Soca Warriors suspended

Lasana Liburd
Date Published: 
Trinidad Express

THE Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (T&TFF) yesterday responded to a boycott from at least 19 “Soca Warriors” by immediately suspending the players from all football under their aegis pending a full-scale investigation.

The players walked out on a training session on Monday morning in a protest for better conditions while on national duty.

There was some softening of their position at a news conference yesterday afternoon, when the players promised to return to the field once negotiations were underway.

The players—led by the CL Financial San Juan Jabloteh quartet of Brent Sancho, Travis Mulraine, Kelvin Jack and Gary Glasgow—had even asked that the team’s evening training session be rescheduled to allow for their attendance.

The request was not met by T&TFF technical director Hannibal Najjar, who explained that the Hasely Crawford Stadium had already been booked for a particular time.

Najjar said while he was ready to accept the players, the matter was no longer in his hands.

“These players are central to my heart,” said Najjar. “But this is out of my hands in the interim. The federation has to do what they have to do from here on.

“Until all that dust is settled, I will have to wait before I do anything.”

The T&TFF’s response came quickly yesterday evening via a brief e-mail from media officer Shaun Fuentes.

Pro League outfit Joe Public responded with even greater speed.

Star stopper Keyeno Thomas paid the ultimate price for his role in the strike as he was among three players sacked by the club, owned by FIFA vice-president Jack Warner.

Versatile full backs Jeremy Delpino and Hollis Brown were also dismissed by the “Eastern Lions” with immediate effect via a press release.

All three players were asked to return their gear today and accept final payments.

The release was submitted by Public manager Sam Phillip, although it did not state whether the decision was his own.

It did say, though, that “the club’s discipline shall in no way be compromised to the detriment of Trinidad and Tobago’s football”.

Neither Phillip nor Thomas could be reached for comment yesterday evening.

Other Pro League teams were unsure of how to react to news that they could now be without several key players.

“I suppose if they could do it, they will do it,” said Jabloteh chairman Jerry Hospedales. “I will talk to some of my people later to see what is going on but I don’t know if I can do anything for it.”

Vibe CT 105 W Connection president David J. Williams declined comment.

It was a dramatic twist to a threatened strike by a still undetermined number of national players.

The players, who also want to have a registered players’ association sanctioned by the T&TFF, had met the media at 2 p.m. at the Cascadia Hotel, St Ann’s and stressed their interest in dialogue rather than confrontation.

“We are committed to the cause of winning games,” said Mulraine. “We want to win the Gold Cup and qualify for the next World Cup, but we need the tools to do so.

“Right now, we are operating below the level of a semi-pro team, yet alone an international one.”

Cyd Gray, Nigel Daniel, Trent Noel, Ansil Elcock, Lyndon “Chubby” Andrews, Ian Gray, Cornell Glen and Thomas were also present.

Mulraine claimed that the entire squad—excluding members of the Defence Force—were supporting them.

Among members of the audience were Retired magistrate George Hislop, father of Portsmouth goalkeeper and ex-national captain Shaka Hislop; public relations consultant Michelle Hart; Llewellyn Wiltshire (aunt of deceased national player, Mickey Trotman); and T&TFF media officer Fuentes.

The players’ wish list included insurance coverage; medical supplies at training sessions; sports drinks on a regular basis; meals; access to unbiased professional advice; and a long-term pension scheme.

The main stumbling block, though, is the match fees requested by the players, as well as their demand for six tickets per game, including two for the VIP box.

Team manager George Joseph said that the T&TFF had offered a proposal which took care of most of the players’ needs.

However, neither party saw eye to eye on match fees.

The T&TFF, according to their proposal, are willing to hand out—starting from next month—US$200 per friendly and US$600 per international.

Mulraine argued that national players previously received US$1,000 (0-25 caps); US$2,000 (25-50 caps); and US$3,000 (50 caps and over) with win bonuses starting at US$1,000.

The Warriors want US$1,000 per game for anyone with more than 15 national caps and US$750 for players with less.

Manager Joseph insisted he would not even entertain their request for tickets to the VIP box.

However, he said the players’ decision to walk out of Monday’s training session had taken things out of his hands and it was now a matter for the T&TFF.

Sancho said that the players were willing to take to the field as an act of good faith, although he was wary of the federation’s promises.

“We have seen many proposals that did not come to pass,” he explained. “These problems are long overdue and need to be addressed...

“We are willing to come out and train and most of the guys still want to work for the coach.”

The T&TFF will now have the final say.