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Undervalued & Ignored – Central F.C.'s reward for making history.
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Central F.C. goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams steered his club into the Digicel Pro Bowl finals by scoring the winning penalty against Club Sando. In a thrilling sudden death shoot-out, Williams saved the 8th Club Sando penalty and then calmly stepped up to fire past his opposite number and set up a final clash vs Defence Force.

But Williams focus after the game was Minister of Sport, Darryl Smith, who, according to the first choice national goalkeeper, is disrespecting professional football in T&T.

“When we won our second successive Caribbean Club Championship last year, we received no recognition from Minister Smith” said Williams. “It was the highest profile sporting achievement by any team from T&T in 2016, yet we didn't even receive a letter of congratulations” The club did receive a congratulatory letter from both the President of FIFA and CONCACAF, commenting on the outstanding achievement.

“It's very disappointing as a player in our national sport to see the lack of respect for our achievements” added Williams.

Central F.C. Managing Director, Brent Sancho remains mystified by the lack of interest from Minister Smith.

“Of course, being a former Minister of Sport for the opposition, people would expect me to criticise Darryl Smith. I try to steer clear of political statements but I cannot stay quiet any longer. As a former footballer, I am amazed that the Minister has never acknowledged the TT Pro League clubs. He has refused to meet individual clubs and has taken no interest in the professional league, yet he's held meetings with the new Super League owners, which has not yet been formally ratified by TTFA.”

Sancho said that the actions of the Minister of Sport directly affect the support available from potential sponsors. “It's crazy because on one hand the Minister is cutting funding to the Pro League and saying clubs need to be more self sufficient, but he does nothing to help them achieve this. He should be regularly speaking of the accomplishments of the Pro League, which would greatly assist clubs in become self funded.”

Sancho pointed out that Central F.C. are the only club from T&T to win the CFU Caribbean Club Championship back to back while also winning their domestic league. “It's an incredible achievement especially when you recognise that Central has only 1 foreign player. We won the CFU with a 100% local team!”

Central again made history last week by becoming the first Pro League club to win the Championship 3 yeas in succession.

“These are not small achievements” said Sancho. “This is the top league in the Caribbean. We will never see this repeated, yet Minister Smith chooses to ignore us again and instead prefers to give out prizes at coaching schools. Its a nice thing to do, but not at the expense of historic feats taking place on your watch.”

Sancho feels that Smith is attempting to shut down the professional league. “There can be no other explanation. OK, you make cost cutting decisions, but why start at the top? Our professional football is admired overseas. It provides employment for hundreds of people, many of whom would possibly find it difficult to secure meaningful employment elsewhere. Imagine what we could achieve with proper support from the Ministry of Sport and Corporate T&T”

Meanwhile, Central continue to build their brand overseas.

19 year old Nicholas Dillon, has joined Belgian 2nd Division club, K.Patro Maasmechelen. His Central team mate, Nathaniel Garcia is expected to join him shortly at the Belgian club. Another of Central F.C.'s talented young players, Jem Gordon has departed to USA for trials.

Sancho said that the club, which has been meeting with potential investors over the last 18 months, is near to clinching a partnership with a consortium that has interests in several clubs across Europe.

“These things don't move quickly” said Sancho “The interest in Central is dependent on several other deals going through in Europe. All we can do is carry on winning titles to ensure that the interest remains while they complete their affairs. However, I would estimate that there's a 90% chance of new investors coming on board before we compete in the CFU finals in May.”

Everyone at Central also wishes to congratulate Stern John on his appointment as Assistant Coach to the national team. His appointment reflects the hard work he has put into the club over the last season and a half and his influence on the team is apparent from the clubs continued success.

RELATED SPORTS MINISTER NEWS

Thompson hits back at Ministry accusation
By Kwame Laurence (Express).


Richard “Torpedo” Thompson has hit back at the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs, following an accusation from an anonymous Ministry source, last week, that the three-time Olympic medallist was among the athletes who had not complied with requirements for Elite Athlete Assistance Programme (EAAP) funding.

The unnamed Ministry official was responding to Thompson's Facebook post in which he expressed gratitude for the “outpouring of love” following the news of Trinidad and Tobago's expected upgrade to gold in the 2008 Olympic Games men's 4x100 metres relay as a result of the disqualification of drug-tainted Jamaican sprinter Nesta Carter. The post also highlighted broken promises from the powers that be.

Thompson was back on Facebook, today. The T&T track star defended his own position on the EAAP accusation, and criticised Minister Darryl Smith for not responding to his request for a meeting to discuss the funding issues faced by athletes:

“Here we go again! It was brought to my attention that an 'anonymous' source from the Ministry of Sport (quite possibly the same person who has never heard of Marc Burns) made a statement in response to mine recently. This source was reportedly 'not authorised to make a statement on the issue'. However, still proceeded to state that the athletes were not compliant with the format for receiving funding.

“To begin with, the method in which we submitted our information to receive funding to prepare for 2016 was no different to the past EIGHT years. People like Kelly-Ann Baptiste, Emmanuel Callender, Keston Bledman, Marc Burns, as well as members of the 4x400m London Olympics Bronze medal team have all followed the precedented procedure.

“I understand that based on questionable actions (unrelated to the athletes) from previous administrations, that this current administration has to avoid a recurrence of such issues. However, in order for there to be a smooth transition, and fair overlap for the athletes, a certain level of discretion and common sense has to be exercised.

“In order to be reimbursed the money spent to prepare for the 2016 season, we are being asked to present receipts from two years ago (2014-15). Had this been the procedure that we followed for close to a decade, or had there been some sort of indication that physical receipts were going to be demanded, we would have kept them and gladly turned them in.

“When our minds should have been in training mode and preparing for Rio, they were directly derailing our focus with issues that should not have been. The Ministry has a system in place that is intended to help and facilitate athletes representing the country, but instead we feel as though they are against us and have become directly vindictive in the process of trying to stiff arm us.

“The sensible thing for them to do would have been to acknowledge the fact that there was a different system prior to their governance and facilitate our preparations with warning that there was going to be a different procedure being introduced moving forward, and failure to comply with that would result in ineligibility to receive funds. Simple.

“Instead, they have made this into an Administration vs Athlete issue and MANY athletes across many different sporting disciplines have been left stranded. Contrary to popular belief, several Olympians/ National athletes do not have contracts, and depend solely on the Government's assistance to prepare. When funding comes late, or not at all, the chances of having the success that the entire country expects are slim to none.

“Several of our T&T athletes face these challenges and are placed at an automatic disadvantage. Many hockey, rugby, swimming, judo, cycling, table tennis, women's football and other sports are afraid to speak out about their challenges to the media because they are afraid to be black listed and not receive any funding at all. But how do we expect to see progress or greatness internationally when these people are making phone call after phone call and sending email after email with not even the courtesy of a reply?

“Both Marc Burns and Ade Alleyne-Forte have not received funding since 2013. These are both London 2012 Olympic medallists. In efforts to mount the podium again in 2016 they reached out to the government in Olympic desperation to no avail. Alleyne-Forte was forced to find a night job in order to cover some of his very basic needs and stayed by Jarrin Solomon's Dad because he couldn't afford to pay to rent. This is an Olympic medallist people! And also someone who had recent success as a part of the 2016 World indoor Championship 4x400m Bronze medal team.

“One has to question where the funding allocated for elite athletes has gone seeing that the vast majority of us have not received it. Maybe the “anonymous” source should address this issue.

“I will also make it very clear that I have zero political agenda and that this post is not to try to make the current Government look bad. I have represented the country long enough to see the flawed system under both the PNM and UNC and have actually expressed my disapproval under both governing bodies. But I have had enough of our athletes being taken advantage of, especially when there's the level of criticism as there was by the nation subsequent to Rio.

“In November I messaged the Minister via WhatsApp with a humble request to come to the office to have a conversation about these same issues. No reply! (Of which I have proof). Mind you, this is the day after I was asked to accompany him at the track for a media release. Pictures, handshakes, the usual politicking...then Casper came into effect.

“I do not want to hear from any more “anonymous” sources from the Ministry. This is what we have a minister for, to address issues like these, not delegate responsibility. I have tried to cooperate with Minister (Darryl) Smith and his officials without having to make public statements but he has failed to deliver so I'm left with no other choice.

“This is already very lengthy, so I'll leave it at this. Both the athletes and administration have the same goals for our country. Let us find a way to achieve these results with as little complications as possible. This can only be accomplished through proper communication. I patiently await hearing from the relevant individuals.”

Sports Ministry officials ‘vindictive’—Thompson
T&T Guardian Reports.


“Both the athletes and administration have the same goals for our country. Let us find a way to achieve these results with as little complications as possible. This can only be accomplished through proper communication,” said Thompson yesterday, who took to social media (Facebook) to vent some of his and his fellow athletes frustration about a statement made by an official at the Ministry, who allegedly stated that the athletes were not compliant with the format for receiving funding.

“To begin with, the method in which we submitted our information to receive funding to prepare for 2016 was no different to the past eight years. People like Kelly-Ann Baptiste, Emmanuel Callender, Keston Bledman, Marc Burns, as well as members of the 4x400 metres London Olympics bronze medal team have all followed the precedented procedure,” said Thompson, the national record-holder in the 100m, with a personal best of 9.82.

He continued: “I understand that based on questionable actions (unrelated to the athletes) from previous administrations, that this current administration has to avoid a recurrence of such issues. However, in order for there to be a smooth transition, and fair overlap for the athletes, a certain level of discretion and common sense has to be exercised.”

According to Thompson, in order to be reimbursed money spent to prepare for last season, the national athletes are to present receipts from two years ago (2014-15).

“Had this been the procedure that we followed for close to a decade, or had there been some sort of indication that physical receipts were going to be demanded, we would have kept them and gladly turned them in.”

Thompson relented that while they should have been in training mode and preparing for Rio, athletes’ focus were derailed with issues that they should not have been.

“The Ministry has a system in place that is intended to help and facilitate athletes representing the country, but instead we feel as though they are against us and have become directly vindictive in the process of trying to stiff arm us.

“The sensible thing for them to do would have been to acknowledge the fact that there was a different system prior to their governance and facilitate our preparations with warning that there was going to be a different procedure being introduced moving forward, and failure to comply with that would result in ineligibility to receive funds. Simple!

“Instead, they have made this into an administration versus athlete issue and many athletes across many different sporting disciplines have been left stranded. Contrary to popular belief, several Olympians/national athletes do not have contracts, and depend solely on the government’s assistance to prepare. When funding comes late, or not at all, the chances of having the success that the entire country expects are slim to none.”

Thompson made specific references to sprinters Marc Burns and Ade Alleyne-Forte, who have not received funding since 2013.

“These are both London 2012 Olympic medalists. In efforts to mount the podium again in 2016 they reached out to the government in Olympic desperation to no avail. Alleyne-Forte was forced to find a night job in order to cover some of his very basic needs and stayed by Jarrin Solomon’s dad because he couldn’t afford to pay rent.”

Thompson indicated that he tried to make contact with Sports Minister Darryl Smith late last year but to no avail.

“In November, I messaged the Minister via WhatsApp with a humble request to come to the office to have a conversation about these same issues. No reply! Mind you, this is the day after I was asked to accompany him at the track for a media release. Pictures, hand shakes, the usual ‘politicking’. Then Casper came into effect.

“I do not want to hear from any more ‘anonymous’ sources from the Ministry. This is what we have a Minister for, to address issues like these, not delegate responsibility. I have tried to cooperate with Minister Smith and his officials without having to make public statements but he has failed to deliver so I’m left with no other choice.”

The Minister was contacted yesterday, who advised that he was still attending a conference and to contact National Association of Athletics Administrations (NAAA) president Ephraim Serrette who will provide the whole story. When Serrette was contacted he said that he had no comment and that this is an issue for the Ministry to resolve.