REVIEW: Eve, Jones restore hope in T&T football in 2021 /

T&T’s strug­gles in foot­ball con­tin­ued in 2021 in a sim­i­lar fash­ion as it did the year be­fore, both on and off the field.

Coach Ter­ry Fen­wick was ap­point­ed in De­cem­ber 2019 on a two-year con­tract that com­menced on 1 Jan­u­ary 2020 by the William Wal­lace-led ad­min­is­tra­tion, fi­nal­ly got down to busi­ness in the World Cup Qual­i­fiers, but the bat­tle with the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic al­so af­fect­ed the team’s prepa­ra­tion, as it pre­vent­ed the free move­ment of in­ter­na­tion­al play­ers to and from train­ing, pre­vent­ed the scout­ing of new play­ers from tak­ing place and it drove a wedge in­to the ac­tion at the top-flights T&T Pro League and Su­per League with no on-field ac­tion.

His first test came at an in­ter­na­tion­al friend­ly match with the USA at the Ex­plo­ria Sta­di­um in Or­lan­do, USA on Jan­u­ary 31, where Fen­wick’s team, dom­i­nat­ed by play­ers from the rungs of the low­er Leagues in the USA, was ham­mered 7-0. Fen­wick’s se­lec­tion and de­ci­sion to take the match be­came top­ics of con­tention among lo­cal coach­es but it did not pro­vide any ease at the World Cup Qual­i­fiers that fol­lowed in March.

With the T&T gov­ern­ment fail­ing to pro­vide the fa­cil­i­ties of a se­cure bub­ble for the open­ing match be­tween T&T and Guyana which was ex­pect­ed to be a home match for T&T, the Nor­mal­i­sa­tion Com­mit­tee led by Robert Hadad, the chair­man had to set­tle for the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic as the venue for the team’s first game and it paid off with Fen­wick’s men whip­ping Guyana 3-0.

How­ev­er, mis­for­tunes fol­lowed the team in the oth­er match­es, as the So­ca War­riors drew with Puer­to Ri­co 1-1, tied goal­less with the Ba­hamas be­fore seal­ing a 2-0 win over St Kitts & Nevis for a to­tal of eight points, need­ing to have at least nine to ad­vance from Group F.

It meant that St Kitts & Nevis had ad­vanced to the next round of the qual­i­fiers as T&T was boot­ed out.

Hadad and his com­mit­tee of Judy Daniel, Nicholas Gomez and Nigel Ro­mano re­spond­ed by sack­ing Fen­wick on June 11, and sev­er­ing the deals of his as­sis­tants Derek King and Kelvin Jack soon af­ter and hired An­gus Eve three days lat­er on a per­for­mance-based con­tract ahead of the Gold Cup Qual­i­fiers with Montser­rat and French Guiana on Ju­ly 2 and 6 re­spec­tive­ly.

Eve, a for­mer na­tion­al mid­field­er and stand­out per­former, opt­ing for a new-look team, whipped Montser­rat 6-1 and blanked French Guiana 8-7 in a penal­ty shoot-out which fol­lowed a 1-1 tied in reg­u­la­tion time, there­by as­sur­ing T&T qual­i­fi­ca­tion to the Group Phase of the Con­ca­caf Gold Cup in the USA.

More suc­cess fol­lowed Eve, a for­mer In­ter­Col win­ning coach, there­after with a goal­less tie with Con­ca­caf gi­ants Mex­i­co in Group A at the AT&T Sta­di­um, be­fore a 0-2 loss to El Sal­vador spoiled T&T’s plan of emerg­ing from the group. The War­riors com­plet­ed the group by draw­ing with Guatemala 1-1 in Frisco, Texas, USA.

With two points from three games and a dis­play of foot­ball that was rem­i­nis­cent of the foot­ball that the T&T team was ca­pa­ble of play­ing, Eve had earned him­self the full-time coach­ing job when the TTFA ap­point­ed him on Sep­tem­ber 2 as T&T’s se­nior men and Un­der-20 na­tion­al team coach.

The same could not be said for the coun­try’s women’s team, which was thought to have had a steady coach in Welsh­man James Thomas since his ap­point­ment on April 29, amid spec­u­la­tion that for­mer na­tion­al women’s coach Richard Hood was the front-run­ner the po­si­tion.

Thomas and his as­sis­tant Char­lie Mitchell pre­pared the team un­til Thomas agreed to pick up an­oth­er job in the UK and quit the T&T na­tion­al pro­gramme in Sep­tem­ber, rough­ly a month be­fore the team was sched­uled to be­gin World Cup qual­i­fiers in No­vem­ber.

That de­vel­op­ment again be­gan spec­u­la­tion of a lo­cal coach as­sum­ing the top women’s coach­ing job but in­stead, the nor­mal­i­sa­tion com­mit­tee opt­ed for Amer­i­can Con­stan­tine Kon­stin, a fut­sal coach who had nev­er be­fore coached of­fi­cial­ly at 11-a-side foot­ball.

As faith would have it, Kon­stin’s stay last­ed just two ap­pear­ances at the train­ing ses­sions which forced the Nor­mal­i­sa­tion Com­mit­tee to en­gage the ser­vices of for­mer se­nior men’s cap­tain Ken­wyne Jones, who had no head coach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to lead the team. He was the team’s third coach in six months. The un­of­fi­cial re­port that reached Guardian Me­dia Sports is that Kon­stin was re­placed due to an ap­par­ent dis­agree­ment by some play­ers and staff mem­bers to have the Amer­i­can as their coach be­cause of his lack of ex­pe­ri­ence of coach 11-a-side foot­ball.

In the mean­time, Con­ca­caf sought to push back the women’s qual­i­fiers to Feb­ru­ary 2022 and Jones who had brought a lev­el of calm to the women’s pro­gramme and the unit, pro­duced two sat­is­fac­to­ry dis­plays in as many in­ter­na­tion­al friend­ly match­es against Pana­ma for a team that hadn’t played to­geth­er for two years.

The T&T women, led by cap­tain Karyn Forbes drew with the Pana­ma­ni­ans 0-0 and 1-1 both at the Ato Boldon Sta­di­um in Bal­main, Cou­va in Oc­to­ber. Jones, giv­en an in­ter­im coach­ing job un­til No­vem­ber 30 this year, lob­bied for the full-time coach­ing po­si­tion say­ing he be­lieved the women had what it takes to qual­i­fy for the World Cup.

This ask was an­swered by the nor­mal­i­sa­tion com­mit­tee on the eve of the sec­ond of two friend­lies in San­to Domin­go on No­vem­ber 30,

NC via a me­dia re­lease that said: «The ap­point­ment was «based on the achieve­ment of KPIs (key per­for­mance in­dices) and a suc­cess­ful per­for­mance ap­praisal. Jones cre­at­ed a «pos­i­tive at­mos­phere» with­in the team and im­proved the «dy­nam­ic be­tween the play­ers and the tech­ni­cal staff.»

Three days be­fore the ap­point­ment Jones’ charges were de­feat­ed 2-1 by the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic cour­tesy of an in­jury-time goal. And in the sec­ond match, the T&T women held their coun­ter­parts to a 1-1 tie.

In­sol­ven­cy and a debt of

an es­ti­mat­ed TT$98.5M

Mean­while, off the play­ing field, things were not so good ei­ther. The mem­ber­ship of the T&T Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion clam­oured for the re­moval of the Hadad-led com­mit­tee, sight­ing its in­abil­i­ty to achieve the man­date laid out by FI­FA in March 2020.

In May, a let­ter penned by the mem­ber­ship ac­cused the Nor­mal­i­sa­tion Com­mit­tee of gross mis­man­age­ment say­ing they dis­ap­proved of the way the sport was be­ing man­aged, such as the non-pay­ment of salaries to the staff, play­ers and coach­es of the se­nior na­tion­al men’s team which is well in­to the FI­FA World Cup Qual­i­fiers for the Qatar World Cup 2022; no au­dit­ed and com­pli­ance com­mit­tee, no an­nu­al gen­er­al meet­ings (AGM), no au­dit­ed fi­nan­cial state­ments for the year end­ed De­cem­ber 31, 2020; in­creas­ing debt and poor fi­nan­cial man­age­ment, and the mis­man­age­ment of the World Cup match against Guyana that was played in the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic.

The man­date of the nor­mal­i­sa­tion com­mit­tee has been: to run the TTFA’S dai­ly af­fairs; to es­tab­lish a debt re­pay­ment plan that is im­ple­mentable by the TTFA; to or­gan­ise and to con­duct elec­tions of a new TTFA Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee for a four-year man­date.

How­ev­er, Hadad told the me­dia on May 1 that the of­fi­cial T&TFA debt was $98.5 mil­lion and re­vealed that Ernest and Young (EY) would help with a debt-erad­i­ca­tion pro­gramme. It al­so set Sep­tem­ber 26 for the first AGM of the NC since its ap­point­ment.

But tem­pers flared as mat­ters re­mained un­re­solved af­ter the meet­ing, in­clud­ing the ap­proval of Au­dit­ed Fi­nan­cials for 2019, the ex­pul­sion of the Coach­es As­so­ci­a­tion which was to be re­placed by the Uni­fied Coach­es of T&T, and why the val­ue of the land hous­ing the Home of Foot­ball and val­ued at $42 mil­lion, was not in­clud­ed in the as­so­ci­a­tion’s fi­nan­cial state­ment.

This was lat­er set­tled at an Ex­tra­or­di­nary Gen­er­al Meet­ing (EGM) on Oc­to­ber 10 at which the au­dit­ed ac­counts were ap­proved to fa­cil­i­tate grant pay­ment by the FI­FA. But there was still no way of re­duc­ing or clear­ing the debt that bur­dened the TTFA and foot­ball in gen­er­al in T&T for over a decade.

Hadad in an in­ter­view told Guardian Me­dia Sports said the dis­so­lu­tion of the TTFA was an op­tion but they were not con­sid­er­ing it at the time. Since how­ev­er, the lo­cal foot­ball ad­min­is­tra­tor has been li­ais­ing with the gov­ern­ment for help to liq­ui­date the debt.

How­ev­er, on Christ­mas ever, the TTFA is­sued a News re­lease to the me­dia in which FI­FA in a let­ter dat­ed De­cem­ber 21, had grant­ed the nor­mal­i­sa­tion com­mit­tee a one-year ex­ten­sion on its term to March 31, 2023.

The term of the Nor­mal­i­sa­tion Com­mit­tee was set to end on March 26, 2022, but a re­lease from FI­FA said ow­ing to an ar­ray of le­gal draw­backs stem­ming from the TTFA board of di­rec­tor’s dis­agree­ment with the com­mit­tee’s ap­point­ment in 2020, part­nered with pan­dem­ic chal­lenges, FI­FA opt­ed to ex­tend the com­mit­tee’s reign for an ad­di­tion­al year to as­sist them in achiev­ing their core ob­jec­tives.

LINK ORIGINAL: The Trinidad Guardian

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