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Sun, Aug

Ex-T&T star, Lyndon Andrews, reveals how Ma Pau SC drove him from the game
Typography

“When Ma Pau decided to fold, it had a negative impact on me. This was my job; it was how I was earning a living. This was how I took care of my family so it put me in a very difficult position.

“It discouraged me from continuing as a professional football player.”

Versatile, quick, strong and skilful, the now 41-years-old Lyndon Andrews was one of the most gifted Trinidad and Tobago midfielders of his generation. At 19 years old, he started alongside icons Dwight Yorke, Russell Latapy and David Nakhid at the 1996 CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament and went to over 40 National Senior Team caps during an extremely competitive era for the local game.

But, today, the former Holy Cross and St Mary’s College student gives a first-hand account of a darker period in his life. Why he left football, broken-hearted, at the age of 35, after a contract dispute with Ma Pau SC in 2011:

I signed for Ma Pau SC on the 10 December 2009 and the agreement had to remain in force until 31 December 2011. My employment with the club began on 1 February 2010 at an agreed fee of $8,000 per month from 1 February 2010 to 31 December 2011.

I was offered this contract by the then head coach, Michael McComie. I never had anyone look over the contract for me. I assumed that any club wanting to enter the T&T Professional League would have the necessary requirements to gain entry into league.

I joined Ma Pau because Mr McComie was going to become the new head coach of the club and he offered me a two-year contract with the club.

The opportunity to represent a relatively new club was appealing to me. I wanted to help this club establish its name and be very competitive. The duration of my contract was also a factor because you are mentally comfortable knowing you have job security for two years.

In our first year, we quickly established ourselves among the big boys in the Pro League. We competed very well and had a respectable sixth place finish in the League with victories over Jabloteh, W Connection, Caledonia AIA and even Defence Force, which surprised a lot of people—even the hierarchy of Ma Pau.

The coaching staff did a great job putting the team together and creating the right mixture of youth and experience.

Some of the experienced players were Anton Wolfe, Marc Leslie, René Britto, Shane Mathis and Shandell Samuel. And there were some very talented young players added such as Kevin Molino, Trevin Caesar, Mekeil Williams and Curtis Gonzales, who all eventually went on to represent the country at senior national football level.

My experience representing the club was very good up until they decided to close down and withdraw their franchise from the T&T Pro League. In the second year of my contract, the players were informed by the technical staff that the club was going to fold.

I had very little interaction with Ma Pau officials during my time at the club. I cannot give a specific reason as to why the club folded because I don’t know their reasons for making this decision.

In July 2011, the players were told that Ma Pau SC would not be taking part in the T&T Pro League season and, as a result, they would be giving us two months’ notice with pay for May and June 2011 for the non-continuance of our contracts. All the contracts were to expire 31 December 2011, so we had eight months left on our contracts.

The two months’ severance package were for months that they were already owing us, so technically they did not give us anything. The last time we were paid a salary was in April 2011 and we had to survive without a salary for two months—May and June 2011—and still continue to practice at least once or twice per week.

The contracted players’ stance was that we all agreed we would not accept the two months for non-continuance of our contracts. We were then asked to attend a meeting with Ms Sherry Persad, the Human Resource Manager at Ma Pau. The meeting was held at one of their offices on Independence Square in Port-of-Spain.

She met with us individually and offered us this two months’ notice with pay but we had to agree to sign a document showing acceptance of the proposal.

Although we had all agreed that we would not accept this proposal, everyone but me accepted and signed. I don’t know why they had a change of heart but I was not willing to accept their offer of two months’ pay when I had eight months left on my current contract and Ma Pau were the ones who were breaching the contract.

I informed the CEO of the T&T Pro League, Mr Dexter Skeene.

We had a short conversation over the telephone and he told me that he would contact his lawyers concerning the matter. But they never tried to settle this matter. I had to try on my own to get this matter settled, so I acquired the services of an attorney and I took the matter to Mr Colin Selvon, who was willing to take it to the courts.

During his research and investigation, he found out that my contract with Ma Pau SC, the name carried in the contract documents instead of and on behalf of Ma Pau Sports Company Limited, was never registered as a legal entity. As such, we were left without anyone to bring before the court to answer my claim.

My attorney recognised Mr John Wallis as the CEO of Ma Pau and felt that he should be held responsible. Mr Selvon had a statement of case and claim form filed on the 28 November 2011, which was served by registered mail to Mr Wallis on the 28 February 2012.

On 9 May 2012, Ms Allana Rivas, attorney for Mr Wallis, wrote to my attorney acknowledging receipt of the Statement of Case and Claim Form against her client. I have a copy of this letter in my possession.

Ms Rivas’ response was that Ma Pau, the defendant in this matter, was an unincorporated association and, as such, was not in law regarded as a legal entity. As a result, it could not be made a party (defendant) to an action on the basis that an unincorporated association cannot, in itself, be sued.

She went on to say that it was in my best interest to withdraw the matter. Should I decide to proceed, she said, she had full instructions from Mr Wallis, her client, to file an application to have the statement of case struck out under Part 26.2 CPR. With costs!

When Ma Pau decided to fold, it had a negative impact on me. This was my job; it was how I was earning a living. This was how I took care of my family so it put me in a very difficult position. It discouraged me from continuing as a professional football player.

This setback was the main reason for my retirement from professional football.

It means so much to me to have this matter settled because Ma Pau were the ones responsible for breaching the contract and they should have paid off not just the remainder of my contract but the debt owed to all the contracted players; The TT Pro League should have done its necessary due diligence prior to any club entering the ranks of the Pro League because the legal status of any club should be the number one priority of the Pro League as it relates to the welfare of all footballers playing in the League.

How can a club in the TT Pro League fold and default on payment to players who had contracts and nothing happen as a result?

Ma Pau took a leave of absence for a few years only to work itself back within the fold of the TT Pro League last season—in a sponsorship deal with North East Stars—with all of these issues outstanding and unresolved.

I believe that the Pro League should have instructed Ma Pau to settle all debts at the time they decided to fold back in 2011.  The Pro League has, if not a legal obligation, at least a moral one to see that Ma Pau SC settle all their outstanding debts before they can regain any status and affiliation to and/or with the Pro League.

We had an agreement that any prize money would be shared among the players and this was never done. We won the Toyota Classic which, at the time, was worth TT$25,000.  It is, therefore, inconceivable that Ma Pau can now, unscathed and unpunished, seek to re-brand and promote itself on the backs of another Pro League club as Ma Pau Stars—without clearing off all unfinished business tied to its previous incarnation as Ma Pau SC.

It doesn’t matter if it’s sponsorship, full ownership or part ownership. This is just wrong to me. My attorney wrote Skeene about this but the matter remains unresolved.

In light of all the obstacles and challenges I was facing, I decided to instruct my attorney to contact Ms Persad on 19 December 2015 to accept the sum of TT$17,000 which was originally offered to me—that is two months’ pay for non-continuance of my contract—although I was entitled to the sum of TT$68,000, which represented payment for the eight months that were remaining on my contract.

Ms Persad was unwilling to pay even the two months’ salary which was originally offered to me. And Ma Pau still have not paid me.

Most people do not know that the life of a professional football in T&T is very difficult. It requires dedication, discipline, hard work, sacrifice and plenty patience and you have to spend time on your own working on your craft in order to become a better player.

My advice to young players is to put God first in your life; that is the first and most important thing. To have the right attitude, you must have discipline and always try to have a good work ethic.

Before you sign any contract, before putting your signature down, be sure to have an attorney vet the contract with you, so you will avoid what I went through with Ma Pau.

I still hope that this stand-off with Ma Pau will be resolved as soon as possible and that no other player will have to go through what I have been through.

I retired from football in 2012. It was very difficult for me mentally to continue my career in football after my contract situation with Ma Pau.

How could I continue to ply my trade in the T&T Pro League?

To be honest, I really didn’t have any conversations with anyone before I announced my retirement. I was stunned to see that something like this could actually happen in the Trinidad and Tobago Professional League. To me, that was simply unbelievable.

I suddenly, completely unexpectedly, found myself unable to support my wife and daughter. Because I was now unemployed with no income, I couldn’t pay my car instalments and I couldn’t assist with the monthly bills and expenses. My wife had to bear all the expenses and I could make no contribution.

It goes without saying that this situation affected my family life.

Things have not been easy for me since Ma Pau unceremoniously put me on the bread line but I have to thank God for life, health and strength.

I have been doing some work in my community in Red Hill, D’Abadie and my current focus is on coaching and trying to develop the youths in D’Abadie and environs.

Two years ago in 2015, I established my own football team, Red Hill FC. We have competed in the Eastern Football Association (EFA) for the past two years and, with God’s help, we shall be competing in some high-level competition for many years to come.

Career Highs

(a) I represented Trinidad and Tobago at the Under-14 Martinique Invitational Tournament in 1990. We emerged as champions of the competition and I was voted the Best Midfielder, Best Technician and Most Outstanding T&T Player.

(b) In 1996, at the age of 19, I earned my first senior cap when I was selected on the National Senior Team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup in California, USA.

(c) I signed with Hibernian FC in the Scotland Premier League and played there alongside compatriot Russell Latapy from 2000-2002.

(d) I was a member of the Joe Public side that was crowned champions of the TT Pro League in 2006 and qualified for the CONCACAF Champions League group stage in which we defeated Atlante FC of Mexico 1-0 in Mexico. That was definitely one of the highs in my career—perhaps the highest high.

Career Low

The way my career ended when I was contracted to Ma Pau SC was definitely the lowest point of my career. I had a lot of challenges and obstacles in my life as a pro but I viewed them as stepping stones to help me reach the next level.

I always used those negative experiences to help me to become stronger mentally.