Twenty six days before their opening 2018 Concacaf Championship fixture against Panama in North Carolina, USA, the Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team are still without a head coach.
And there is still little sign of warming relations between Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams and technical director Anton Corneal, who served as caretaker coach for the Women Soca Warriors during last month’s Caribbean Championship in Jamaica.
The upcoming Concacaf competition serves as a qualifying series for the France 2019 World Cup. However, Corneal said he would only consider continuing as caretaker coach under two conditions: that the appointment is sanctioned by the TTFA board; and John-Williams makes a significant step towards rectifying the football body’s supposed breach of its TD’s contract.
“My contract has been breached in four different ways,” Corneal told Wired868, “and that is non-payment of salary, non-payment of an agreed monthly sum for previous money owed to me, failure to provide a vehicle and failure to meet agreed lump sum payment (due every six months, as another part of the deal to pay off the technical director).
“[…] I gave them 14 days to come back to me with some plan to remedy that and nobody came back to me yet. So I am going to allow my lawyer to advise me on this situation.”
Corneal quit as technical director under the Raymond Tim Kee administration in 2014 with the TTFA owing him a six figure sum for unpaid salaries. In August 2017, he returned to the post under the current administration, as part of a deal that would allow the football body more time to satisfy the debt to its former employee.
Corneal resumed work without a signed contract from his employers.
“They had to rectify one part of the contract before they could sign and the president needed to give the GS the go-ahead,” he said. “I came into this job in August of last year and requested that signature every two months up until now.
“[…] Why do that unless they knew they were not going to honour it. But they have paid me something towards [their debt to me], so it means there must be some kind of agreement. So I will leave it for the lawyers to deal with that.”
In the 13 months since his return, Corneal said he got one lump sum payment (but not in full), five months’ worth of payment for the TTFA’s debt and eight months’ salary.
“All I have is a bunch of unfulfilled promises,” said Corneal. “The biggest problem is not knowing. Nobody picks up the phone to say I am not going to be paid this month. So we don’t know if we will be paid or not; and that is disrespectful.
“I am very much aware that [Men’s National Under-20 coach] Russell [Latapy] is going through the same thing with the same type of disrespect. People don’t do people that; it is nearly inhumane.”
Even as Corneal awaits feedback from the TTFA, the local football body signalled its intention to continue its Women’s World Cup preparations without him if necessary.
Yesterday, TTFA board member Richard Quan Chan—in his supposed role as technical committee chairman—recommended Shawn Cooper to the board as the new head coach of the Women’s Soca Warriors.
Cooper, a former Men’s National Under-17 Team coach, was brought into the women’s programme last month, after Corneal drafted him to serve as his assistant.
“I am requesting your support and approval for the appointment of Mr Shawn Cooper as the coach of the National Ladies Football Team that is preparing to participate in the final leg of the World Cup qualifier due in October 2018,” stated Quan Chan, via email. “With the existing situation, inclusive of the time constraints and having also reviewed the resume of others that have expressed interest in the position—along with discussions with the TD [Corneal] and the team manager [Jinelle James], I am recommending Mr Cooper as the person most suitable to coach the team at this time and ask for your support and approval for Mr Cooper to the position.
“Your response can be forwarded to myself and the GS. Thanking you for [your] responses.”
According to the TTFA constitution, the board of directors is the only body responsible for coaching appointments—a fact that was overlooked when Corneal was named caretaker in the first place.
Fellow TTFA board member Keith Look Loy rejected the premise of Quan Chan’s missive on several grounds.
“I do not know what authority you rely on to recommend anyone to be a coach of any TTFA national team,” Look Loy retorted. “The so-called meeting (30 June 2018) that appointed you to the post of chairman of the Technical Committee was illegal, as it failed to achieve a quorum. I will challenge your so-called appointment among the membership and in the media and expose you as part of the dictatorial charade being conducted by the TTFA President and his clique, of which you are decidedly a member.
“My advice to you, to the TTFA President and the TTFA General Secretary is that the aborted meeting of 29 August 2018 be recalled according to the TTFA Constitution.
“Finally, I do not consent to an important decision such as the appointment of a national coach be taken by email, and without the Board even knowing who the other applicants are, or what their resumes look like. That is ludicrous. Call a proper Board meeting.”
Look Loy’s stance was supported by Collin Partap, who is the Central Football Association’s (CFA) representative on the board and a former UNC MP for Couva/Manzanilla.
“I am in complete agreement with Mr Look Loy on this issue,” wrote Partap. “I [would] like to know who were the other applicants? Who are are the members of the committee? When was the board appointed and was there a quorum?
“And is this how we deal with important issues affecting football in this country? Call a board meeting now.”
Quan Chan admitted that the TTFA’s “technical committee” was not fully functional and comprised of just Corneal and himself. And, since Corneal was in the running for the women’s coaching post, Quan Chan made the decision alone, after “discussions with a number of football people.”
He confirmed that former Haiti Women’s National Senior Team coach Stephan De Four and ex-Guaya United coach James Baird were on a five-man shortlist for the job, which he eventually offered to Cooper.
“We are cash strapped, so any decision we have to make must be based on economy,” said Quan Chan. “Football today is a very expensive thing and coaches do not come cheap.”
It is a far cry from January 2017 when the TTFA hired a four-member foreign staff of Carolina Morace, Nicola Williams, Elisabetta Bavagnoli and Manuela Tesse to head the women’s programme at an estimated cost of US$24,000 per month.
Within six months, they had all left after alleged non-payment of salaries by the TTFA and Morace, a qualified attorney, told Wired868 that she initiated legal proceedings, so as to be paid up for her two year contract.
Quan Chan was non-plussed about the responses from Look Loy and Partap and said he is waiting to hear what other board members have to say about Cooper’s proposed appointment. He does not think it necessary to hold a board meeting for the matter.
“I don’t have the authority to call a board meeting, so I am using technology,” said Quan Chan.“Like everything else in today’s world we can [come to a decision by] round robin… I didn’t ask the president to call a board meeting because I sent out an email to board members.
“I am hoping to get information from the other members of the board by today, so I can inform the executive as to the decision of the board.”
The current TTFA constitution does not recognise an ‘executive’, and the board of directors is entrusted with handling the business of the local football body. As president, John-Williams is the chairman of the board while his vice-presidents, Ewing Davis and Joanne Salazar—Allan Warner is suspended due to repeat absences from meetings—are ordinary board members.
According to article 37.5 of the constitution: “the decisions taken by the board of directors shall come into effect immediately, unless the board of directors decides otherwise.”
Quan Chan hinted that the local football body is operating under an informal two-tier approach at present.
“If you look at the government, you see you have members of parliament and you have the cabinet,” said Quan Chan. “So when the MPs say things, it still needs final approval from cabinet. So I forward what happens to the president and the VPs, although they are part of the board too.”
Quan Chan confirmed that the Men’s National Under-17 programme is dormant and has been for the past five months, due to financial issues.
“We have nothing on the front burner with [the under-17 team],” said Quan Chan. “The teams in focus now are the ladies and the under-20s [who play in October and November respectively]. Efforts are being made to raise money so we can put those programmes fully into play.
“[…] Remember the monies that are owed to these two gentlemen, in both cases, are prior to 2014… But at this time, the Association is really cash strapped. [Those debts] have nothing to do with the present administration…”
Wired868 asked if that meant the TTFA met all its salary obligations to Corneal and Latapy.
“Well no, some salary is outstanding,” said Quan Chan. “I cannot tell you how much the salary backlog is because I do not deal with that money aspect of it. The best person to talk about that would be the president or the general secretary.”
Wired868 asked general secretary Justin Latapy-George why the local football body has not met its financial obligations to his half-brother, Latapy, and Corneal.
“I would have to say ‘no comment’,” said Latapy-George.
Why has the TTFA not given Corneal a signed contract?
And what about Corneal’s position with the women’s team and the TTFA’s process of selecting a coach?
“Mr Corneal did meet with the president and myself and articulated his position and that is receiving our full attention as we speak,” said Latapy-George. “As far as the appointment of a women’s coach, my understanding is it has to go to the board for their approval.”
If Cooper is appointed, he does not foresee any problem in combining the new job with his current coaching duties in the Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) and the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) competitions.
At present, QPCC lead the 14-team TTSL standings and are in the League Cup semifinals while Presentation College (San Fernando) are the defending Premier Division champions.
“This tournament is just for two weeks and the women’s preparation happens in the morning,” said Cooper, “so it doesn’t affect me preparing Presentation or Queen’s Park. […] Also I have competent assistants in the school and at Queen’s Park.
“This happened before when I was the head coach of the National Under-17 Team and I was actually in Colombia with the national team when we won the Big Five competition with my assistant Dunstan Williams…”
In theory, the TTFA could get a two for one deal with Corneal and Cooper. Both have a long-standing relationship and Corneal travelled as technical director with Cooper’s National Under-17 Team in 2013.
“Once [my talks with John-Williams work] out, yes, I will go with Cooper as technical director,” said Corneal. “But if they continue to ignore me, why would I go to the US and I don’t know how I will live?”
A 35-member Trinidad and Tobago’s Women’s Team shortlist for the Concacaf competition was revealed today, which includes former captain Maylee Attin-Johnson and Ahkeela Mollon, who were not selected for the Caribbean Championship.
Wired868 understands the players were named after consultations between various technical staff members and may still be altered if necessary
“I didn’t create shortlist but at this stage it is customary that you will have everyone possible on the list in case you want to use them,” said Corneal. “So it gives the next coach the option to use everyone.”
Trinidad and Tobago Women’s provisional squad
Goalkeepers: Kimika Forbes, K’lil Keshwar, Saundra Baron;
Defenders: Arin King, Ayana Russell, Danielle Blair, Jenelle Cunningham, Jonelle Cato, Khadisha Debesette, Lauryn Hutchinson, Natisha John, Patrice Superville, Rhea Belgrave, Anastasia Prescott;
Midfielders: Janine Francois, Karyn Forbes, Maylee Attin-Johnson, Naomie Guerra, Victoria Swift, Liana Hinds;
Attacking midfielders: Ahkeela Mollon, Dernelle Mascall, Summer Arjoon, Tasha St Louis, Kedie Johnson;
Forwards: Kayla Taylor, Aaliyah Prince, Dennecia Prince, Kennya Cordner, Mariah Shade, Natasha St Louis, Tsaianne Leander.
Women’s Concacaf Championship
Group A: USA, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Panama;
Group B: Canada, Jamaica, Costa Rica Cuba.