“The coaches came out and were willing to work and they did their best with what they got from the [TTFA],” said an official from the TTFA’s Nationwide Primary Schools Project, who spoke under condition of anonymity. “One of the things the [TTFA] does constantly is they take advantage of the coaches who want to give their all to the children…”
The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) kickstarted its Nationwide Primary Schools project in January, in conjunction with title sponsor, Nu-Iron, and the Ministry of Education. The aim was to introduce 1,000 boys and 1,000 girls to the game, who would then be coerced into joining clubs and academies and, of course, playing for their schools.
“This is going to introduce just the basics of the game with simple technique and probably very little tactical [work],” said TTFA technical director Anton Corneal, on 24 January 2018. “[…] If we would like to compete then this is the way. It needs to start here. There needs to be good coaching, well organised sessions, it needs to be a disciplined setting and the kids need to have fun and if we can do this then we will be on the right path.”
However, although the 2018 program closed in June, scores of coordinators and coaches hired by the TTFA remain unpaid and irate.
TTFA board member Keith Look Loy wrote to football president David John-Williams on 20 October, requesting information on money owed to the South-Eastern District—on behalf of coordinator Damian Daniel. But, two months later, there has still been no response.
“Mr Daniel wrote to me as a member of the board seeking assistance in receiving payment for work already performed by himself and his staff, particularly when funds were disbursed by the programme sponsor,” stated Look Loy. “I reiterate Mr Daniel’s concern that he and others should remain unpaid in a programme that was sponsored—with much fan fare—to the tune of US$100,000. I also wish to know if programme staff in other areas have been paid.
“Where has the Nu-Iron money gone?”
Daniel has also tried to contact John-Williams directly without any luck. His last such correspondence was issued yesterday on Thursday 6 December.
“I still receive daily messages from my coaches about the monies owed [and] I still tell them daily I have no new information for them,” stated Daniel, in an email to the TTFA president. “Christmas is coming and my staff [has] been hoping to receive some good news. I am not sure what needs to occur for us to receive what is owed and now after the fourth consecutive day of requesting information, I am not even sure of what needs to happen to get a reply to my emails.
“It is tiring having to remind the Association that they owe money to the same people they depend on to encourage children to participate in football, to then use these kids to get funding for programs for which the staff are not paid.”
An official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Wired868 that the TTFA hired coordinators for each district and, in turn the coordinators were told to select 12 coaches each to cater for a maximum of 120 children. All coaches had to be ‘C’ license holders.
The TTFA promised to provide balls, bibs, cones and staff uniforms. Coordinators were offered TT$300 per session while coaches were due TT$150 per session. There were sessions every Wednesday from January to March and then from April to June.
However, as far as the official is aware, the Tobago district was the only one to receive any payment while the local football body never provided the necessary equipment to the coordinators.
Wired868 confirmed that there were similar issues in the Central and South Western zones.
“Nothing that was promised was actually delivered,” said the official. “The program would have been coordinated and planned before the coordinators were contacted—or at least I’d like to think so—so why is there all this disorganisation?
“While I understand the mandate of the TTFA is to provide opportunities for boys and girls, which is well intentioned, poor execution and unwillingness of the president to pay attention to these matters undermined the programme.”
In early 2018, Corneal stressed the importance of the Primary Schools Project on the TTFA’s website.
“It’s an initiative where we are trying to introduce the game to […] kids that are nine and ten years old [and] grow the player pool, especially on the side of girls where we just don’t have enough girls playing,” he said. “[…] Today our kids don’t play; they are on cellphones and other games… We need to get them out there playing and football needs to do its part in which we are doing.
“This initiative here is going to kickstart what is going to happen in five to 10 years. This is the bottom of our development plan where we need a mass of players being involved in the game.”
So far, according to the official, the Primary Schools Project has not come close to meeting its targets. He complained of a lack of support from the TTFA in all areas while sessions—at least in his district—were often conducted at venues with no signage or branding to indicate what was happening and who was behind it.
“There is no way we could meet the objectives with what was afforded to us,” said the official. “The monitoring and evaluation was a non-factor. The only person who really seemed to be immersed in anything was former director of football Muhammad Isa (now deceased).
“You can’t expect to find talent if you don’t have a network of persons and coaches looking for talent. And I can tell you that Isa was brilliant with that.”
In August, coordinators received an email from a TTFA employee which informed them that the cheques were ready and financial officer Tyril Patrick was “currently awaiting the President’s approval to release the funds.”
The Primary Schools official said they have gotten a runaround ever since.
“As of 10 August, we were told the cheques were ready for monies owed and they were just waiting on the president’s approval to release the funds,” he said. “However, there was no cash on hand to do such. The program was already funded by Nu-Iron. So where has all this money gone? We cannot wait any longer!”