In the Hot Seat: Selby Browne

Date Published: 
Trinidad Express

SELBY BROWNE is angry with Jack Warner’s title of “Mr Football” and for calling his name in the interview, In the Hot Seat in the Sunday Express of May 12.

Browne, who is the Regional Campaign Ambassador for Issa Hayatou of Cameroon, for the presidency of FIFA, claims that Warner, president of the Confederation of Central America and Caribbean Football Associations (CoNCACAF), has not moved local football to any appreciable degree.

Q: Mr Browne, you sounded like you had just accidentally bitten a piece of Congo pepper when you called to say you wanted to respond to Jack Warner for calling your name in the last Sunday Express . . . that you wanted to spill the beans . . . what do you have against the goodly gentleman?

SB (Browne looks tense as he sits in the Picton Street boardroom of his company, Caribbean Sports Television Network, Tuesday morning, but responds in a measured tone): What I have against Mr Warner? I saw your article and when I looked at it I saw Mr Warner enquiring as to the whereabouts of Selby Browne and the like.

Q: Did you gather in what context he called those names?

SB: What I want to do is to set the record straight as it relates to ‘Mr Football of Trinidad and Tobago’ as is stated in the article, ‘Mr Football Extraordinaire.’

Q: Are you disputing that?

SB (Ignoring the question): I am going to give you the facts as they relate to football in Trinidad and Tobago, my understanding and exposure of it, pre-Jack Warner, during Jack Warner’s tenure and what is my vision for football post-Jack Warner, as I hope it would be. (He proceeds to give the history of his childhood days and other unsolicited information):

Q: Excuse me, but what has that got to do with Jack Warner?

SB: (Again ignoring the query) . . . so the exposure is to let you know that I have seen football in all parts of Trinidad from a boy from age eight, and my coming back to Port-of Spain in front the Grand Stand (digresses again). I would demonstrate to you the pre-Warner era in football and then I will ask you the question as to what will be Warner’s legacy for his contribution to football in Trinidad. And then I will ask you where have we gone in football.

Q: What you think would be his legacy, a negative or a positive one?

SB: His legacy must be the abandonment of our history in football. (Another lengthy discourse on the structure of club football in the country from the 1950s unfolds.)

Q: Mr Browne, I am afraid I don’t have the space to print all you are saying. Yesterday you sounded as though you wanted to “buss” some mark on Mr Warner..why don’t you come to the point?

SB: What mark? What mark?

Q: I don’t know, why don’t you tell me?

SB: There is a myth, there is a myth in Trinidad that Mr Warner has contributed immensely to the development of Trinidad and Tobago’s football.

Q: A myth?

SB: (Eyes wide opened as he pounded his desk): I repeat there is a myth in Trinidad that Mr Warner has contributed immensely to the development of foot football!

Q: You are aware that the records do not support your contention?

SB: The records from MY knowledge of what I know to be the STRUCTURE of football prior to Warner do not confirm that. I know what Warner has done for himself . . .

Q: Wait, wait . . .

SB: (Again ignoring the question) . . . as well as regards to his own financial well being. I don’t know where we have gone with respect to football. Out of 35 countries in the CONCACAF, 10 have already participated in the World Cup. Trinidad is not one of them.

Q: Are you blaming Mr Warner for that?

SB: (Raising his voice and wildly gesticulating) I am not interested in that! I told him more than a quarter century ago; once he is there we will not go to World Cup and I (thumping his chest) have lived to see it. I don’t care who pumped how much into what; at the end of the day our football has not gone forward under Jack Warner’s tenure.

Our football history would show that in 1964, we were as large as this (forming a circle with two fingers on one hand). Jack Warner was as little as this (showing a smaller circle on the other hand). Today, Jack Warner is as large as this; our football is as small as this (reversing the size of the circles on his hands). In ‘64 we beat Argentina one-nil at the Pan American Games. (He proceeds to reel off some more local football history, despite efforts to keep him focussed.)

I was playing against teams in Jamaica and Mr Warner wasn’t T-H-E-R-E!!!

Q: You sounding like you just had another piece of the Congo pepper. Why this vendetta against Mr Warner?

SB: What I would like to deal with is football and Mr Warner.

Q: Why should you be given a forum to simply bash Jack Warner?

SB (Cooling down a bit): Let me tell you; Trinidad football and its history must be put in perspective. The reality is only one Trinidadian has played in a World Cup final and his name is Randy Samuel.

Q: Mr Browne...?

SB (Refusing to give way and pitching his voice at a very high decibel): LET ME GIVE YOU INFORMATION AND YOU WILL WRITE! Randy Samuel from Point Fortin representing Canada! (pounding the desk) He is ‘Mr Football’ for me in Trinidad and Tobago....

Clevon, the sporting assets exceed $2 billion and do not include the four new stadia. Those assets are vested in the government through the regional corporations, community based grounds, some with pavilions, some with turf wickets, some of them with hard courts and there are more than 300 in Trinidad and Tobago. The football governing body has failed to utilise these assets.

Q: I think Mr Warner is saying that people like you should put your money where your mouth is . . . just as he did, and are you prepared to assist in filling that void now that he has pulled out?

SB: With money and with Warner there was still a void. The void existed for more than a quarter century, that is the point I am making. It wasn’t now.

Q: At least he was able to do something positive about it didn’t he?

SB (Interrupting): Let met tell you. I initiated professional football in Trinidad. I have lived to see Warner have a professional team and a professional league two decades after. The issue I was pointing to you is whomsoever had been the recipients of these millions of dollars put into Trinidad football, our football from ‘64 to date has gone nowhere.

Q: What do you mean who were the recipients? Weren’t they the players and the sport itself?

SB: If a fella has a failing enterprise and he puts money into it it is still a failing enterprise. Football is a community street game where the minor leagues are the major leagues, and what I will assure you is that I will put into place in Trinidad in a much shorter time than you think our community leagues. Putting football back in the communities and after I have done that what will evolve would be truly indicative of our flair and style as Trinidadians.

Q: Mr Browne, I want to believe this thing you have with Mr Warner is politically motivated in that you are PNM and Warner a UNC supporter?

SB: Yes. I am a member of the PNM, I was a PNM Alderman on the Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation, the population is some 400,000.

And what my political persuasion has to do with football is beyond me. I have played football for many years, (itemising on his fingers) the goalkeeper is UNC, the right wing is NAR, the left wing is a NJAC..we all play in the same team. (Shouting) Irrelevant to the issue!! I am talking football!! I am talking about Jack Warner and what is perceived as his great contribution to football in Trinidad and Tobago.

Q: Aren’t you just jealous of the man?

SB: How could l be jealous of a failure?

Q: Surely you cannot be serious Mr Browne, about a man who has put so much time and money into the sport?

SB: ‘Mr Football’–self-acclaimed–has his own interests. That’s the point I am making (slams the desk with one fist).

Q: What interest?

SB: Warner! Warner! and Warner! Don’t tell me about Trinidad football, leave my football A-L-L-O-N-E! That’s the point I am making. His business is WARNER, WARNER, WARNER AND WARNER!