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Ex-Pro League player, Neil Mitchell, on murder charge; coaches say system is failing youths

“Where did we go wrong? […] The system failing the youth.”

La Horquetta XF head coach Dave Quamina is lamenting that the society in general and the football community in particular is allowing young men to slip through the cracks, after two of his former players, 25-year-old attacker Neil Mitchell and 22-year-old right back Chikizie Jordan, were charged with the 9 February murder of 31-year-old Kevon Robinson.

Robinson, a La Horquetta resident, was shot dead while standing outside his vehicle on St Eustace Bernard Drive in Phase 5, La Horquetta.

Photo: St Ann’s Rangers midfielder Neil Mitchell in action during the 2017 Pro League season.

Mitchell was just 16 years old when he became a Trinidad and Tobago Pro League champion at Joe Public under then head coach Derek King in 2009. The talented attacking midfielder went on to represent North East Stars and St Ann’s Rangers and was considered a solid—though not necessarily spectacular—performer.

Mitchell’s next big showing will be in the High Court, though, where he and Jordan also face charges of possession of a firearm and ammunition.

Quamina, whose team plays in the East Zone (EFA) told Wired868 that, while he does not know all of the details of Mitchell’s situation, he believes that it is symptomatic of what has been happening in the football community and in T&T society as a whole.

“The football community in Trinidad in a real mess,” Quamina continued. “I not saying he right or he wrong but the system failing them. It have no avenue, it have nowhere to go!”

But how did things come to this?

Just over ten years ago, Mitchell, a player his former coaches describe as “polished” and “always disciplined,” left the La Horquetta XF youth set-up to join up with King at Joe Public. There, he continued to blossom and, at just 16, was regularly involved in King’s senior team set up that went on to claim the 2009 Pro League title.

Photo: Chikizie Jordan was charged on 12 February 2018 for the murder of La Horquetta resident Kevon Robinson.
(Courtesy TTPS)

“When he was going to school at El Dorado, I had him in the (Joe Public) youth team,” King told Wired868, “and I brought him up and gave him his break with the Joe Public senior team. I think he had talent (and was) destined to be a national footballer. He was disciplined and really came out to work hard.

“It’s really sad to hear what’s happening now.”

What is happening is that national teams have rarely been able to go beyond the Caribbean phase of world or CONCACAF tournaments and local football is arguably at its lowest ebb in recent memory, financing having all but dried up. Several Pro League club owners are now offering a basic wage of TT$2,500-$3,000 and—as is the case with Stars—no longer field teams in the Flow Youth Pro League competition.

The instability of Pro League employment in itself is not new. For years, clubs offered only one-year contracts which, at best, offered a stipend during the two months of pre-season and nothing at all for the off-season. And players would often bounce from club to club in search of a few extra hundred dollars on their pay cheque.

King lamented that this “hustle” has had a very visible effect on young aspiring players but the authorities have not given the situation the attention it warrants.

“You see now that the younger players not really motivated because of the whole situation with the finances of clubs,” said King. “We are in a poor state right now and it’s something that we have to take seriously.”

Photo: Former Pro League player Neil Mitchell was charged on 15 February 2018 for the murder of La Horquetta resident Kevon Robinson.
(Courtesy TTPS)

King has first-hand experience of the issue as, just months after lifting the 2017 Pro League title, he and the bulk of the North East Stars squad quit the club for financial reasons.

After his stint at Joe Public, Mitchell bounced back and forth between North East Stars and his La Horquetta XF hometown club. After a long spell out of the game through injury, he opted not to rejoin King at Stars—where he had just been appointed head coach—and moved to Rangers instead.

Mitchell enjoyed a solid stint at Rangers, whose season ended in November 2017. But then came instability again as players waited–and still wait–to hear what the future has in store for them with the cash-strapped competition.

Quamina suggested that the current football set-up is not doing enough for players from high-risk communities.

“Coaches not trying hard enough; they need to be more than coaches,” he said. “They just want to win now, they not checking up on the players. And the ones that I really rate, like ‘Dada’ (Anthony Wickham), look how they treating them…

“You telling me that Dada, who work in these high-risk areas for years and performing, can’t even get an assistant coach position on a national team?”

Photo: Trendsetter Hawks coach Anthony “Dada” Wickham during the 2015 RBNYL competition.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Quamina accused the Pro League of paying lip service to youth development.

“How much teams in the Pro League could say they giving youth a chance unless they struggling and trying to cut costs?” asked Quamina, rhetorically. “Teams with money won’t invest in a youth programme. So the current state of football is what really let [Mitchell] down.”

Jordan was arrested by officers of the Homicide Bureau of Investigations Region II on Carnival Monday while Mitchell was held three days later on Thursday 15 February. The investigation was supervised by Acting ASP Windel Flaviney and Inspector Andrew Lawrence while PC Ricardo Sutherland laid the charge.

Mitchell is one of three former Pro League players who are in jail for murder at present. Defence Force utility player Ross Russell Jr and attacker Balondemu Julius were charged, two years ago, for the murder of Selwyn Gaff on 6 June 2016. Russell Jr, the son of former Trinidad and Tobago international goalkeeper Ross Russell, and Julius were sacked by the Army just before they were formally charged.

Former Caledonia AIA and Trinidad and Tobago national youth defender Damani Richards, former Defence Force attacker Josimar Belgrave, ex-San Juan Jabloteh and National Futsal utility player Noel Williams and Rangers and National Youth Team attacker Anslem “Worm” Jackson were also charged for various offences ranging from robbery to fraud over the last two years.

Club Sando full back Kemuel Rivers was also arrested for robbing a casino in 2016 although charges against him were dropped after six weeks.

Photo: Morvant Caledonia United midfielder Densill Theobald (centre) tries to hang on to San Juan Jabloteh winger Noel Williams during Pro League action at the Morvant Recreation Ground on 16 October 2016.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

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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48 comments

  1. pro league should not be just about football. clubs should look at methods to develop players holistically. football should not be only about the ability of kicking a ball but should also seek to improve other skills as well. image and brand management , life skills , business skill give them the tools to market themselves . remedial education can also help. proleague clubs need to take a holistic approach to football especially youth football they should be able to provide educational facilities for them in terms of ensuring that youths recieve academics as well so at the end if they decided to go out there they have something where they gain meaningful employment . the club model needs to be revamped but im just a voice in the wilderness

  2. Bathe dem with blue soap and water

  3. Can we stop blaming everyone an everything else for people wrong doing they choose that road so they alone got to walk it .

  4. They failing them self do a back ground check in these guys football did not us the fall guy here these individuals had there mind towards other interest

  5. This is a result of choice not circumstance. The majority of players are not in jail. There are others whose heart and dedication remains steadfast.

  6. Joel Riley, I wondered whether I was the only one thinking that!

  7. I can’t kick ball so lets do murder….ok

  8. They failed themselves. We have to stop selling athletes pipe dreams and guide them to being responsible for themselves.

  9. I am tired of hearing ” the system failing the youths”. The system was never designed for the youths to get ahead. I will continue to blame parenting. The generation next parents have abandoned the teachings of their parents and have crippled their own children to the point that if they do something wrong, it’s some else’s fault. It’s time parents teach their children to be accountable for their actions. Have you ever asked yourself why is it when times are hard, the first thing these youths turn to is crime? It’s because they are lazy. They have been brought up to be lazy. We are a creative people and can find any number of legitimate ways to earn a living. We do not have to be slaves to the system. Most of our disenfranchised youth have been taught to depend on government for a handout. It’s an cycle if socialised ignorance. If it is that someone turns to a life of crime, it is a personal decision that they alone must be held accountable for. They would have made the decision because they are not prepared to work hard for what they want. They want it easy and fast.

  10. Blame everyone and everything except the ones who committed the crimes. Steups!

  11. The TnT government, TTFF, corporate TnT and even some coaches are to be blamed. Not for the choices of these few bad apples, but for not putting things in place for youth development. I have seen first hand how this system has failed youths in my brothers Keryn Navarro ( formerly of North – East Stars and now at Guaya United) and Zavion Navarro. The latter played at the national u15 and u17 level. He was also one of 2 u17 players called by then national coach Maturana for trials before a friendly between TnT and Grenada. If you look back at that u17 team ( which included Ross Russell Jr) they should have been kept together and developed into our senior team. But with leaders who has no foresight and belief in youth development that’s why we are in this problem today.

    • I didn’t realise those two players are brothers. I’m a fan of both. Keryn is a really solid, smart and firm defender. And Zavion looked to have real talent when I saw him play for Matura in the Super League a few years ago.
      I’m sorry that there have not been more opportunities for them. I think Zavion should have Keryn as a role model because big brother has done well and is a respected Pro League citizen…
      But it is true that the football industry on a whole is in shambles.
      I’d never make an excuse for murder. That is a hop and a leap too far in my opinion. But for sure we can do better for these youths.

    • I have watched state enterprises renege on their sponsorships of the pro league when in fact it should be mandatory. A portion of their profits must be mandated for sponsorships and the youth with promise should be trained and skilled so they are permanently employed with these organizations. That is plain and simple social responsibility. We are becoming a Country that doesn’t care – where everyone is being left to “ketch”. The uncertainty and hopelessness that this breeds leads to criminality. #letsvowtoendthisnonsense

    • Michele Celestine that’s a very good point.

    • Lasana Liburd since when did we stop connecting the dots? In the 60s this was the norm. Are we stupid? Why are we breaking systems that worked? We are regressing as a nation because our decision makers are uninformed and dotish! #letsvowtoendthisnonsense.

    • There is no respect for sport as an industry generally. You see signs of that all the time–not least by the lightweights who usually get the portfolio of sport minister.
      I’m not blaming government alone of course. There are many sport administrators who need to take a long, hard look at themselves too.

    • Real sad. All that potential for personal fulfilment crushed. The contextual crime is of course the greed, utter mismanagement and messing up of talented people who trust men in collar and tie to do their jobs. Tragic. And to think this will continue. What an almighty mess. Don’t condone murder or any crime, but I do feel for them at a certain level.

    • This is a tough one..because while i definitely hear you Durrell Navarro and agree that the government and all the other sectors you listed have a responsibility to help nurture and better the lives of our youth, we cannot simply disregard the choices of grown, hard back men. They are accused of murder, not petty theft. That’s a choice. Too many times we look for avenues to place blame when it really lies with the individual. On the other hand, sport is a way out for many young men/women to earn a decent (sometimes more than decent) living from their God given talent, but somehow I cannot cancel out the fact that to murder someone, regardless of the circumstance, is a choice..

    • Thanks for your input Cherisse Moe. But maybe I was misinterpreted or maybe you should look at my first and second sentences more carefully. I don’t condone violence, or use it as an excuse out of poverty or any mishaps one has in life. Because to me you always have choices and if your choice is bad then you have to answer for it. I am in no way making excuse for them for what they did.

    • I didn’t misinterpret. I was agreeing with you but also noting that for me it’s a tough one because while it’s a sad situation.. if it’s one thing we all have to own as human beings is our free will. Durrell Navarro

    • True Cherisse Moe. Our own free will is all we have.

  12. countries are made up of people. A country is nothing without its people, A government has a part to play PARENTING has another, Blame game.

  13. And I am hoping that at the schools football forum that is schedule for tomorrow they also speak on the madness that is happening with respect to our players going down the wrong road eh and just imagine that this forum is taking place at the National Cycling Velodrome in Couva eh, so the football cannot have a permanent home to always discuss this and that about the beautiful game eh, and when ah call them bootleg eh they does get vex with me steeuuppss Them really good yes.

  14. I know of a few top of the line national team and pro league team players who also got in involved in the drug trafficking and got caught and plenty jail time also for rape eh and that was when we use to rule the Caribbean in football and the madness is still taking place today and I know some of you know the players I am speaking about so I am not calling any names eh. Them really good yes.

  15. Absolutely ridiculous to say the state of our football falling these guys. Let’s be honest, teachers plead with these guys while in school to balance football and academics. These gentlemen failed themselves… plain talk bad manners

  16. But there are players who already have the gangster, the robbing and killing mentality that is playing the football eh, and Mr. Live Wire forget to also mention the name of the national goalkeeper who is or was before the court for robbery while playing for his pro team and the national team eh, so I rest my case steuuppss. Them really good yes.

  17. How do we go from a Country doing so much right to regressing to this point?

  18. I was going to say the same thing you commit murder …..the club didn’t fail you …..your soul fail you!!!

  19. And the goverment corrupted ministers like Mr 2 pull and the other ex corrupted sports minister was also involved in the crime steeuuppss so ah guess some of our players are just following in their footsteps especially when all their pro league money is finished eh they are not interested in going and plant no garden when they can get a fireman very easy to rob and kill people, so everything in our sweet country is about the corruption from the top to the bottom eh Them really good yes

  20. This article quotes guys who were in army, they were well taken care of, they had a career. So football put them in a position to take care of their families and be productive members of society. Yet they committed murder. Do you blame football for that.

    I know people that came to football with little education, that made something of their lives.

    Why isn’t parenting and socialization at fault, or called out here. What about his environment. At Joe Public, and Rangers surely could not send him the wrong way. Mr Fakooray gives guys jobs, etc. Let us not cast any blame on football for this!

    • Exactly Sheldon, this mentality in Trinidad to blame everyone or everything else and not on Parenting and self control is beyond me. Let’s blame Football and the government. Look were I grew up in Trinidad after coming from the U.K. was considered a high risk area. My parents were strict and put boundaries and structure in place. I couldn’t just walk the road just like that. They would come and look for me and this happened up to my late teens. I am eternally grateful for that. Some youths from broken homes would need a mentor but I also say what about some resilience and resolve to make it without resorting to crime.

  21. You are talking murder, how does it lead to committing murder.

    There many youths without education that don’t commit crime.

    So it is false and misleading. I have been involved with football for 40 years since school. Playing football is an education in itself, especially if you played at the levels had.

  22. Some of these clubs use these youths for their own personal gain especially in the youth pro league, they show no interest in there education or any other aspects of their lives and this could have ripple effects, some of these youths in the youth pro league don’t even go to school some are on suspension from school and are still allowed to play in the league is that healthy,

  23. Intensive focus on youth and sports actually helped Iceland beat England in the World Cup. Iceland, believe it or not had a terrible problem with youth delinquency in the 1980s and 90s. Drugs, alcohol, violence, vandalism etc. They turned it around. We can learn a lot from their example.



  24. How is this the fault of football?