Because if I getting pain now, imagine when I am 40 or 45, the pain will be unbearable. I don’t want it to reach there. It’s just a little help I asking for.”

Photo: Central FC goalscorer Jean-Luc Rochford (front) and his teammates celebrate with the 2015 Caribbean Club Championship trophy.
Looking on is Central FC operations director Kevin Harrison (top left) and Bankers Insurance CEO Vance Gabriel (top centre).
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

His pain, his frustration is palpable. But through it all, he has not forgotten the efforts made by his football colleagues like Jan Michael Williams, Leston Paul, Aubrey David, Yohance Marshall, Sheldon Bateau, Ryan Stewart and the others who continuously try to keep his hopes and his spirits up.

“Jan and the others call just to check up on me because they know I down and depressed. It’s hard but I still have to thank some people.”

Chief among these “others” are the medical doctors and the Education Minister. Without them and their efforts, he ended on a positive note, all would seem at the moment lost.

“Mr Garcia real try, Dr Ramroop real try, some of the others real try too,” he said, a forced smile playing at the corners of his mouth. “Babwah still trying so hopefully this one pulls through.”

Editor’s Note: Offers to assist Jean-Luc Rochford tumbled in to Wired868 within minutes of this story’s publication including contact made from representatives of the Public and Private Sector and Health Minister Dr Terrence Deyalsingh. We will update readers on Rochford’s progress and would like to say “thank you” to his well-wishers.

This is the first in Wired868’s new monthly series, which aims to highlight social cases that merit national attention.

Do you know of any such cases? Please send email with as much details as possible as you can to Wired868 director Lou-Ann Sankar at louann@wired868.com.

About Amiel Mohammed

Amiel Mohammed
Amiel Mohammed is a sports enthusiast and has worked in communications for Central FC and the Women's Premier League TT. He has also pioneered numerous projects geared towards creating opportunities for the differently abled such as the Differently-Abled Football Camp 2015 and Focus Football Coaching Academy.

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  1. I pray u get help its sad to c how ppl get treated in this country god is good u will get tru this

  2. Timothy, just spoke to Jean Luc. Making good progress. Sorry I was not aware before.

  3. This is so fking sad a youth who represented the country at the highest level with pride having to go through this.

  4. I hope that he does get help and have a successful operation.

  5. A positive role model smh an then they want d youths to try…..Leaders come on man

  6. Lasana, I suggest that we try to get some people to pledge funds to help, and we will work on getting the surgery done ASAP.

  7. players association really needs to get of the ground

  8. I am sure we can find 60 persons to give 500 or there about

  9. The politicians does say is not what the country could do for you is what you could do for your country I understand it now

  10. I glad I didn’t represent this country when the chance presented himself

  11. This is really an unfortunate set of circumstances which highlights one of our failings in sport in Trinidad and Tobago. The well-being of players in many instances seem to be an afterthought. I can confirm that Jean-Luc reached out to me last June for some help in getting the contact details of people in the TTFA who he could request assistance from in getting a letter.

  12. Boy better you did ask for a swimming pool.

  13. God is great hun you’ll get tru by his grace

  14. Every year players are asked to train for their spot locally at most teams, since their contracts usually end with the last game of the season. Despite if it is a winning season or not.

  15. I just really don’t know what to say.. why is this boy struggling to have his injury sorted like this. I cannot understand why between the TTFA, North east stars and the sports ministry why this cannot be remedied. Shame on them all.. just makes me sick.. our Sports Ministry is non functional..

  16. Let me just say that whether a player IS or is NOT under contract informs the decision on who is responsible for covering the medical bills, but it doesn’t decide (or to use the legal term, is not “dispositive of”) the issue. Even without a contract the team, and in some cases the facility, might still be liable, unless the player signed a waiver.

  17. Sad but true…you are not the first and won’t be the last…many t&t footballers are ignored once the game or they STOP playing

  18. I need to share this…
    Because slot of People still haven’t understand why I Stop Played Football for this Country….. this was one of my reason after seeing A Female Player… who have given her heart and soul for this country being rejected after she ask for some assistance to further her career abroad….

  19. What does the football body do for its players.

    • The TTFA didn’t take responsibility because although he is a national player, he was training with a Pro League club, North East Stars, when he got injured.
      And Stars have not sorted him out.

    • I think North East Stars should have insurance for him. Not sure

    • They all should have a choice as long as they represent. Maybe guidelines should be Instituted. Somebody has to get serious in the interest of players.

    • This is such a shame. It is like taking care of our own is a subjective thing. I mean, I know what is wrong with collective us eh, yet I ask, rhetorically, what the hell is wrong with us?!

    • Lasana Liburd agreed, a “pro” club supposed to have some sort of structure for its players from a medical perspective, insurance would be expected. What the TTFA should do is have a guidebook for prospective pro footballers to know the ins and outs of being a full time footballer and what should be expected in any football playing contract.

    • He said he’s not looking for money…

      So he has it. He’s just trying to get the surgery done quickly. Probably a game coming up or sum.

    • Kwasi it isn’t that he has the money otherwise he would have gone private. But he doesn’t want to beg anyone else.
      He just wants a little basic care in the public healthcare as he can’t afford to pay for it otherwise.

  20. I wish you speedy recovery soon bro

  21. Myself and a couple other players had. Form a players association but a lot of other players dont want to be part of it .so it was swept aside and there were no follow up on our plans

    • At the time I know Jack Warner and TTFA were intimidating players. And nobody tried after Jack had left.
      Of course Sancho and Harrison were big union men who became club owners after that.

    • Yep pretty much so . but we as players who been part of a professional setup should have put something like this in place like Eddie Poe from the U.S. national team start in the MLS to protect players from having a problem like my old team mate like Rockford

    • Fuad Abu-Bakr, you give up on the thing?

    • Yep Fuad Abu-Bakr had a lot going at that moment. We were still players

    • I haven’t given up but I am not able to inject the type of energy needed to push the stalled initiative into motion at the moment Lasana Liburd . T&T has too many passengers.

    • Fuad, Wired868 will give the players association as much assistance as we can. So do bear that in mind.

    • When players are fighting for survival economically it is hard for them to think about the bigger picture. Also when players have gotten out of poverty they seem to forget about improving the overall situation. Let me give a reminder to Conrad Smith Lasana Liburd Abdallah Phillips Radanfah Abu Bakr Kenwyne Jones Jan Michael Williams 2018 is a good year to get it done.

    • I’m for putting the energy in to it at the moment I’m not playing anymore. But we are stronger as a team Fuad Abu-Bakr Lasana Liburd

    • Yeah but the real TRUTH needs to be told as to why it never got started when the ex sports minister, Kevin Harrison,Stern John , Kelvin Jack, and Shaka Hislop was on board Them really good yes.

    • Everyone.. the players association never got going because you had players who were scared to be involved for fear of victimisation from the TTFA.. when we said enough was enough before a friendly against Finland some years ago they dropped us. They went to the army and other players decided to play. Those players who played were weak.. I think that Professional football needs to be sorted out once and for all in Trinidad and Tobago. The wrong stakeholders are there sorry to say. Huge sponsorship is needed., a complete overhaul. I have been chatting with various influential people within football to try to find solutions and inject fresh ideas.. this is not easy to solve. The dysfunction is staggering.. the most important aspect missing is sponsorship. I also firmly believe the government should help but ONLY for a very short period., maybe 3 years. The owners and officials of football clubs need to be innovative and devise a plan for their own club. To attract fans etc. The Professional football league is an embarrassment. It needs fresh faces and ideas..

    • And as I said that the Army and Police players will always have to play instead of ending up down in the hole for 40 days if they don’t comply with the orders of their seniors and this has been going on from a very long time ago even when the Brigidiare Mr Brown meh corrupted uncle Jack Warner right hand man who also made plenty monies in 1989 when is wifey raffled a vehicle that was parked in the Stadium at the exit where the ambulance does park and the color was red if anyone who is a member of wired was there and remember Them really good yes

  22. Has any club ever even paid NIS for a player?

  23. And it is now 18 months eh and it is only now asking for help eh and why his father never contacted me privately to let me know what was going on with my baller for life alyuh think that ah like the bacchanal in joke or what especially when it comes to our players and as my Father God said in his bible ‘Ask and thou shall receive Knock and the door shall be opened eh Timothy Rochford Them really good yes

  24. A full contact professional sport, where you will be tackled 20 times per game, and 50 times in practice, yet no insurance is ludicrous!

  25. As a teenager my wish was to represent my country in a sport, but if this is the way our representatives are treated, it a good thing I did not make it.
    For you Jean Luc you are not a failure, it is our country that has failed you. Shame on them.

  26. This saddens me…… Having worked with Jean-Luc, I know of his very high level of love and committment to his football…. Firstly, was it at a club that his ACL got damaged? Wasn’t he insured at the time? Regardless, Lasana, how can we use this forum to organize a fund raising for Jean Luc? I am prepared to assist where necessary

  27. I have no words…..somebody said something about a boat ride and/or crowd funding….count me in!!

  28. We will keep getting this news and players will keep being treated badly because the structure around football is BS. How can an association which wants to build competitive and successful teams not have in place medical insurance and proper retirement plans? We on this link can keep lamenting but without a proper “corporate” structure run by experienced executives nothing will progress. So now here we are managing a major football issue through charity. TT football and TT is going nowhere.

  29. Another player that neither the club owners or league cares about, or insurance would have been in place. How hard is a group insurance for players. Borfor,

    Jean Luc is a great person, well mannered, always willing to help, talented, a great addition to any team. The shame starts with Clubs only offering 10 month contracts to players, that don’t even guarantee their medical bills.

  30. So why the federation didn’t get him private help?

  31. There are private very good orthopedic surgeons who perform surgeries at Public Hospitals. Surely Dr. Babwah can help in this matter.

  32. This is bullshit no way his Federation fail him also

  33. AH LETTER BOI. He can’t get ah LETTER?

  34. One Boatride eh and it is ah done deal eh Lasana Liburd maybe we can promote it as Wired volley 868 or my other carnival and boatrides promoters can assist eh Derek Terron King and Devon Jorsling and also Darin Lewis cause it is long time now I stopped giving meh boatrides in my second sweetest country but I will definitely contribute to the cause

  35. This is so sad for this national sporting hero, it hurt to hear his story, he has so many contacts and all for naught. What about the unknown person? I would to hate to hear their story.

    • Good point. If HE can’t get help then what about the less illustrious Pro League players.

    • My story. This is not to make any one look bad but to highlight the system out there.
      My son played football for his school at the Intercol level. He was injured badly in his first game of that year, broken fibula and tibia. The first question I was asked is ” do you have insurance at work”. I responded yes.
      Based on that answer that is how the emergency surgery was scheduled at a private institution. When I saw my son in such extreme pain, I was glad I said yes to the insurance question and thanked God that I had such.
      The total surgery costed approximately $65,000.00. He currently had titanium in his foot and screws in his ankle.
      On the day of the actual surgery, the anesthetician had to paid first. I didn’t have the funds to do so, and I had to call a school administrator to cover that fee.
      Due to the fact that I had insurance, the school covered the initial fee for the surgery and I had to go through my work insurance to recover the fees and repay the school.
      He was out of school for a very long time after that.
      I also had to cover the therapy cost for rehabilitation.
      Basically such is the system.

    • Joanne thanks for sharing. And you can imagine the state of the children whose parents who don’t have insurance.

  36. Well how many times I keep on telling meh friend Dion Sosa and some players this is the reason why the Players Association needs to be up and running eh and just recently I assisted a player with some monies in order to get a plane ticket to head to Europe on trials eh, ah cannot be spending meh personal monies all the time so nah so let’s get together and help our players nah especially the ones who doesn’t have anywhere to turn to eh …

  37. Nigel Myers and Jamaal Shabazz, the Pro League still hasn’t arranged for insurance? Even as a group? I’m not sure how difficult that task is but it has been over a decade and there were times that we were better off financially.

  38. This is so sad… North East and all pro teams should have insurance to cover their players.

  39. Antoinette Sankar, could you help us set up crowdfunding for it? Of course he is just asking for priority here. And not even that he can get.

  40. Different athlete. Same story. Sigh….

  41. Good grief! $30,000 ttd isn’t a huge figure. Couldn’t ‘somebodies’ help with the fund raising? This is crazy

  42. Another example of the disrespect