|SAINT FLEES |
JELANI BECKLES Thursday, January 12 2017
ONLY one month after being hired as the head coach of the national football team, Tom Saintfiet announced his resignation from the post yesterday, citing a lack of support from the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA).
Belgian-born Saintfiet, who replaced Stephen Hart, was officially introduced as the head coach on December 7 hoping to bring some positive results especially in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers in March when TT takes on Panama and Mexico. However, after three losses from four matches, which included defeats against Suriname (2-1) and Haiti (4- 3), which saw TT knocked out of Gold Cup contention, Saintfiet has stepped down.
Saintfiet in his resignation letter stated, “I would like to inform you all that I have decided to resign, today Tuesday 10 January 2017 as national team coach of Trinidad and Tobago.
Given the mandate to guide the team past Panama and Mexico in the coming World Cup qualifiers of March 2017, I have come to the conclusion that I can’t be successful in this environment. From the first day of my unveiling, I did not get the support of the TTFA and its President; support which is needed to be able to do my job in a professional and successful way.
“I never got the chance to work with the players nor the staff requested. Perhaps I should have taken this decision right from day one of my appointment after the President openly second guessed his own choice of employing me, but I gave him and the TTFA the benefit of the doubt. It was an honour and privilege to work for a beautiful nation like Trinidad and Tobago and I wish the players, staff, TTFA, fans and the whole football family the very best.” Saintfiet’s appointment just over a month ago was greeted with much derision and shock by local pundits who were unimpressed by his resume. Stints at Namibia, Togo, Ethiopia and Bangladesh failed to give TT any hope that Saintfiet could turn around TT’s World Cup campaign. Former national footballer Brent Sancho said the decision to hire Saintfiet was doomed from the start.
“I think it has been an absolute circus affair if you look at it, the way it was done. I have chastised the way he was introduced firstly into the national domain, in the press conference from the word go.” At the press conference to introduce Saintfiet TTFA president David John-Williams admitted that the Belgian was not the Association’s first choice but he was affordable and the TTFA decided to hire him.
Sancho added that Saintfiet’s previous record as a head coach did not give the TT public confidence. “When you look at his track record that is not somebody that will get this country to a World Cup. When you look at what he has done during his coaching career he is not someone who oozes confidence into the players and the public.
I am not surprised that he has resigned.” Sancho explained that if the TTFA believes TT can still qualify for Russia the association will have to bring an experienced coach to guide us through the final round of World Cup qualifying.
On the other hand, Sancho says if the TTFA thinks the Russia campaign is over, they should bring a coach to rebuild the national football programme.
He continued: “I do believe that Mr Saintfiet would have made some very damning allegations towards the administration (TTFA) particularly mentioning that he was not able to select the right staff and playing personnel to complete the task and to me those are some very serious allegations.
The role and function of administration has nothing to do with team selection that is the coaches job.” The Central FC managing director also believes there is discord among the footballers and the TTFA.
“You could sense there is a lot of uncertainty around the national programme. I believe there is a disconnect between the administration and the players.
When you have that amount of players not wanting to play for their country particularly in the off season then you know something is wrong.” Numerous players during Saintfiet’s tenure said they were unavailable.
Sancho is wondering if the TTFA can bounce back from this situation saying the local administration has dug themselves a deep hole.
Saintfiet, whose last coaching stint prior to taking the job as TT National Football coach was with 193rd rank FIFA footballing nation Bangladesh, turned heads in his team selections during his brief stint as TT’s head coach.
He refused to select forward Kenwyne Jones for matches to decide the fifth place spot in the Caribbean Cup, but handed recalls to 38-year-old Carlos Edwards and 36-year-old Cornell Glen. He was also at odds with the United States MLSbased players who should’ve been available in their off-season despite the matches falling on a non-FIFA date.
Saintfiet’s shocking departure leaves the Caribbean nation __ the smallest country to qualify for a World Cup finals (the 2006 tournament held in Germany) __ without a manager two months before it is set to resume World Cup Qualifying against Panama and Mexico.
The Trinidadians are currently in fifth place in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying with zero points from two matches.