Sat, Feb

Football agent Joshua Lamb irked by Commissioner Griffith's comments.

LOCAL football agent Joshua Lamb says his various roles in the sport are now in serious jeopardy, following statements made by Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, who likened the handling of two young T&T footballers, currently stuck in London, to "human trafficking in sport."

Lamb, 29, told Newsday that although Griffith never named him nor the two footballers, it was obvious as to whom he was referring.

And since then, Lamb said he has been inundated with calls from people in his professional and private life about Griffith's assertions.

"It has to be me he's talking about," Lamb told Newsday by phone on Friday, "because I'm the only person who organised (those) trips for two footballers (through the pandemic)."

Two footballers, Jaheim McFee and Isaiah Garcia, both of whom represented T&T at youth levels, are believed to be the players in question.

At a media briefing at the Police Headquarters, Port of Spain on Thursday, Griffith warned parents about scouts and agents who draw young footballers abroad but leave them stranded if they are not contracted.

He said, "This can be seen as an arm of human trafficking and it is something we need to look at.

"Some of them were offered the world and they were sent to the Middle East and for over a year they still cannot get back home. The accommodation was similar to indentured labour.

"There was nowhere to sleep, they weren’t getting meals and they were just cast on the streets. They actually had to hitch a ride to London and I’m now in contact with them.

"I will now be liaising with the (FIFA-appointed) normalisation committee and to ensure that all young footballers (do not follow suit), because these so-called scouts and agents – if they get a cut, fine, if they don’t, well that’s the end of them...You have to find your way back home."

Some of Griffith's comments, Lamb said were inflammatory and dangerous, especially his suggestions that the pair are minors.

Griffith said, "There are two minors. Both are previous members of national youth teams, they were given the world of promises and they are now stranded in London."

If Griffith was indeed referring to McFee and Garcia, they were both adults when they left T&T. Garcia is currently 19 and McFee, 23.

They left the country for trials in Egypt in October but were not offered contracts. Lamb attempted to secure another trial for the pair in Slovakia. They were required to go to go London first, where they have been ever since.

The fallout from Griffith's comments was instantaneous.

"The damage has already started," he said.

"Fatima College called me and (said) they don't want to be affiliated with what it is taking place, so I may not be recontracted into the next SSFL (Secondary Schools Football League) season. So this situation is having a very big impact on my personal life and my career."

There are several players, whom he said, have expressed concern about Griffith's assertions.

Lamb asked why Griffith would conflate the situation with human trafficking if not to ruin his reputation.

He said while the commissioner apparently spoke with the two players, he said Griffith never spoke with him directly, nor has anyone from the police service. Even the normalisation committee, appointed to handle the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association's affairs, has not called him.

Lamb said he does not believe the commissioner involved himself in the matter out of concern for the players but because of a personal issue he may have with Lamb.

Lamb said if he had to guess, it stems from an incident in which Griffith may have mistakenly thought he spoke with a journalist about him.

"That might have upset him but I really don't know. I don't have a problem with him. I actually think he is doing a very good job as commissioner. I just do not think you can tarnish someone's character and reputation like that."

Lamb said while the trials did not go as well as they hoped, he has nothing to hide.

Newsday sought the opinion of former Minister of Sport, owner of Pro League club Central FC and 2006 World Cup defender Brent Sancho, who said he would rather not comment on the specific case since the commissioner did not name anyone.

"The football community (in T&T) has had some challenges as it relates to situation with players going abroad without proper details," said Sancho, who is also the chairman of the TT Pro League. "What I would say as a club owner and stakeholder in football is that education is key and parents and guardians need to have full understanding of any situation where young people travel overseas."

"I think it is very important that parents and guardians do their due diligence in all situations like this because I have experienced (difficult situations being stranded) personally as a player when I went to Romania."