Pro League champions Central FC have slammed Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams for the local football body’s supposed attempt to “manipulate” club goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams and to “discredit” the “Couva Sharks” themselves.
The Central release, which was unsigned, sought to respond to a statement by Trinidad and Tobago national youth team coach Russell Latapy, which was published on the TTFA website and chided the national goalkeeper—who Latapy referred to as “kid”—to “talk less [and] defend more.”
Latapy further claimed that Williams showed a lack of wisdom and understanding by criticising Sport Minister Darryl Smith’s perceived snub of the club’s accomplishments in a Central press release last week.
The Pro League champions described Latapy’s statement as “shameful” and criticised John-Williams for allowing it on the TTFA website.
“Not only would [John-Williams] have authorised the TTFA media release by Jan-Michael Williams which sought to undermine Central FC’s position,” stated Central FC, “but he then allowed one of his junior coaches to issue a statement on TTFA website describing Jan-Michael as ‘a kid’. As a previous outstanding footballer who would have achieved many public accolades, it is shameful that Russell Latapy would wish to deny the same to the Caribbean’s top goalkeeper…
“[Jan-Michael’s] comments were not directed towards TTFA and there should be no reason why David John-Williams would allow his organisation to intercede in this issue, other than to support the club that regularly provides players for his national teams.
“Surely the most prudent response would have been for Mr Latapy to pick up the phone and have a quiet word with Jan-Michael?”
The Sharks further criticised the TTFA president for denying a citizen the right to speak on the performance of a government minister and questioned John-Williams’ motivation for defending Smith.
“Are government ministers beyond criticism in the Trinidad and Tobago of 2017?” stated the club release. “And by interceding themselves into an issue that was not directly of their concern, now David John-Williams, the TTFA board and Russell Latapy’s motives should be of concern.
“As we have stated, they cannot deny the facts. They cannot deny freedom of speech. There was no area for them to comment on, other than to support Central FC’s fears that the Minister of Sport does not value professional football. So why get involved?
“After all, TTOC did not rush to attack [Olympic sprinter] Richard Thompson when he criticised the Minister of Sport.”
Current Central managing director Brent Sancho, who played alongside Latapy at the Germany 2006 World Cup, was Smith’s direct predecessor as Sport Minister while the club’s operations director Kevin Harrison worked as Sancho’s advisor. John-Williams is the owner of Central’s rivals and fellow Pro League outfit, W Connection FC.
The club stood by its initial criticism of Smith for not formally acknowledging their historic third successive Pro League title.
The Central goalkeeper has not committed on the furore since, in a statement made through the TTFA on Saturday, he attempted to distance himself from the club’s stance by suggesting that his comments were “incorrectly interpreted.”
“Let me first say that I am not one to play politics with the game that I love nor do I have interest in either attacking the Ministry of Sport or the Sport Minister,” said Williams, via the TTFA Media. “My name has been used a lot in the past by others to get their various points across… My statements obviously were incorrectly interpreted…
“I also hope to do my best so that my name is seen in the media in the future for sporting achievements only.”
Ironically, within hours of William’s statement on the TTFA website, the local football then published Latapy’s interview, which slated the intelligence and accomplishments of the Soca Warriors custodian who was twice selected among CONCACAF’s top goalkeepers over the past four years.
The following is the full Central FC statement on the TTFA’s response to their initial criticism of the Sport Minister:
As seems to be the regular scenario in T&T football, certain sections of the football establishment choose to ignore important issues raised, to service their own agendas.
The recent press release made by Central FC was addressing the perceived lack of support by Sport Minister Darryl Smith for professional football in this country. While it was based on the opinions of Central FC players and staff, the facts were undeniable.
Central FC created football history twice during the last season. They won a successive Caribbean Club Championship with a totally local team, while winning a second successive TT Pro League. The club then went on to win a third successive TT Pro League in 2017.
This is important to national pride and to promote sport tourism in Trinidad and Tobago. To consistently win the Caribbean Club Championship proves, without doubt, that the TT Pro League is the top league out of 35 Caribbean countries—surely something our Sport Minister should be proud of, and also should be thanked for, as it validates the support provided by SPORTT company and the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs.
This is truly a team effort made possible by all 10 Pro League clubs, Pro League administrators and the TT government. Yet instead of all parties coming together to celebrate our joint victories, we have a deafening silence.
On 18 May 2016, FIFA President, Gianni Infantino wrote to TTFA President David John-Williams and said:
“Central FC are the Champions of Trinidad and Tobago. It gives me great pleasure to send my heartfelt congratulations to Central FC and their indomitable team on this great achievement.
“This title is the result of the determination of everyone involved and my congratulations go to the players, the coach, the entire technical and medical staff, and the fans.
“On behalf of the entire football community, I would like to thank Central FC and your Association for helping to spread the positive message of football.”
At the CONCACAF Champions League draw in Miami, both CONCACAF President, Victor Montagliani and Deputy General Secretary Ted Howard, publicly and personally, extended congratulations to Central FC on winning successive Caribbean Club Championships and the positive contribution of Trinidad and Tobago club football to the CONCACAF region.
Of course, everyone at Central FC is proud to have received these international acknowledgements. But what does it say about our Minister of Sport that he could not find the time to ask one of his media employees to issue a similar release?
This is not any kind of attack on the PNM government. In fact, we are convinced that Dr [Keith] Rowley—had he been made aware by Minister Smith of our achievements and the significance to our country, which has been battered and bruised over the last 12 months by recession and crime—would himself have promoted the club’s success. For we’ve had little to cheer about internationally in the 2016 sport calendar.
It was very disappointing to note that TTFA, rather than acknowledge our complaint about lack of recognition, and perhaps attempt to close the chasm between Minister Smith and professional football, chose to attempt to manipulate one of Central FC’s players and discredit Central FC.
After all, David John-Williams forwarded the letter from the FIFA President to Central FC and was fully aware of its contents. Mr Williams was also at the CONCACAF Champions League draw and would have witnessed the plaudits given to Central FC and, no doubt, also basked in the reflected glory of victory by a club under his organisation.
So having been aware that the statements made in the Central FC press release were accurate, why did he not—as overseer of T&T football—support Central’s concerns?
Not only would he have authorised the TTFA media release by Jan-Michael Williams which sought to undermine Central FC’s position, but he then allowed one of his junior coaches to issue a statement on TTFA website describing Jan-Michael as “a kid.”
As a previous outstanding footballer who would have achieved many public accolades, it is shameful that Russell Latapy would wish to deny the same to the Caribbean’s top goalkeeper.
While Mr Latapy was fortunate enough to ply his trade internationally, Jan-Michael—aside from two spells overseas—has consistently won the top titles available to him at national and regional level, as well as supporting many local community projects. And did so on much lower salaries than Mr Latapy.
Jan-Michael has literally given blood in his 70 plus appearances for the national team. His comments were not directed towards TTFA and there should be no reason why David John-Williams would allow his organisation to intercede in this issue, other than to support the club that regularly provides players for his national teams.
Surely the most prudent response would have been for Mr Latapy to pick up the phone and have a quiet word with Jan-Michael?
How are we supposed to encourage and inspire young men to turn away from crime and throw their energies into football if the Minster of Sport, the TTFA President and one of our greatest former players refuse to promote the sport by recognising excellence and achievement?
What is more important in their roles than demonstrating the positives of sport?
Is there any reason why any citizen should not speak out about lack of performance by a government minister?
Are government ministers beyond criticism in the Trinidad and Tobago of 2017?
And by interceding themselves into an issue that was not directly of their concern, now David John-Williams, the TTFA board and Russell Latapy’s motives should be of concern.
As we have stated, they cannot deny the facts. They cannot deny freedom of speech. There was no area for them to comment on, other than to support Central FC’s fears that the Minister of Sport does not value professional football. So why get involved?
After all, TTOC did not rush to attack Richard Thompson when he criticised the Minister of Sport.
Those are the questions that should be asked, along with questions to the Minister such as: “Why did you not acknowledge Central FC’s achievements” and “Why have you not responded to their criticisms?”
And perhaps, to David-John Williams: “Why did you feel the need to intercede in this issue?”
Unless, of course, TTFA responded on the Minister’s behalf?
If we are to continue striving to improve our professional league, which in turn strengthens the national teams, we cannot sit back quietly while the league only receives negative press.
The clubs need to be recognised in order to encourage corporate sponsorship, match attendance and participation from youths. The more non-financial support provided by government, the less financial support will be required.
The Minister of Sport has actively supported CPL cricket, amateur football and numerous football coaching schools. So why not our professional league that provides employment for over 200 people, the majority of whom are Trinidadian?
Central FC have made a massive contribution to T&T football in its five year history, both on the field and off—with numerous imaginative community projects. Those facts cannot be denied.
Yet, it appears, there are those that wish to do so to suit their own personal agendas, to the detriment of the beautiful game.