The Women Soca Warriors were promised the necessary funding for their upcoming Concacaf Championships in the United States by the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs. But the matter of their technical staff for the competition remains a contentious issue.
On Monday, Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams announced Shawn Cooper as the new head coach of the Women’s National Senior Team, via an unsigned press statement. However, Cooper’s appointment violated at least two articles of the TTFA constitution and was deemed illegal by board member Keith Look Loy.
Look Loy confirmed that at least seven of the football body’s 12 member board are committed to meeting on 24 September—the earliest time permitted by the constitution, once a request is ignored by the president—to discuss the women’s coaching job, the dormant Men’s Under-17 and Under-20 teams and local refereeing.
“We are going to go ahead with our meeting come what may,” he told Wired868. “It is not only about the Women’s Senior Team. The Women’s Under-15 Team that should have gone to the US haven’t even resumed training; and the Men’s Under-17 and Under-20 Teams are in total collapse.
“We have elite teams that are fully sponsored [by NLCB] and their coaches are not even paid. Yet they are falsifying figures and talking about how much they spend, when we have women players paying for their own luggage on national duty. Enough is enough.”
Look Loy admitted the close proximity of the Concacaf competition, which serves as a qualifying series for the 2019 France Women’s World Cup, creates a dilemma for board members who only want John-Williams to adhere to the constitution.
Trinidad and Tobago play their opening Concacaf fixture against Panama on 4 October in North Carolina. Cooper, who also coaches Presentation College (San Fernando) in the SSFL and Queen’s Park Cricket Club in the TTSL, has worked with the team for the past two months and is preparing the local-based Women Warriors at present.
It means the board must factor in whether a change, at this late stage, might be disastrous to the team’s qualification chances.
“Although [Cooper’s appointment] is illegal, in the real world they need a coach now and that is the rough patch they put us in,” said Look Loy. “All they had to do [when Jamaal Shabazz resigned as head coach on 8 August] was come clean and let us deal with it. But instead they went illegally with [Anton] Corneal and Cooper and they are doing it again with Cooper.
“All we are saying is they should follow the constitution… Now if we wait until the 24th, we are giving the girls a coach for two weeks. so they have put the women’s team in a no win situation.
“What they are telling us is we must either sacrifice the team or sacrifice the constitution. Therefore either democratic government and transparency or the team would be the loser here, although I am pretty sure both will lose from this.”
The board may yet have an interesting choice to make, though, as two coaches with significant experience with the current squad indicated that they were ready to take the reins, if asked.
Texan coach Randy Waldrum, alongside his son Ben Waldrum, led the Women Warriors to the 2014 Women’s Caribbean Championship title and then to within a whisker of the Canada 2015 World Cup. And, as far as he is concerned, he has unfinished business with the Trinidad and Tobago women’s programme.
“I would be interested in coaching the team,” said Waldrum, who is the head coach of the University of Pittsburgh at present. “I think some things would have to be worked out because I am in the middle of my season obviously; but I think if those things can be worked out, then certainly.
“What would have to happen is they would need to send the team here for preparation. If they can do that and my employers in Pittsburgh agree, it would allow me to work with [the Trinidad and Tobago team] as I continue with my season here.”
Waldrum was the first sacking of the John-Williams-led administration, as he was relieved of his duties just six weeks into the new president’s term.
At the time, John-Williams said he replaced Waldrum due the coach’s tardiness in submitting a comprehensive four-year plan for the Women’s Warriors and the list of players he wanted to use. The TTFA president gave the Texan four days to submit the paperwork; and Waldrum was exactly 59 minutes late.
“I contacted Randy Waldrum and I asked him for a proposal […] and the list of players he wanted to use,” said John-Williams, at the time. “[…] On January 7 at 12:59am, he (wrote) to me. I responded to him at 2.54 am and said: ‘Dear Randy. Thank you for your email which I received at 1 am this morning on the 7th of January 2016. I am disappointed to receive it so late’…”
John-Williams subsequently announced Police FC head coach Richard Hood, a former women’s national coach, as Waldrum’s replacement—even before the football body created a technical committee to advise on such decisions. Notably, Hood was not asked to do a four-year plan for the Women Warriors, let alone given less than a week to do it.
The policeman’s selection was allegedly motivated by a secret campaign promise from John-Williams. However, he lasted barely five weeks as national women’s head coach.
After their pre-tournament camp in Costa Rica mysteriously failed to materialise, Hood took the team into the 2016 Rio Olympic qualifying series with only a solitary practice match against an under-18 club team in the US. Yet, the Women Warriors advanced to the Concacaf semifinal stage before losing 5-0 to the US.
Hood never got another chance.
“I was asked to coach the team for the tournament and was told my performances would be assessed going forward,” said Hood, who felt a good showing at Concacaf level would have landed him the post permanently. “After the tournament, the president told me I did well. And then I read in the papers that a big international coach [Carolina Morace] was coming to take over the programme. And that was it.”
Like Waldrum, Hood also said he was happy to return to the top women’s job if a vacancy arose. Both men have conditions for their employment.
Waldrum is happy to coach for free in the Concacaf competition. Four years ago, he received stipends rather than a salary from the TTFA; but that allowed him to juggle the national post with his coaching jobs in the United States.
He would like more freedom to develop a programme for the local women’s game, though.
“My reasons for doing it aren’t the finances, that part wouldn’t be the concern for me,” said Waldrum. “If I did this, I would be doing it for the girls and not to help the federation… But I would like the opportunity to build something here. If they kept us on board and helped us create a program for the women, we would have been in a much better position now.
“I think there is a constant changing of coaches with no programs being set down. They are doing the same thing every four years, which is doing no planning and then trying to throw things together at the last minute.”
Hood, a policeman employed with the E999 branch, said he lost thousands of dollars in overtime when he last coached the team; and he got nothing but a stipend in return.
He revealed that, last year, either women’s head coach Jamaal Shabazz or director of football Muhammad Isa—now deceased—approached him with an offer to coach the Women’s Under-17 Team. The policeman asked for a contract and a salary. He never heard about the opportunity again.
Shabazz subsequently coached the Under-17 Team himself and they were eliminated in the Caribbean rounds.
“I think in the past I’ve been given the opportunity to coach the team under difficult circumstances and only for short periods,” said Hood. “I won’t be interested under those conditions again. If an offer is made with a substantial period of time then I would be interested but not just for this tournament.
“Every time I coached a women’s team, it has been going into a tournament and without proper preparation. That is the way it has been going, particularly for local coaches, and I think that is a disrespect to us. You are essentially not giving us an opportunity to succeed.”
Their potential coaching proposals may form part of the discussion on 24 September when the board meets. Cooper, who led the Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Under-17 Team to the 2013 Concacaf quarterfinals, is also a highly regarded local coach.
John-Williams has already hinted that he would not recognise the upcoming meeting. Look Loy urged football stakeholders, well wishers and members of the public not to be put off by the TTFA’s in-fighting; but to stand up for the right thing.
“The people of this country feel every battle is bacchanal and confusion but that sort of statement would have is in slavery still,” said Look Loy. “It is the so called bacchanal and confusion that causes change. We want our laws and institutions to work and to have democracy and a collective process; but they want to run their private agenda, break the law, victimise people and run football like a private fiefdom.
“I went through that before [under disgraced former FIFA vice president Jack Warner] and fought from the inside quietly, observing the protocols and confidentiality. I am going to fight differently this time.
“This time, I am doing it in the public and who vexed with that lorse. But I am not going through this a second time.”