Belgian Tom Saintfiet is the new football coach of T&T.
He was unveiled to the media at a press conference at the Hotel Marriot yesterday morning, effectively replacing Stephen Hart in the country’s bid to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
The little-known Saintfiet who has had short stints with the Bangladesh and Togo national teams earlier this year, as well as Malawi in 2013, Nigeria in 2012; Ethiopia in 2011; Zimbabwe; Namibia in 2008-2010 and Qatar u-17s, was a last choice to Frenchman Phillippe Troussier who proved to be too costly, while Colombian Luis Fernando Suarez and Ecuadorian Eduardo Lara- were both overlooked due to their inability to speak english.
Saintfiet was snapped up as he fitted into the T&T Football Association’s limited budget situation and his contract which contains a clause that would see him being put back on the breadline if the Soca Warriors lose their next two matches against Panama and Honduras at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in March.
President of the TTFA David John-Williams, in introducing the coach, told the audience that football and professional football is a brutal game, noting that World Cup qualifying is about results and getting to the World Cup. “If the results don’t go your way you have to do something different.”
A crassy John-Williams later warned Saintfiet in front of the media saying - “that should he not get the results on March 24th and 28th that he too will be looking for a job.”
The Belgian responded with a chuckle which John-Williams acknowledged before emphasising his point, saying: “He is laughing but we are very serious, because if we don’t get the results on the 24th and 28th of March, we might as well kiss our campaign goodbye.”
Saintfiet who appeared unfazed by the warning said he was elated to have been chosen to coach the twin-island republic, describing TT as a football loving nation which after many attempts, had finally qualified for the World Cup in 2006.
He immediately attempted to protect his reputation from an online report, saying he is a holder of a pro license and was never fired from any federation where he worked.
“I worked many times on short-term deals, sometimes on very difficult missions and most times I brought it to good results.
“I worked also for at club level on different continents in Africa and Europe and Asia.” As a coach Saintfiet said he was recruited at the helm of the national team because he wants to go to the World Cup which is also why he was very close to signing for Nigeria earlier this year, noting his ambitions are not driven by money but by achieving the highest and going to the World Cup.
According to Saintfiet “I believe this dream is possible. Two games have been played, we are fifth position and we need to be in the top three or if needed the fourth position to take us to the play-off.”
The Belgian said he is here, not to do the job alone, saying there are lots of good local coaches and technical team of people who know the league better than him and know the mentality of the players and his aim is to work, not only with his technical team, but also with the local coaches and hear there vision, opinions and ideas.
He noted that he will introduce some new tactics to ensure the team gets the results necessary.
To help the coach John-Williams revealed he is in search of two friendly matches for the team to be played this month, saying he has already spoken to Jamaica which have expressed an interest, and he will also look at Bolivia.
Meanwhile the local football boss revealed that Jamal Shabazz was appointed head coordinator of all football programmes of the TTFA and officially introduced Justin Latapy-George as the new General Secretary.