Mayday...Mayday...Mayday...!” This may well be the cry from the office of the T&T Football Federation (TTFF) with May 16 looming large.
It will be interesting to discover who will answer this distress signal—this almost life threatening call from a Federation, whose leaders have said over and over “they have no money.”
It is now apparent that time is running out on the TTFF in this five-year old battle with members of the team which represented T&T at the World Cup in Germany 2006.
The footballers were celebrated after their 1-0 victory over Bahrain on November 16, 2005. That win led this country to its first ever World Cup and helped ease the hurt of the Strike Squad in 1989.
The players were paraded as heroes and when they drew an historic first match against Sweden on June 10, in Dortmund, this country went wild...the celebrations were endless, the joy nonstop, the feeling of love and togetherness widespread. However all of that changed after the World Cup.
Recently after a protracted legal affair, both internationally and locally, the players who were fighting for certain monies which they claimed were due to them, found the High Court ruling in their favour.
Brent Sancho, one of the players, told Isports Saturday on i95.5fm: “The High Court ruled on May 16 that the Football Federation has to make an interim payment of US $1.6 million to the players and gave the Federation until May 30 to produce their audited financial statements”.
This news has been virtually swept under the carpet. It has been dismissed by most in the media as not significant or important.
When this team was on the road to Germany, the media could not get enough of the players. At times it was unbelievable the number of interviews and articles written on the players, their background and history.
However, as Cyd Gray, another player from the squad in Germany stated: “We have realised that a lot of people have forgotten us and just moved on. “It is sad but it is something we have to be aware of.”
Gray is correct. We have abdicated our duties and have thrown the Soca Warriors to the curb. We do not care what happens to the players.
There are some among us who believe that the money given to the players by the Government is enough and it does not matter if they were promised bonus payments and other incentives. This is a selfish, misguided thought that is synonymous with the kind of person we are.
It is why those in authority know they can divide us and make “some” of us change our minds by propaganda and misinformation. And the honest truth is their “divide and rule “mentality has actually worked not only among members of the public, but also sadly among the team from Germany 2006.
What started off as a united group has become divided with several players apparently accepting various offers from the football authorities and dropping out of this court procedure.
It is this disunity that significantly reveals the vulnerability of our society to outside influences. This was a loyal group of players with a set goal to deliver proudly for their country the best performances possible at a World Cup.
We all know how close the players appeared when they called a press conference and captain Dwight Yorke read from a prepared speech.
At that stage the toughness instilled in the team by Leo Beenhakker was still prevalent. In the five years however we have all witnessed the measured disembowelment of our football and seen the unity from 2006, threatened, and then ultimately broken.
When Cyd Gray was asked what lessons were learnt from this entire episode, he paused briefly and said with regret: “That you cannot trust anybody.”
These are very strong words from a man who has done a lot for his country and who believes, and rightfully so, that he was denied a chance to do more.
“I could have been involved with the national team all the while and assisting the younger players with my knowledge and experience.” Brent Sancho also believes that a chance for South Africa 2010 was blown when certain players were “black listed” and not allowed to represent the country because of this ongoing battle with the authorities.
“I recalled on the plane returning from Germany, we were already talking about South Africa 2010 and the fact that several of us would still be around playing and given some youngsters coming into the team, we were optimistic that we stood a good chance for qualification again….but it did not happen,” said Sancho.
The problem though is twofold, one involves the people and how gullible and easy to influence we are and also how easily we forget people who have made us proud.
The sad part is we did not do any of this by malice, but instead by pure ignorance. The other problem is this team allowed its fabric to be torn apart through the centre without, it would appear, much of a fight.
As it stands today, only 13 players from Germany 2006 are still fighting—Shaka Hislop, Kelvin Jack, Evans Wise, Cornell Glen, David Atiba-Charles, Aurtis Whitley, Avery John, Anthony Wolfe, Stern John, Collin Samuel, Kenwyne Jones, Cyd Gray and Brent Sancho. Ten others—Clayton Ince, Carlos Edwards, Jason Scotland, Chris Birchall, Densill Theobald, Ian Cox, Dennis Lawrence, Dwight Yorke, Russell Latapy and Marvin Andrews—have decided not to contest the outstanding claims.
It is this divide that has to be the most troublesome, because it suggests a vulnerability born out of ignorance and self-preservation and also epitomises what is currently underway in our football.
The authorities are hoping by this delaying tactics they can destroy the players union and thereby ensure that players rights are ignored and suppressed. Newly appointed coach 73-year old Otto Pfister has engaged several overseas players in detailed conversations on representing T&T.
These players will not be overly concerned with rights and other matters, as they will be given preferential treatment.
Here are some of the players who have been spoken to—21-year-old Jake Thomson (Exeter), 26-year old Justin Hoyte (Middlesborough), 20-year old Gavin Hoyte (Arsenal), 30-year old J Lloyd Samuel (Cardiff City, on loan from Bolton Wanderers), 30-year old Bobby Zamora (Fulham), 26- year old Kenwyne Jones (Stoke City), 32-year old Carlos Edwards (Ipswich Town), 37-year old Anthony Warner (Tranmere Rovers),27-year old Chris Birchall (LA Galaxy Stars) and 27-year old Darryl Roberts (Denizlispor in Turkey).
However Brent Sancho’s closing words are probably most important: “We are not giving up, what is right is right and many may have thought this would go away but once you have belief and have faith and enough good men (and women) anything is possible….the fight continues….we know it is not yet over.”
So on to that distress call from the authorities “Mayday…Mayday…Mayday.” Who will answer their call? No prizes for guessing !