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Referee attack was “a heinous crime” but La Brea minor league says stopping football means conceding to terrorists

La Brea Off Season Football League executive member Callum Marshall has likened the assault on referee Michael London to a terrorist attack and urged stakeholders to help improve the minor league competition rather than shut it down.

London, an elite referee, was hospitalised with bruised ribs and a hairline fracture of the jaw, after he was attacked during a game between Gonzales United and Young Stars in La Brea last Thursday. The incident has since been referred to the Police Service while the Trinidad and Tobago Football Referees Association (TTFRA) and Refereeing Committee immediately called for a boycott of the competition.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago defender Aubrey David (centre) leads protests to Guyanese referee Sherwin Johnson (left) about Jamaica’s winning goal during international friendly action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain on 24 August 2017.
T&T coach Dennis Lawrence subsequently admitted that the referee had got it right.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)

Marshall said the La Brea football organisation is doing everything it can to assist London and the police while it also welcomed collaboration with the relevant refereeing bodies to make its competition safer.

However, Marshall, who described the assault on London as “a heinous crime,” balked at the suggestion that the La Brea minor league should be shut down altogether.

“We don’t want to stop the League because then the rule of the unlawful will continue,” Marshall told Wired868. “The [players and supporters of Young Stars] were not getting their way, so they decided to mash up the thing. If we stop now, they win.

“We have vendors who making a livelihood off the football, children who are excited about the games [and] the community that turns out to support. Everyone will suffer [if we end the competition and] those who are not interested in the continuation of the League will win.”

Marshall, who was present last Thursday at the fateful match, gave an account of what transpired:

“Gonzales were 1-0 up and a penalty—which was quite clearly a [good] penalty—was given against the Young Stars team. The players started to argue against the decision and got very aggressive. A player called ‘Tall Man’—I can’t remember his real name—was given a red card, I think for something he said. And right there and then, the players surrounded Mr London and some of them attacked him.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Khaleem Hyland (centre) gets in the face of Mexican referee Fernando Guerro as he prepares to send off Alvin Jones (far right) during World Cup 2018 qualifying action against Honduras at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 1 September 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

“Then myself and some of the community members ran on to the field to stave off the attack and we got [London safely] off the field. Then he went to his vehicle and some players and supporters followed him. And then the attacks started again.”

The Gonzales team included ex-Trinidad and Tobago international midfielder and W Connection captain Hughtun Hector and former National Under-23 forward Kendall “Neck” Davis, who scored the game’s lone goal.

Young Stars were stuffed with past and present Secondary School Football League (SSFL) standouts, including Judah St Louis, Jordan Riley, Akinola Gregory, Seon Shipley and Mylz Barrington.

Marshall declined the chance to name the players or spectators involved in the fracas on the grounds that it was now a police matter. He also refused to confirm or deny whether London had pulled out a cutlass out of his vehicle before the violence restarted.

The La Brea League, he however insisted, has acted decisively.

“The committee has banned Young Stars from the League indefinitely while, coming out of the investigation, the players who are found guilty will be banned from the League indefinitely too,” he said. “They won’t be allowed to come and play for any other team for life. So that is the first step that has been taken.

Photo: Naparima College midfielder Judah St Louis (right) tries to find a way past St Benedict’s College player Micah Blackman during Intercol South Zone semifinals action on 17 November 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

“We are working with Mr Michael London and the police in bringing criminal charges against the players and the spectators we can identify who were involved in the incident. We are also doing our best to assist Michael with any medical fees and compensation that we can.

“We are trying to put funds together to forward to him.”

Incidentally, Marshall is also a top-flight referee and has been assaulted on the job before. His technical know-how is already coming in handy for the La Brea League as he has officiated every match since the attack on London.

At a Southern Referees Association meeting on Sunday, Marshall revealed that he was severely criticised by his refereeing colleagues for “breaking the line” and not joining their boycott.

“There have been instances of violence against referees before and the football carried on,” said Marshall. “Glen Charles was attacked in a televised game between Shiva Boys and Presentation (San Fernando) in the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium. I was attacked in the ‘Dog Patch’ by Shiva Boys fans in 2015. And, in 2014, Cecile Hinds needed security to get her off the field at Shiva too.

“I am not trying to make a wrong justify a next wrong; I am just saying the football didn’t stop then. [Swedish referee] Anders Frisk was hit with a coin in a UEFA Champions League game [between AS Roma and Dynamo Kiev] and each time they had the necessary sanctions but the football continued.

Photo: Swedish referee Anders Frisk is taken for treatment after being struck in the head with a coin during a UEFA Champions League match between AS Roma and Dynamo Kiev in Rome in 2014.
UEFA awarded the match 3-0 to Kiev while Roma were made to play their next two fixtures behind closed doors.

“We wish the harshest and full brunt of the law comes down on the people involved. But this comes like terrorism and you can’t allow terrorism to win.”

The La Brea League is free for spectators while the organising committee raises the money to run the competition through a combination of donations—from companies like Trinidad and Tobago Lake Asphalt right down to the man on the street—and fund-raising events like barbecues.

The community competition is often an amalgam of amateur players, Pro League standouts and even international footballers. Last week, Soca Warriors head coach Dennis Lawrence admitted that the only locally based players within his squad who were active at present were those involved in minor leagues.

Marshall declined the chance to name the international players involved in the La Brea minor league but he insisted the competition—and others like it—had an important role to play.

“Every year for the last eight years, national players have played in the league,” said Marshall. “Check every minor league in the country and you will find national and Pro League players playing there. The Pro League is just a better organised minor league anyway so let us not pretend.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Hughtun Hector (left) tries to drive the ball past Jamaica captain Michael Binns during international friendly action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain on 24 August 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)

“Besides, right now nobody knows if there will even be a Pro League [this year] and I think the only club in training is W Connection. So, technically, the Pro League players in the [La Brea] League are not under contract anyway.

“[…] Right now, the only football going on in the country is the minor leagues and it is an avenue for young men who are not working to keep busy.”

Marshall said the La Brea League has already spoken to the police and intends to mirror the SSFL by having two lawmen at every match to provide security. Otherwise, they hope to meet the TTFRA to satisfy whatever demands are made to get match officials once more.

“We own the situation and we are not trivialising it,” said Marshall. “We want to make things right and we are trying to meet with the Referees Association.

“[…] We don’t see the benefits of stopping the football. Let’s come together and use this as a learning experience to move forward.”

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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40 comments

  1. Hearing and seeing all kind of things about my side Young Starz but such is life. People will try to break you b4 they guide u and make u a better person. In life each & everyone does something wrong as small as it might be and the out come is they try to be wrong and strong most times. On the day we were wrong Yes! But that dont give the referee a right. He had his part to play in this entire event and for every action there is a reaction. My players are young talented players with a future so b4 you say the worst about them think about yourself because no man is perfect

    • with all respect to you the players brutalized a referee no excuses be real man…come on

      • Earl Best

        I couldn’t agree more. We don’t need excuses, singular or plural. What was needed, is needed is an unconditional apology. UNCONDITIONAL.

        There can be no justification for what your players did, Mr Alexander. And you don’t make things any better for them by trying to make it seem excusable. Stop NOW!

    • You all know the expense, time and money it takes to recruit train and bring a referee to where Mr London has come from? COME ON DISCIPLINE HAS TO COME FROM SOMEWHERE, SPORTS MEN NEED TO START BEING RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS AS DO REFEREES, ALSO.PEOPLE HAS TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS.

    • Nigel A Ramah i understand your point of view with high regards but my players did not do anything to Mr. London besides use out of context language push him and slap him only because he butt the player 1st for coming up in his face the event was clamed right there and then and he went to his van for a blade and rush the team which caused the supports to beat him so badly

    • Nigel A Ramah i am not saying in no way what happen was the right thing, all i’m saying is both parties were wrong ✊

    • i am a referee man, i work hard to do the right thing, train everyday, for one of our referees to be in hospital nah man nah…and as for the report we, got the penalty was justified .

    • Big man u are a referee and in a situation like dat u either try to calm the situation along with your officials or u blow off the game and call it a no contest u dont go to your van (where u had the opportunity to flee) and get a blade to come bck to attempt to cause harm that is what escalated everything, the youths already admit where they were wrong and their only wrong was being passionate for a game they love winning so they got emotional u see it in big champions & premier league but what u don’t see is a referee going to get a fucking blade in the stands if players operated with misconduct u blow off the game, u write a report or complaint to whoever u don’t headbutt a player tell me if I wrong ref the only big ppl I understanding in this situation is d youth men actually admitting where they were wrong continue to overlook the provactive element Mr.London’s actions and I know mr london from playing football myself he like rude boi thing and its not the 1st time he act like a rude boi towards a player every1 got exactly what was desereved that night stop trying to highlight negativity on dem youth men

  2. I was there to see everything and that ref did a great game that football game was one of the best ive seen in that area for a very long time,what those youths did was wrong.The youth of today different from yesterday,What the ref did to defend the attacks by using the sharp object was a grt thing,this mistake he did was by letting go of it,when he handed it off to another soul the youths came at him over and over again.Trinidad sweet tooooo bad,those young men should be thanking that ref for a very good game.

  3. Obi Sick i am a goal scorer hoss ??

  4. Mr yuh get old eh???but yuh still have something

  5. Camille Bestdarkie Charles i have rel thing girl? lol

  6. That maybe was ah mistake goal cause d kinda thing I see this man miss lol hmmm

  7. Neck yuh still have ah lil thing in yuh man

  8. Where has the Discipline in this Country and Sports ,you have rules and it must be obeyed

  9. Salaah Inniss

    ….and where is a press release from David John Williams on this incident? We are not asking him to pass judgement, but it would nice as TTFA President some kind of investigation should be launch immediately…including a police investigation…football stands to loose since this whole incident may it be minor or ‘fete match’ has put the spotlight of hooliganism and lawlessness in sports and this incident in particular bring the game into disrepute…

  10. Not the team but the players involved directly on such act should be banned for a year. no one knows what else can come out of someone taking the time during counselling and jail time for a year. It may give them time to think and allow others to see what may happen if they too try anything. It is indeed sad to see what this has lead to.

  11. Ban the players who spark the incident for life

  12. So now d army will be deployed in la brea for a football game lol

  13. They should be jailed and band from the sport for 3 years.

  14. League must go on but police must arrest those who hit referee then referee should sue them –the beaters

  15. They should stop the league for this season…Once they still out there they would disrupt the rest of the games.

  16. No need to stop the league. Give the offending team a life time ban. Make them an example. Officials are there for a reason. Disrespect MUST NOT BE TOLERATED. Assult charges need to be filed as well.

  17. Try to move forward and help the saturation,,,U talk to Mush,,,La Brea till I die,,,U from Penal “”Big Fish “:

  18. CALLUM ,,,,Pussy u Are A informer Y u didn’t Stop it,,Y u didnt Run In,,,,,About Player Name “”Tall Man””,,,,,,Calling Names,, Mad d youth in La Brea done Have no Respect for u ,Where were U??

  19. No the country the evil wicked people who killing people. And others judge Jesus Christ will deal with them zandolie soon

  20. Band them for life if that man die what will happen look how they damage the man. Charge them . make them pay the bills they to dam evil fire go bun them

  21. Every damn thing in this country is going bad.