The Anguilla Football Association (AFA) has confirmed that Women’s National Senior Team head coach Ahkeela Mollon was suspended for ‘abuse’ of a player but stressed that it only received one such complaint about the Trinidad and Tobago-born coach.
AFA president Girdon Connor and his administration have faced public criticism over their handling of Mollon and, in particular, an incident on 16 September 2021 when the coach allegedly split the lip of 17-year-old Carlia Johnson by knocking away a water bottle as the player was drinking from it.
The AFA’s Disciplinary Committee suspended Mollon for 21 days while Johnson copped a one-match ban for ‘steupsing’ at the coach. Mollon was also reprimanded for embarrassing the player by telling her, within earshot of the team, that her US collegiate coach was unhappy with her attitude—a claim the West Texas A&M coach Chad Webb subsequently denied.
In a weekend interview, Mollon told Wired868 she was never suspended by the AFA and insisted that nothing happened, while Connor threatened the website with legal action if it published comments from him that contradicted his coach’s statements.
However, the AFA today admitted the suspension as it sought to convince Anguillans that the incident was, in fact, a one-off occurrence.
“It has been brought to the attention of the Anguilla Football Association that the media has disseminated certain statements alleging that there have been instances of abuse of female players in Anguilla,” stated the AFA, in a media release. “We wish to place on record that the AFA takes allegations of abuse seriously.
“[…] We state categorically that, separate and apart from this complaint and investigation, there have been no allegations of abuse or mistreatment of players by a coach or vice-versa which has been brought to the attention of the AFA.”
Last weekend, Carlia’s mother, Gweneth Johnson, told Wired868 that, when told about the altercation, she had initially contacted the police before agreeing to leave it to the AFA.
“[Mollon] stormed into the dressing room at halftime and accused my daughter of making her lose the game,” said Johnson (G), based on the report she got of the incident. “She said ‘you sit down and shut up, because you are the cause of us losing the game—you’re not following the game plan.’
“And she slapped the bottle of water out of her hand…”
Mollon described it as a ‘spat’ that was blown out of proportion. She claimed that there had been an ‘enquiry’ by a party independent of the AFA and her employers had advised her to ignore the recommended suspension.
“When I went back to FA, they said to take holidays,” said Mollon. “That is why when you asked me I said I was not on suspension. I was on holiday. In order to be a party to it, I would have to sign off on it—and I will not sign off on something that didn’t transpire, just to please certain egos.”
Whatever was said privately between Mollon and Connor, the AFA now makes it clear that the coach was indeed suspended by its own disciplinary committee.
“By way of a brief background, a dispute arose between a player and a coach during a competitive match overseas,” stated the AFA. “A complaint was lodged by an aggrieved party and the Anguilla Football Association’s Disciplinary Committee carried out a thorough investigation into the complaints.
“As a result of their findings, both parties involved were suspended. There has been no appeal lodged.
“[…] As with any disciplinary process, there will be instances where an aggrieved party may not be completely satisfied with the outcome of an investigation, but we assure the general public that the process was carried out fairly, observing all applicable laws of Anguilla—particularly the Labour (Relations) Act, 2018.”
Mollon’s most high-profile critic so far is Speaker of the House Barbara Webster-Bourne, who referenced the incident in a complaint about violence against girls in the Anguilla House of Representatives. Webster-Bourne is also Carlia’s aunt.
It is worth noting that Carlia’s father, Colin Johnson, is also the technical director of the AFA and her mother said that she would like to move on from the incident. It is still uncertain whether Carlia would recant an earlier position that she no longer wished to play under Mollon.
There is still the matter of anonymous complaints from an email address that claimed to represent ‘concerned parents’ of the Anguilla women’s youth teams. The first complaint came in July 2021, two months before Mollon’s altercation with Carlia.
On the weekend, Connor dismissed the anonymous complaints. And, today, the AFA urged locals to accept the decision and allow Mollon to carry on with her job.
“The AFA places on record that it continues to observe the highest standards of ethics, professionalism and independence in these types of matters,” stated the release. “[…] It is unfortunate that the matter has escalated to the level of personal attacks and threats. We remain optimistic that good reason would prevail and we could return our focus to developing our youth in the sport.”
At present, Mollon is preparing the Anguilla Women’s National Senior Team for the 2022 Concacaf W Championship qualifying series, which kicks off on 16 February.
Anguilla, the lowest ranked football nation in the Caribbean, were drawn with Mexico, Puerto Rico, Suriname and Antigua and Barbuda in Group A. Only the group winner will advance.
Trinidad and Tobago are in Group F alongside Guyana, Nicaragua, Dominica and Turks and Caicos Islands.