T&T's Soca Warriors last night decided to boycott tonight's CFU Caribbean Football Cup final against Jamaica over the non-payment of salaries and arrears, amounting to an estimated $10 million, owed to them by the T&T Football Association (TTFA).Speaking to the T&T Guardian from Jamaica last night, skipper Kenwyn Jones said the decision may very well mean this will be the last time fans will see this team.
Jones said the team, which had already qualified for the Concacaf Gold Cup by virtue of reaching the final, realised they were taking a drastic measure. But he said they had had enough of promises and lies.
"It always affects the situation and it has been going on for a very long time," an upset Jones said."We are fed up of the football association making promises and telling a lot of untruths. No one wants to be a part of football and we are in a position that is not even at breaking point. It could very well be the end of a dynasty before it could get there."
The England-based striker admitted that coach Stephen Hart was on the brink of leaving Jamaica to return to Canada with his family on Sunday because he was frustrated that thousands of dollars owed to him had not yet been paid.He said the players and technical staff also faced the same dilemma, noting some of them had not been paid for years.
Contacted on the matter yesterday, TTFA general secretary Sheldon Phillips confirmed the team was owed millions. He said a Cabinet note was passed about two weeks ago approving a sum of $10 million. That sum, he said, will be to pay the debt and take the Soca Warriors through to the Gold Cup next year.
"We sent a note to Cabinet explaining the situation and the millions of dollars we owed," Phillips said."We are now in the process of getting those funds drawn down. We were promised part last week and got nothing. When we enquired we were told today (Monday) and still nothing."
Phillips said he was doing all he could to get the money to pay the team.
"We are dealing with a lot, including having a new permanent secretary at the Ministry of Sport. We have been liaising with the ministry for months now and happy that we actually got this breakthrough of the $10 million. Payment is imminent though."
He said in 2012 they were already $4 million in arrears to the team and the players were despondent to the point that it would affect the final.
"Understandably, they are dealing with this for a long time but I am pushing very hard to address this as soon as possible."
Players have bills too
But speaking from the team's camp in Kingston yesterday, Jones said Hart has been owned money for eight months, the staff for more than eight months and the players for about four years.
"That figure may vary per player. Some are owed $30,000 and $40,000," he said."The coach has his family to see about, bills to pay. We, the players, need payment too. Most of them say they will leave and never return to play for T&T again because of this overbearing situation. We tried to hold it together but can't again."
Leader of the People's National Movement (PNM) Dr Keith Rowley, during a speech at the party's convention on Sunday, raised the issue of the non-payment of wages and lack of funding for both the men's and women's football team.He said: "We could find hundreds of millions, just so, to feed crime in LifeSport and inflate contracts to enrich friends, but at the same time our national women's football team is penniless in a foreign land and the men's team have played without pay, match after match. Have we no shame? This simply cannot be allowed to continue."
Efforts to reach TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee and Minister of Sport Dr Rupert Griffith for comment last night were unsuccessful as calls to their cellphones went unanswered and they did not return messages.