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Former TTFA General Secretary Camara David (left) and President David John-Williams (right) at the opening of the Home of Football on November 18th 2019.

“Yeah David, but…”

In any discussion with David John-Williams, those three words were invariably the precursor to whatever my response was to his strenuous assertion on some issue or other related to football.

And it was always strenuous, because the founder of W Connection Football Club and former president of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association was not a man of half-measures.

So when I read the reporting of David Martin’s eulogising of his long-time friend at last Thursday’s funeral in Couva, especially the part where he focused on his pardner’s single-minded determination, it struck a chord. Here it is:

“He was meticulous and he was resolute, and that’s another word for stubborn…boy was he stubborn. But he was stubborn in his purpose, if he felt what he was doing was right and would benefit others. When he latched on to an idea, you could love him or you could hate him, but you could not ignore him.”

By definition, stubbornness also implies a reluctance to accept another point of view, even when presented with convincing supporting evidence. And that, to me, is where DJW made life so hard for himself and indeed the effective operation of the national game when he was at the helm for those four years from 2015 to 2019.

Surely even those who were solidly on his side during that time will acknowledge that his attitude towards the offering of a different perspective, or an insistence by other officials that due process be followed in matters of the administration of the TTFA, did not make for an environment conducive to good governance.

Transferring that “Commander-In-Chief” sort of style at W Connection, which was phenomenally successful in transforming a fete match side into the most successful local football club of the past 25 years, was bound to result in confrontation. And so it unfolded to his detriment, even with Prime Minister Keith Rowley, FIFA boss Gianni Infantino and CONCACAF chief Victor Montagliani on his side at the opening of the Home of Football on November 18, 2019, mere days before the election which saw him losing out to William Wallace for the top job in local football administration.

To his credit, he accepted the result and moved on, even if the impact of his tenure created ripples which run through various elements of the sport to this day.

When I look back on our interactions over the years, not the formal ones on radio or television but the informal ones, I always recall a telephone conversation nearing the end of his first year as TTFA jefe which brings that “stubbornness” theme to the fore.

It was very clear he wasn’t a fan of Stephen Hart, even if the senior men’s national team coach appeared to have earned broad acceptance for both results and style of leadership of a squad which was gradually improving and, with senior striker Kenwyne Jones as captain, had advanced to the “Hex,” the six-nation final round of CONCACAF qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

So it was no surprise when Hart was fired after Trinidad and Tobago lost the first two games of that final round. Subsequent events and results, even allowing for the shock defeat of the United States at the Ato Boldon Stadium which eliminated them from the World Cup, showed that to be a wrong decision.

Yet even when that axing came up in subsequent discussions, John-Williams maintained it was the right thing to do at the time, invariably adding that time would vindicate him over what were seen as controversial decisions and actions.

Look, I would never claim to have been a friend of David John-Williams but, because of my role in the media, we interacted on a number of occasions and I always found him a very engaging individual even if at the end of all of that engagement his opinions remained rock solid. Hence the “Yeah David, but…”

It raises the obvious question: does that type of personality make for effective leadership?

Clearly it did at the level of W Connection, where he had complete control of a club which was essentially his baby. At the level of national administration though, where systems and committees are supposed to be in place to facilitate the consideration of the inevitable broad range of views as part of the decision-making process, conflict is inevitable.

Speaking of conflict, when I saw that footage of him being pursued and questioned while on the golf course by Mark Bassant of CNC3, I felt discomfort for him at the same time that I appreciated that an investigative journalist was doing his job.

DJW certainly left his mark on local football. Were it not for that stubbornness though, the impact would have been far more positive and expansive. I will miss him.

SOURCE: T&T Express