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Sat, Jan

‘How can they sleep comfortably?!’ Corneal slams Hadad-led NC on alleged Fevrier payment.
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Former Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) technical director and Fifa coaching instructor Anton Corneal launched a scathing attack on the management style of Fifa-appointed normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad, as frustrations boil over regarding not only the non-payment of TTFA debts but the behaviour of the new local football boss.

Hadad, the co-CEO of family-owned business HadCo Limited, was hired by Fifa on 27 March with a mandate to:

1. run the TTFA’s daily affairs;

2. establish a debt repayment plan that is implementable by the TTFA;

3. review and amend the TTFA Statutes (and other regulations where necessary) and ensure their compliance with the FIFA Statutes and requirements before duly submitting them for approval to the TTFA Congress;

4. organise and conduct elections of a new TTFA executive committee for a four-year mandate.

He is assisted on the normalisation committee by vice-chair Judy Daniel and ordinary member Nigel Romano. And although they faced resistance from former TTFA president William Wallace up until 25 October, the former elected officers made it clear that they would not interfere with the payment of present and past coaches.

Still, nine months after his appointment, Hadad has not told Corneal when to expect his first payment. In the interim, the technical director is forced to read about the various ways in which the normalisation committee intends to use an unprecedented bumper Fifa pay-out of over US$2 million—including spending on a new football league for Pro League and Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) clubs.

And Corneal said he hit the roof after being informed that former Men’s National Senior Team assistant coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier was allegedly paid in the vicinity of US$180,000 in recent weeks.

Fevrier, the head coach of the W Connection Football Club owned by former president David John-Williams, worked as assistant to Dennis Lawrence from February 2017 and headed the National Under-15 Team.

Corneal, who won a High Court judgment of TT$3.4 million from the TTFA on 20 November 2019, is furious that he was not higher up the normalisation committee’s queue.

“How can they not see it fit to say ‘listen, this man has been owed for so long, so let us start with him’,” Corneal told Wired868. “This is telling me now about our business people, because this does not go hand in hand with proper leadership. There must be a level of inclusiveness and fairness.

“I pray to God if I am ever placed in a position [of authority], I am not like that. It seems like to work as an administrator in local football, you have to be not transparent, not respectful, and not able and willing to collaborate with all persons. It seems as if you have to be deceitful to be an administrator—that is not of me.

“If these allegations are true then I am so insulted, but I will let my legal people guide me through the process.”

Fevrier, who is on vacation with his family, declined to confirm or deny whether he had been paid off. Instead, he invited Wired868 to direct all questions on the subject to the normalisation committee.

Hadad did not respond to queries on the topic, or whether—as also rumoured—he also approved payments to controversial British clothing supplier Avec Sport and/or salesman Peter Miller.

Former Soca Warriors head coach Dennis Lawrence, according to his agent Mike Berry, remains unpaid for five months as head coach as well as for the balance of his contract, which was due to run until 2022.

“I am sure this sends a horrible message out to players who are aspiring to be national players,” said Berry. “If this is how you treat a national hero who scored the goal to take you to the World Cup, then watch out. Whatever you think about Dennis, if he has a contract and he is not paid what he is due—it is wrong.”

At present, the TTFA is believed to be between TT$50 and $70 million in debt with a list of creditors that includes: Stephen Hart, Kendall Walkes, Russell Latapy, the Board of Inland Revenue, late youth coach Teba McKnight, and a string of hotels and travel agents.

Remarkably, Hadad has even annoyed the coaches and staff members he has paid—or at least is actively trying to compensate.

This morning, a Trinidad Guardian article which stated that coaches and office staff were paid yesterday by the normalisation committee prompted feverish calls to the bank by all concerned. They were all left disappointed and bemused, with Hadad’s assistant, Amiel Mohammed, subsequently explaining that deposits were made but might need time to show on their respective accounts.

“It is so unbecoming for your boss to be relaying information like this through the press, without even sending a note to update his employees,” said one person, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Office staff are expected to be paid until November while technical staff members were promised half-salaries until August. Players will supposedly be paid owed match fees in full.

In Hadad’s first meeting with coaches, seven months ago, he promised that he was only a phone call away. However, several employees, including the steering committee of the football coaches association, since complained that those were empty words.

Corneal confirmed that he was twice sounded out by Hadad about offering his expertise to the normalisation committee, so as to help ‘organise the technical department’—which is led at present by technical director Dion La Foucade.

On both occasions, he said the initial approach was followed by silence and uncertainty.

“Hadad approached me and said they would like me to be part and parcel of the restructuring of the game but nothing has materialised for whatever reason,” said Corneal. “[…] Even that is mind boggling; but then if I don’t understand the magnitude of the game, I might think the same way. I don’t think they understand how [local football] has been affected this year.

“In a way, we are fortunate that the world is on a lockdown so there is no better time to restructure and really think about the long term development of our football. But again that has not happened.

“I am not accustomed to working in a situation where the product of football is being placed on the back burner. We will reap what we sow.

“Whether you are talking about youth football, zone football, elite football, national youth teams, football is on the back burner. If not, it must be a best-kept secret.”

Transparency, good faith, and respect, according to Corneal, are solely lacking from the Fifa-appointed normalisation committee.

“I have been involved in this game for nearly 30 years and the communication now is desperately poor,” said Corneal. “Once communication is poor, it starts to erode trust.  People start doubting, putting question marks, second guessing, coming up with their own opinions.

“[…] Once there is respectful communication, you find those energies will start turning into progress. But again I sit on the outside and I have to divorce myself from assisting the TTFA, and deal with monies that has been owed to me for so long.

“I would never have thought if someone told me before that we would be in December 2020 and I still would not have gotten money. This is the third Christmas I am going through without a dollar [from the TTFA].”

Corneal, who worked as coach for Trinidad and Tobago at the Germany 2006 World Cup and the junior 2007 and 2009 World Cups, described the normalisation committee’s behaviour as a slap in the face for not just him but also the local high court.

He noted too that foreign coaches like Even Pellerud and Wim Rijsbergen turned to Fifa and were paid off, and questioned whether the local football administration was deliberately disrespecting its own coaches.

“I am really concerned about the allegations of monies being paid out by TTFA or the normalisation committee,” he said. “I am sure it will be a concern too for Stephen Hart, Dennis Lawrence, Russell Latapy, Kendall Walkes, Stephen De Four. These are people who sacrificed so much for the game.

“Do you know how many times I missed Carnival or Panorama or Christmas? How many times my family went on holidays without me, or when I did go I was on the computer everyday to the TTFA? Was it worth it?”

Corneal said Trinidad and Tobago’s football will not improve unless it is served by administrators who take up the job for the right reasons.

“I have a judgment against them and they paid people who working for three months and that is okay?” asked Corneal. “I don’t know how those people can rest their heads at night and sleep comfortably. I would not be able to do that.

“I remember on 24 December 1993 when I was working for the Ministry of Sport, and I paid community coaches out of my pocket—because government cheques were coming late and I could not live with them not getting paid before Christmas. So for people to do something like this.

“[…] Wallace wasn’t there long enough to have a chance, so I can’t blame his administration—because he said right away that he would see about me. But us coaches are really being disrespected and change must be made.

“We really have to start doing things the right way with the pillars of strong organisations, which are: honesty, integrity, trust, respect. If they are not there for those reasons then they don’t need to be in those positions.”