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Soca Warriors vow to boycott Wales match due to unkept DJW promises; still unpaid for USA win in October 2017

Trinidad and Tobago’s National Senior Team players have had enough of alleged broken promises by Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams and will not play against Wales next March unless all debts are wiped off.

At present—according to four senior players who spoke on condition of anonymity—the TTFA owes players and staff a combined TT$707,000 with the largest single payment due to a player believed to be TT$24,000.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago right back Alvin Jones (second from left) celebrates with teammates after his stunning goal against the United States during 2018 World Cup qualifying action in Couva on 10 October 2017.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Luis Acosta)

Remarkably, the Soca Warriors still have not been paid for their 2-1 World Cup qualifying win over the United States in Couva on 10 October 2017—a result which won global attention and remains the biggest triumph of the DJW-led TTFA administration to date.

The players—who all have over 30 international caps and represented Trinidad and Tobago for over a decade, counting national youth duty—believe they have shown good faith and patience to John-Williams and have only been met with discourtesy and dishonesty in return. Now, they want the public to know the extent of their discomfort.

“The players are just fed up,” said one anonymous player. “It’s over a year now we are just running on promises; and players are leaving their families and travelling far distances because we love our football and we can’t take it anymore.

“It is just one person who is doing this to us. He is always going back on his promises.”

Another accused John-Williams of playing politics with the players by offering false promises to keep them silent until after the TTFA AGM, at which he faced a motion for his dismissal.

In September, John-Williams offered to pay up all his debts on 30 November, which was a week after the AGM. However, when the AGM was reconvened for 9 December, he again shifted the date for his payment to the players.

Once FC Santa Rosa’s motion to remove John-Williams was defeated, however, the football president reneged again on 14 December and didn’t even bother to offer a new deadline. Four days later, the players have decided to air their dirty laundry in public.

Photo: TTFA president David John-Williams (right) presents a Wired868 token of appreciation to “Soca Warriors” supporter Peter Cumberbatch during the 4th Annual Wired868 Football Festival at UWI SPEC Grounds, St Augustine on Saturday 2 January 2016.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)

“On December 1, we had a chat with the coach [Dennis Lawrence] and manager [Richard Piper] and told them that we were going to the press,” said the second player. “And the president called all of us personally and said we would be paid all our money within 14 days. So we all agreed to give him more time; but now when we’re calling him, we can’t even get a response.

“So now we think the whole thing was just a plot to keep us quiet until after the AGM.”

The issue of unpaid debts and John-Williams’ supposedly bullish attitude to employees has been an oft-repeated criticism from technical directors Kendall Walkes and Anton Corneal to National Under-20 coach Russell Latapy and many in-between.

Last month, Primary School coaches complained that they were unpaid for six months of service to the TTFA; although, according to a well-informed source, the title sponsor for the programme, Nu-Iron, has already paid the local football body in full for not only 2018 but 2019 as well.

At present, the Soca Warriors are owed match fees for outings against Mexico (6 October 2017), USA (10 October 2017), Grenada (11 November 2017), United Arab Emirates (6 September 2018), Thailand (14 October 2018) and Iran (15 November 2018).

The players are due US$1,500 for their win over USA and US$1,000 for their loss away to Mexico; all the other games are valued at US$300 each.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago left back Kevon Villaroel (left) tackles USA midfielder Christian Pulisic during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 10 October 2017.
I95.5FM was paid to cover all of Trinidad and Tobago’s football matches, inclusive of travel and accommodation, rather than the other way around.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Luis Acosta)

The national players initially agreed a deal for US$1,500 for each game in the Concacaf Hex with an additional US$1,000 per win and US$500 per draw. However, according to a third player, then team captain Kenwyne Jones and vice-captain Jan-Michael Williams accepted a suggestion from John-Williams that they drop their fees as soon as the team was out of contention for qualifying.

This concession from the players meant the value of their win over USA—in direct financial terms—was slashed by nearly half from US$2,500 to US$1,500.

“The players were always willing to try and find a solution because we understand the [financial] situation,” said the third player. “But when you agree to play for less money and you’re still not getting your money, players will obviously become unsettled.”

John-Williams did not respond to a request for comments from Wired868 on his debt to the national players and what his administration was doing to address it. However, during the day, the players said the TTFA president sent word that he would offer them match fees for two of the friendly games at US$300 each.

Unanimously, the players told Wired868 they rejected the offer and would only accept full payment now. The second player said he now doubts even the sincerity of such approaches from John-Williams.

“He probably only offered to pay for those [two] games so that, if anything comes out in the press, he can say it was us who rejected him,” said the anonymous player. “It is always games with him. We know for sure that the TTFA got appearance fees for our games against UAE, Thailand and Iran. So what did they do with that money?

“Why didn’t they pay us?”

Photo: TTFA president David John-Williams enjoys himself at former head coach Tom Saintfiet’s maiden training session at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on 15 December 2016.
(Courtesy Nicholas Williams/Wired868)

The issue of the US$300 match fee for friendlies is one that divides even the playing squad.

The third player revealed that when the Warriors were offered US$300 to play against Grenada and Guyana in November 2017, ace midfielder Kevin Molino immediately said to count him out.

“Molino went to Dennis [Lawrence] and said he is not playing for US$300,” said the third player. “And Dennis said okay he respects that, and he will tell the media that Molino was injured [for the friendly against Guyana on 14 November].

“So we made a decision not to embarrass the TTFA then.”

John-Williams met the squad on the issue that same month. The players said that, going forward, they would not play for less than US$800—which was still below the US$1,000 mark that national players generally received for international friendlies since the turn of the millennium.

The football president, according to the third player, vowed to raise the fee to US$500 while he would bump it up to US$800 as soon as the financial health of the local football body improved.

Instead, John-Williams allegedly went back on his word by their next international engagement as the promised fee remained US$300. And, after three outings against Guadeloupe, Martinique and Panama, suddenly the players were receiving nothing at all—as they would wait for TTFA payments to hit their accounts, only to be left disappointed.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago captain Kevin Molino (centre) weighs up his options during international friendly action against Grenada at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 11 November 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

The situation was exacerbated, over a month ago, when John-Williams appeared on a TV6 programme and told the host that he convinced the Warriors to play for just US$300.

“When [John-Williams] jumped out and boasted that he can ‘proudly say’ his players are playing for US$300,” said the second player, “we were so angry about that…”

The first player swore that, due to John-Williams’ behaviour, he is now unwilling to ever play for US$300 or even US$500 again.

“All the time the standard price was US$1,000 under [former TTFA president Raymond] Tim Kee and just so he want to change it and still he is not paying us,” said the first players. “And for him to go on tv and boast about paying us that; I will never come to play for that again!

“And I am playing away but think about the local players who have to pay for their own gas to attend training and the TTFA doesn’t even provide meals. And all that for US$300 that you’re not even sure to get.

“[…] If my club asks me how much we play for, I wouldn’t even be able to tell them. I would be too embarrassed.

“If my plane is delayed and I have to change flights or something, that US$300 won’t even cover that.”

A fourth player revealed that, for their last trips away to Thailand and Iran, some of the foreign-based players had to dip in their own pockets so that the younger Pro League players could even get something to eat at the airport.

Photo: Club Sando players (from left) Jayson Joseph, Akeem Humphrey and Akeem Roach celebrate during their 2-0 Digicel Pro Bowl quarterfinal win over Ma Pau Stars at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 9 February 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

“Some of us were having a meal and we noticed that one player (name called) was just outside sitting down and not doing anything,” said the fourth player. “So when we called him to talk, we found out that he had no money for the trip. You’re talking about players travelling for 14 hours by six hours and they can’t even afford to get something to eat.

“[…] We just can’t take this anymore. If we don’t get our money, we are not playing!”

The non-payment of match fees, according to the third anonymous player, was just one of several perceived slights that Soca Warriors players endure at present. He said a shortage of ‘hotel wear’—which they are mandated to wear for meals and meetings—and travelling gear was another sore point.

“Most times, they give us one jersey and one pants to wear for the whole camp as hotel wear and obviously it gets a scent after a while,” he said. “We are asked to turn up at breakfast and everything else with that one tee-shirt.

“For the Iran game, we were not even given any travelling clothes so we had to use one of the game uniforms instead. We feel like a minor league team!

“[…] As far as the senior guys are concerned, it is a disrespect to ask us to make these kind of sacrifices. Normally with an international break, we would get three or four days off, which is time we can spend with our families. Instead, we fly all over the world to play for our National Team and this is the kind of thing we have to put up with.”

Photo: The Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team say a prayer at practice in San José on 12 June 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

All the players who spoke to Wired868 said they were accustomed to being owed by the TTFA and having to put up with the occasional shabby treatment, but they suggested that John-Williams was worse than his predecessors because of his attitude.

“It is worse now than before,” said the second player. “Tim Kee didn’t always have the funds but he would always talk to you and try to sort out things for us. Under John-Williams, it seems like he just doesn’t care.”

The first player, who is a former W Connection employee, blamed John-Williams for the demise of all the national teams as well as for forcing out former coach Stephen Hart.

“From the beginning [of his term as president] there was never a time when Coach Hart wasn’t under pressure,” he said, “and there was a time when ‘Pressie’ was [allegedly] telling him who to pick. I know of one player (name called) for sure who he pressured Hart to pick.

“[…] Since ‘Pressie’ come in, everything is going bad with the senior team, the girls team, the youth teams, etc. And he is getting too comfortable with giving us this kind of bad treatment.”

The fourth player moaned about John-Williams’ supposed focus on his controversial Home of Football project at the expense of everything else.

Photo: TTFA president David John-Williams (left) shows FIFA official Veron Mosengo-Omba around the Home of Football in Couva.
(Courtesy TTFA Media)

“I understand he wants to build this Home of Football but he is bypassing all these current problems and issues to fix that instead,” he said. “He is showing us that he doesn’t care. When we told him we will go the media, he told us it doesn’t matter and it wouldn’t solve anything as we will still have the same problem after.

“The president has no respect for his players. Some of us have 80 caps and anywhere else in the world, a player with that number of caps would at least get some respect from his federation. But not in Trinidad.”

So where does head coach Dennis Lawrence—who supposedly turned down an offer from England National League club Wrexham AFC to stay with the Warriors—stand in the impasse between players and the president?

The third player suggested Lawrence and manager Richard Piper have been professional and sympathetic, although he suggested that not all players are convinced.

“Some players see it as he is on the side of the TTFA but I think he is on both sides, in terms of trying to find a solution,” he said. “I think he really tries to help the players and I will continue to give 100 per cent for Dennis.

“It is hard for him because John-Williams will tell him something and he will relay that to us; and then ‘Pressie’ would up and do something else and leave him and Piper in a shit position.”

The players claimed they have had enough now and said their position is mirrored by their teammates who they speak to regularly via What’s App.

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 admitted after that the referee got it right.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)

“Since ‘Pressie’ came in, it is just a whole set of run around and we never showed him up,” said the first player. “I think this is the right time to let everyone know what is happening. Next year is an important one for us with the Gold Cup and the Nations League; and we want to go into it with the right frame of mind.

“We want to go into the New Year stress free.”

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief 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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154 comments

  1. I love my an football an this is very very hurtful to read boi

  2. Lawerance i know you love #868 but PLEASE take up the managerial post from your previous job. You have represent us well we are proud off you.. Go and continuw to represent and fly the 868 flag .

  3. The Pressie knows that it’s mostly footbal people reading Wired 868.
    Lasana has been breaking these stories for a long time.
    Just like Andrew Jennings did with JW.
    With that said….none of the mainstream media has ever picked up these stories so the wider population does not know what is going on. That allows the Pressie to do as he wants.
    He knows that there are only so many that read us on here so he is not worried.

  4. The same sad embarrassing stories in T&T football keep being repeated over and over and over again! 🙁

  5. The same old sad story just keeps repeating itself. 🙁

    • Sana, hush nah boy! Next ting Travis and Clarkie jump out and say you only report bout disgruntled players and nothing about the king and his soon to be palace. Yuh need to invest in dreams too, it profitable ah hear.

    • Lasana – been busy wuk, but just had ah read. First let me say that it’s unfortunate that the players haven’t been paid monies promised to them by the TTFA. I’m sure it’s not intentional – just a result of the poor financial health of the TTFA. We all known about the association’s debt, which is significantly north of $10 million. While monies owed should always be paid, it was quite disappointing to read some of the players’ remarks and about their plans to hold back their services at the next friendly. As a former national team player I played for the love of the game and the pride and joy it felt to represent the twin island republic. I also played because I realized the tremendous opportunity it presented to showcase my talent on the international stage; Opportunities for scholarships and opportunities for professional contracts. These potential opportunities are more valuable than a $300 / game stipend. The players should pause and seriously reflect on the above before deciding to hold back their services at the March friendly.

    • ‘Not intentional’? First time maybe. Athletes remember how disrespected and under supported you felt when promises were continually broken without any show of remorse, apology, proper communication or respect. Don’t be held to ransom by the ‘love of the game’ garbage. We all know how you love the game! TTFA is receiving monies specifically dedicated to fund your trips from FIFA, Concacaf and probably the Government too. DJW holds the purse strings he is choosing not to provide support or pay you. He is paying lawyers and unnecessary court costs instead.

    • Carlos remember the good old days when players played for a sandwich, a coke and love of country?
      That’s what you want to bring back eh? They should take whatever they are given and keep quiet?
      Why pay them at all? Maybe they should play for free and when they have to buy groceries, they can sing the national anthem for the cashier. ?

    • Lasana – it’ll be interesting for you to do a survey of national senior team players to understand their motivation for playing for Tnt. It’ll be good to understand what percentage play because of the opportunity to augment their income; what percentage play to showcase their talent to potential scouts / clubs; what percentage play for the love of game and or country. Can you do it for the men and women?

    • Junior Noel the man telling me to do some nice feature stories instead oui. Lol.
      Carlos Lee, you know those fuzzy stories we get about the England and France World Cup players donating their match fees to charity? Ever asked yourself why they didn’t just turn down the money from their FAs in the first place? They are multi-millionaires after all…
      But nope. The players still expect to get their money and then they will decide what to do with it and who to donate it to.
      When you’re in a business in which everyone is getting paid, it is a mark of respect that you’re also paid appropriately.
      Most of these T&T players need those match fees (Pro League clubs pay between US$450 and US$1,000 a month after all and we don’t have Premier League stars anymore. But you can’t deny Dwight Yorke the cheque that he earned. It’s up to him what he wants to do with it.
      To talk about players benefiting in non-financial ways while the TTFA is paid for those matches is disrespectful to the intelligence of the players and encouraging abuse.
      If the football body makes $10 from a match, then give the players $2 to split.

    • Lasana Liburd Dwight uses to sing the National Anthem for Fergie and Jordan…smh yes

  6. Same old same old. That’s a shame

    • Karen Villaroel Yes. Shameful Sad that some people use that as a reason not to help today’s young athletes. They all admit he is a terrible leader BUT ………

    • Jo Ann this is not the fault of the athletes, they are doing their part but when people keep seeing the same situation happening over and over again it becomes the status quo. I think it is a calculated effort by a few people at the top to ignore the demands of the players and the questions in the hope that it will blow over after the proverbial 9 days and that, I believe is the crux of the problem, no accountability.

  7. Why did this young man have no money?I am asking because I don’t know,What is the norm on traveling attire every trip?Is it the team Manager failing the players?

  8. They like it so…they didnt want to move a motion of no confidence…take dat!!! SMH..Allyuh rel good wee

  9. John Trinipelvic Patterson this is what happens when tgere are sycophants supporting the leader

  10. I am surprised Lawrence knows about this and is still carrying on like if everything is cozy… he doesn’t even pick the team…. looking like he is a puppet…. at least Stephen Hart stood up and took the bullet for his players that’s why he still has the respect of everyone…. Lawrence will leave here and will carry on somewhere else and the players under his watch will have nothing…bad administration yea… but even worst coaching.. imagine you as a coach on a trip and not watching out for your players….damn we reach yes

  11. Lawrence knows what’s going on… he’s towing the line… he was a part of the sabotage when he took over for hart

  12. Cant even bother to read the full story. Two things. 1. I hope Dennis is not part of this deceit, that would be really deceitful. 2. The TTFA sounds like the GORTT and vice versa..mussee something in the water in tong

  13. Again for the ppl who seem to think these problems started with DJW please ask some of the players who have represented our national team years ago and you will hear similar stories. Until TTFA cleans house and get rid of most if not all of these ppl even those who have been there since The late nineties,even some who claim to be seeking better for football not a thing is gonna change. We can sing a song about DJW for as long as we want please remember it is not he who put himself there and its not him who is keeping him there. He has support from many, just take a look at their last meeting. Then again i myself dont trust a soul who represents TTFA because they all do the same thing they complain about when they take charge.

    • DJW wrote his own manifesto and he continues to play covert games to ensure he stays in the job. HE continues the bad behaviour. He could just resign. No one can force him to stay. You are just another of the mesmerised by his poor me ?. Enough is enough.

    • Jo Ann this is exactly how TTFA has been ran from its inception. And until all who are in it are removed it will continue. Removal of him wont stop or change anything. Everyone has to go. These problems that TTFA faces now are not new an i can tell u that almost all how support DJW or those who opposed him who are members of the TTFA have been there seeing these problems and have done nothing to change it. The only time they complain is when they are not part of the executive and the dont benefit. But remove DJW and put them and u will see the same problems persist. TTFA is a problem an it needs to be cleaned out. Leave no man behind all must go.

  14. Never, they are pretty inventive.

  15. Hence the reason why I keeps on asking for the Players Association to finally start in our sweet country so that we can help our players in distress amongst other things and as I said before if it was up and running a very long time ago even Coach Michael Mc Commie wudda be alive today because we wudda have the monies to get him to one of the private hospitals instead of him going to the Mount Hope funeral home Them really good yes

  16. Hope the Welsh club stand in solidarity and cancel the game. FIFA obviously don’t give a shit about young athletes.

  17. And if you remembered when we played Jam down in the final when the players said that they wasn’t going to play if they wasn’t paid eh just before the game started and one of the TTFA official gave them a set ah sweet talk and the next thing you know they ended up playing the game and lost eh and still had problems getting their monies steeuppss so the players saying that they will boycott steeuppss again eh because Coach Dennis will give them the country come first speech and they will be on the plane heading to whales eh Tony Maxwell Hatt Them really good yes

    • Earl Mango Pierre I am surprised Lawrence knows about this and is still carrying on like if everything is cozy… he doesn’t even pick the team…. looking like he is a puppet…. at least Stephen Hart stood up and took the bullet for his players that’s why he still has the respect of everyone…. Lawrence will leave here and will carry on somewhere else and the players under his watch will have nothing…bad administration yea… but even worst coaching.. imagine you as a coach on a trip and not watching out for your players….damn we reach yes

    • Well of course he is a puppet and the man told me that he is an honest guy and I must stop calling him a bootleg Coach I don’t know what honesty have to do with his coaching and as I have said before he was a soldier in our army so like many others they were brainwashed about always putting our sweet country first and never worry about the monies so I am not surprised of his actions because he is about self interest and making certain that his resume states that he was the Coach of a national team before applying for any job in the real professional leagues abroad even if he have a record worst than Seinfiet eh Tony Maxwell Hatt Them really good yes

  18. Why even have a TTFA if no one except a couple at the top are benefiting?

  19. He also said his players had to travel in Business Class… the coaches now are kissing arses….

  20. Tony Maxwell Hatt The Coaches doesn’t care about the players welfare it is always about their own egoes and going on these trips the only real professional Coach Benhakker said that if his coaches and the players didn’t get paid eh he was never coming back to our sweet country and he kept his word , mucho respect for him Them really good yes

  21. Now you see why it’s better to coach here than at Wrexham…. here you don’t have to produce results…you just have to be the Pressie boy… and willing to accept a new contract without the Board approval… we good yes..every man eating a food

  22. There needs to be an end to this. All parties involved need to ensure that everything is put on the table. Government responsible for youth and sport need to begin an inquiry. If they are not part of the solution…….

  23. Waiting on DJW groupies again … although my money is on them staying silent on this one lol

  24. What in d mother cow i reading here.

  25. The coaches who are well fed and clothed should be also blamed for this madness…imagine the coaches and staff are well taken care of and your players are suffering….. life is good for them….

  26. ..Most of the pro league, half the super league, the women’s league, futsal, beach, most of the zones, all support the Big Boss in this shit. But shit eventually hits the fan..

  27. On our way to the CAC Games for the women’s national team our flights were split up between two groups, the second group were not given adequate money to eat, no one paid for an overnight hotel to stay in and one female national team player even passed out on the plane, and two more were sick on the trip. No food stipend, forced to sleep in a foreign country airport overnight on chairs. Trust me it’s a trend…damn the every national team should boycott. I understand this, we barely get quality hotel wear and quality travel gear and when we do, it goes unwashed unless we pay to wash it ourselves!! Everyone thinking we are making this nightmare up, open your eyes the whole TTFA needs to be burned to the ground!! National Teams are not for political gain and personal agendas, they are for honor of country! Keep corrupting the sport DJW, it’s working well. The men go through this nonsense and I believe it, nobody ever say the women are lying when we live through our nightmare as well. It’s sad this is our state affair.

  28. Keith Look Loy…dem meetings sounding like “Bored Meetings “….with all dem no answers..

  29. Ppl have too understand nobody is against the Home Of Football but where’s the transparency??How can the TTFA BOARD just turn a blind eye??I thought was JACK was problem but is the ppl!!

  30. ..What are the contractual terms of these international matches being played? I have asked in Board meetings without response. Nobody knows what TTFA is receiving and where it goes..

  31. Dennis Lawrence should take note…. that job offer will not come as easy as this one…. this is really sad where this man has taken football….. as a coach of the National team… Lawrence is just as guilty…knowing that this is happening…and he being a former player…. coaches have to protect their players…I guess he has fallen under the spell of the Pressie… Hart always had his players first….

  32. At least Lawrence seems to be taken care of.he eh take d Wrexham job.

  33. ” we feel like a minor league team “…

  34. Is it ah case of too many programs not enough money?

  35. i say was only the Women Program seeing pressure I ain’t know the Senior Men in this too. i wonder if the under 14 team Coaching Staff have this problem?

  36. ..As I have repeatedly said in TTFA meetings, the horse is starving while the grass is growing. Football is collapsing and all the Big Boss talks about is his dodgy Home of Football..

  37. Dennis Lawrence should take note…. that job offer will not come as easy as this one…. this is really sad where this man has taken football…..

  38. This is TTFA what u’all expect nothing changing thats how they do things!!

  39. da man so nasty boy ??… really ??…

  40. man…all this motion..and agm..and court..and constitution da da da ….bloodless coup yes….

  41. You don’t know if to laugh or crybut I know who’s not going take such and who won’t attempt such callous and niggardly treatment (Eric Williams “Capitalism & Slavery) ever again

  42. ..The food eaters, cowards and ignorant dominate among the voters in TTFA. People get the government they deserve..

  43. How he getting away with this? D sportt company and d ministry of sport not looking into this?

  44. is everybody so the TTFA owing money