Who is doing more damage to Trinidad and Tobago’s 2022 Qatar World Cup qualifying chances?
Is it the perceived arrogance and ignorance of the Fifa-appointed normalisation committee, headed by Robert Hadad? The eccentric behaviour and questionable decision-making of Men’s National Senior Team head coach Terry Fenwick?
Or the alleged indifference and mean-spiritedness of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association’s (TTFA) office staff?
Remarkably, according to a document now making the rounds within local football circles, it is the latter party—the TTFA’s employees—that should be held to account for a series of blunders by the local sporting body, which range from the Soca Warriors’ unusual uniform in last month’s embarrassing 7-0 defeat to the United States to the TTFA’s sloppy and ultimately unsuccessful 29-page proposal to the Ministry of Health for exemptions for home games.
The TTFA Constitution allows the president to recommend a general secretary to the board, with the secretary then empowered to run the day-to-day administration of the football body.
Hadad and the normalisation committee appointed Amiel Mohammed as interim general secretary on 16 January 2021, following the suspension of Ramesh Ramdhan last July. Mohammed has worked for Hadad since the latter’s Fifa appointment last March, with his previous role being ‘assistant to the normalisation committee chairman’.
The TTFA’s organisational chart puts Mohammed in charge of all employees, while Hadad is the only person who can recommend sanctions against the general secretary.
However, based on an unsigned document, it is the office staff—and not Mohammed or Hadad—who should be held accountable for the stuttering start suffered by Fenwick and the normalisation committee.
“One can recall from the start, Terry Fenwick inherited technical staff that tried their best to prevent the National Team [from commencing] training, with red herrings [that] the team should not train until the Fifa ban was lifted, when that was not the case,” stated the document, which described the staff’s behaviour as ‘sabotage’.
“[…] Mr Robert Hadad has been forced to be a one-man team to get everything done himself, working tirelessly with no support elements—due to the blatant failure of those in TTFA, who have done nothing in the last year but acquire a monthly salary.”
The ‘hiccup’ in the resumption of national training, in particular, was blamed on team manager Captain Basil Thompson last year. Thompson was subsequently moved to the post of ‘logistics/safety and compliance manager’ while former St Augustine Secondary and Trinity East College coach Adrian Romain was promoted from Fenwick’s ‘personal assistant’ to team manager.
Romain was in charge when the Warriors returned from Orlando, earlier this month, with no apparent idea of the Ministry of Health’s quarantine protocol—which saw them held at the Home of Football for seven days, with another week of self-isolation at their respective homes.
“The unacceptable situation for the National team to be forced to remain inside their rooms for seven days at the Home of Football, on their return from the USA recently,” stated the document, “again falls squarely at the feet of the TTFA administrative staff. All that was required was for them to send correspondence to the Ministry of Health and to Mr [Douglas] Camacho (the chairman of the Sports Company) to allow the team to train daily at the Ato Boldon Stadium, which was 50 metres from where the team was confined.
“This would have allowed the team to stay fit and match sharp… It was only when those outside the LOC contacted the relevant officials on the sixth day, that immediate approval was given [for the team to train].
“Ironically, these same TTFA employees who comprise the LOC are employed in that same facility.”
The claims were partially true. The TTFA’s LOC did not arrange for the Men’s National Senior Team to use the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva. However, in the end, the permission won behalf of the Warriors was useless, since the Ministry of Health refused to allow a single member of the touring party to leave the Home of Football’s facilities—despite the short distance to the stadium ground.
So it would be false to say that the office staff caused the Warriors to lose 14 days of training.
The LOC, incidentally, is headed by former Women’s League of Football (WoLF) president and longtime TTFA employee Sharon O’Brien and includes TTFA director of football Richard Piper as well as technical director Dion La Foucade and office staff workers Azaad Khan, Gary St Rose and Yuri Chapman.
“One could have seen [the administrative blunders] as sheer laziness, if not incompetence by the relevant employees of the TTFA and the LOC,” stated the document, “but the issue of sitting idly by for seven months and not [providing] the operational policy to forward to the Ministry of Sport and Ministry of Health to acquire relevant approval to host the World Cup home game reeks of virtual sabotage by these individuals to embarrass Mr Hadad and the normalisation committee.
“It was known since August that the World Cup games would take place early in 2021, and the LOC did not lift a finger to prepare the proposal for consideration by the sport and health ministers.”
The author admitted that the TTFA proposal, created by Hadad and Mohammed, was a rushed job. The medical document failed to satisfy even Fifa’s minimum standards and was rejected by the Ministry of Health chief medical officer Dr Roshan Parasram.
“It was only eight days ago, when someone (not a member of the LOC or TTFA) contacted the sports minister to acquire (sic) the status to host the game versus Guyana in Trinidad,” stated the document, “they were rightfully told: ‘approve what? nothing was given to approve’.
“It was only then that the National Team manager and Mr Mohammed were forced to do the work of the LOC and prepare the policy plan and have it submitted 72 hrs later. But by this time it was too late…”
Wired868 offered Piper and O’Brien the chance to respond to the claims and explain the organisational structure at the local football body. Both declined comment.
Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith, who served on the TTFA’s LOC under former presidents Raymond Tim Kee and David John-Williams, said the current LOC members are responsible for everything related to the World Cup qualifying campaign.
“One of the main things for the LOC to do should have been the drafting of the [medical] policy,” Griffith told Wired868. “They dropped the ball badly and that is not the job of Robert Hadad. That policy should have been submitted several months ago, just like how the CPL did it.
“It caused Amiel [Mohammed] and Romain to have to rush to do it and by then it was too late. So [the TTFA’s failure to secure home games] falls squarely on the LOC because they have dropped the ball by not doing their jobs.
“[…] They are the ones to prepare all the operational and logistical work for all national games and it has been non existent.”
Despite the obvious flaws in the TTFA’s proposal, which Griffith said was penned by Mohammed and Romain, the sticking point was a 14-day quarantine period that the CMO refused to waive. Once Dr Parasram stuck to his guns on quarantine, it was always going to be impossible for the Warriors to host Guyana here.
Griffith’s view was not unanimous, although nobody was prepared to contradict him on the record. A former general secretary said a proposal of the sort sent to the Ministry of Health was outside of the LOC’s scope and ought to have been handled directly by Mohammed.
“The LOC is supposed to deal with things surrounding the game in Trinidad but an application of that magnitude, that has to go to the government and the CMO, will be the responsibility of the general secretary, unless the president undertakes to do that himself,” said the former TTFA general secretary. “[…] If it were me, I would first ask the medical committee members to give me their input and supply me with that plan, to ensure we get the protocols right.
“The general secretary would then discuss what the medical committee submitted with the normalisation committee and then proceed to do a covering note and send it.
“[…] Unless someone within the LOC was given that responsibility, I don’t see how anyone can say they fell down on their jobs.”
Griffith, though, insisted that the matter of health protocols for the Qatar World Cup qualifying series and the proposal to the Ministry of Health should have been ‘standard procedure’ for the TTFA’s LOC.
Fenwick, in an interview with the Trinidad Express, made it clear that he also blames the office staff.
“There is no excuse [and] you cannot blame Robert Hadad—he is a businessman,” Fenwick told the newspaper. “This has all to do with the administration of football in the TTFA and it’s not the first time we have had these issues. It’s the same people; they are not performing.
“I wanted home advantage… It’s a big plus and not anybody else but our administrators have mashed that up. I’m the coach; I’m meant to get the team right. [But] I’m engaging in so many other things because other people in the association are not doing it.”
Incidentally, Romain was the person responsible for the Warriors’ off-colour appearance in their 7-0 defeat to the United States on 31 January. The National Team’s contract with Joma ended over two years ago, while Hadad cancelled—and settled financially—a controversial kit deal with Avec Sport last year.
So, with no uniform to outfit the players in Orlando, Romain headed to a mall in west Trinidad and purchased Joma gear over the counter.
Griffith said that the LOC also played a big role in lining up the recent friendly but then did not help prepare the squad.
“The only thing they did was arrange the USA game and we saw where that went,” said Griffith. “They pushed and said we got the USA game and then they backed off and left everything on the lap of the manager and general secretary, with no input at all from the LOC.”
Fenwick’s tenure as Men’s National Senior Team head coach expires at the end of 2021, unless he meets performance targets at the Concacaf Gold Cup in July.
The previous TTFA Board said Fenwick had to qualify for the quarterfinal round to earn a two-year extension, but the Englishman had then president William Wallace lower the bar—so that he has only to get into the group stage to earn a new contract.
Hadad’s own term as normalisation committee chairman is meant to go no longer than 21 March 2022.
Then, of course, you have the TTFA office staff, with the likes of O’Brien and Piper clearly in the sights of the new football heavies.
Something will have to give in 2021.
(Unsigned letter on the supposed source of the TTFA’s current woes)
The national football coach is an outspoken individual, and his recent comments about the virtual incompetence of the TTFA in their recent inactivity towards preparation for the World Cup campaign is just a drop in the bucket as to how ineffective they are.
One can recall from the start, Terry Fenwick inherited technical staff that tried their best to prevent the National Team to commence (sic) training, with red herrings about the team should not train until the Fifa ban was lifted, when that was not the case.
Someone had to expose this sabotage, upon which the team commenced training at the Police Training Academy Barracks.
When Terry requested approval to use the National Stadium, he was told by these same staff members that the Stadium was unavailable. But when others contacted Douglas Camacho, it was discovered to be a false statement and the field was then made available.
The most recent list of ball droppings, also falls squarely at the feet of those employed at TTFA, who have not lifted a finger to assist the normalisation committee in ensuring the success of the National Senior Men Team preparing for the World Cup campaign.
Mr Robert Hadad has been forced to be a one-man team to get everything done himself, working tirelessly with no support elements, due to the blatant failure of those in TTFA, who have done nothing in the last year but acquire a monthly salary .
Below are just a few examples:
—The National coach is the one who decides the venue for the matches. However, some in the Local Organising Committee (LOC) had the audacity to tell him that they would decide where the home games would be played. They wanted the Ato Boldon Stadium as the match venues, even though Terry insisted that the home games should be at the National Stadium. This LOC seems to have forgotten that their job is to facilitate and not direct.
—The unacceptable situation for the National team to be forced to remain inside their rooms for seven days at the Home of Football, on their return from the USA recently, again falls squarely at the feet of the TTFA administrative staff. All that was required was for them to send correspondence to the Ministry of Health and to Mr [Douglas] Camacho to allow the team to train daily at the Ato Boldon Stadium which was 50 metres from where the team was confined. This would have allowed the team to stay fit and match sharp.
The Ato Boldon field is enclosed along with the home of Football so it was no issue to have the team train there whilst undergoing the mandatory seven day quarantine on their return. It was only when those outside the LOC contacted the relevant officials on the sixth day, that immediate approval was given. Ironically, these same TTFA employees who comprise the LOC, are employed in that same facility.
—Likewise, a National team cannot be forced to remain inactive for 14 days. So on their release from the seven-day quarantine, the LOC, if they had any care or concern towards the development of the team, would have written to the Minister of Heath to seek clearance for the team to continue training as approved by the Prime Minister, on their release from the Home of Football.
Due to the blatant failure, and deliberately so, by the LOC and TTFA employees not to do a damn thing, it meant the National team was forced to remain inactive for 14 days, which would obviously affect their fittest preparation for World Cup qualifiers.
—The administrative preparation and planning for the friendly game vs USA (not a finger lifted by the TTFA), it was Mr Hadad, Mr Amiel Mohammed (general secretary) and the team manager Mr Romain, who worked night and day for three days to get the team to travel.
—Since December, Mr Terry Fenwick has been trying to get friendly games in Trinidad, and the LOC have done nothing to provide that.
—Now that the decision has been made to have the home game vs Guyana played in the Dominican Republic, over the last three days, it is the team manager and Mr Mohammed who are doing all the work to have this done, whilst the TTFA employees sit and smile in the hope that this too crashes.
—These two have also been solely doing all that they can to get friendly games played in Miami prior to this World Cup qualifier, with no assistance from these several TTFA employees who are being paid with no delivery forthcoming.
—Not one of them have ever attended one single training session or practice game by this same National Team in the last eight months since the National Team resumed training, to see what is required.
—In fact, it was the national coach who had to draft the letter himself to send to the PM to get approval for the team to re commence training, as the TTFA and the LOC had no intention to do so.
To show their lack of interest, if not virtual sabotage, these employees and the LOC, have done nothing to assist the National team with the following:
—Acquisition of football fields for the team to train;
—Acquisition of water for the team daily, whereby Mr Hadad had to acquire personally;
—Availability of ice;
—Washing of laundry after each session, so the coaches are compelled to do this;
—Acquisition of transport for the players to and from training;
—Meals provided at every session for all players and staff;
—Medical supplies required for the game vs USA—those outside the TTFA had to acquire sponsorship to acquire same.
One could have seen all of the above as sheer laziness, if not incompetence by the relevant employees of the TTFA and the LOC. But the issue of sitting idly by for seven months and not provide (sic) the operational policy to forward to the Ministry of Sport and Ministry of Health to acquire (sic) relevant approval to host the World Cup home game, reeks of virtual sabotage by these individuals to embarrass Mr Hadad and the normalisation committee.
It was known since August that the World Cup games would take place early in 2021, and the LOC did not lift a finger to prepare the proposal for consideration by the sport and health ministers.
It was only eight days ago, when someone (not a member of the LOC or TTFA), contacted the sports minister to acquire the status to host the game vs Guyana in Trinidad, they were rightfully told: “Approve what? Nothing was given to approve.”
It was only then that the National Team manager and Mr Mohammed were forced to do the work of the LOC and prepare the policy plan and have it submitted 72 hrs later. But by this time it was too late, as it virtually was forcing it down (sic) the government to make a last-minute decision, which is inappropriate, especially when trying to ensure that it does not affect the health of the country.
This is what was done by CPL when their 49-page proposal was submitted months prior to the start of the tournament and approval was then given.
Robert Hadad and the technical staff of the National Team have been doing all the work expected from the TTFA and the LOC, even though these employees are all being paid hefty salaries.
Because of these numerous blunders, it can only be seen as deliberate sabotage and the whole TTFA staff inclusive of the LOC, should be dismissed with immediate effect. Otherwise these blunders would continue, hence making it quite possible that our World Cup campaign may become very short.