FORMER FIFA vice-president Jack Warner said ex-head of the TT Football Federation (now TT Football Association) Oliver Camps will be forever remembered for focusing on improving the character of people, and not the construction of buildings.
Warner, who was special adviser at the TTFF, was speaking at Camps’ funeral yesterday morning at St Finbar’s RC Church, Diego Martin.
Camps, who was also a former chairman of Maritime General Insurance Company, died on New Year’s Day at 87.
He was the manager of the 1973 TT team that infamously lost 2-1 to hosts Haiti in the CONCACAF qualifiers, for the 1974 FIFA World Cup in West Germany, and the Strike Squad team that narrowly missed qualification to the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy.
About the Strike Squad, "which Ollie treasured, which he loved, and so built a team, I felt a sense of satisfaction,” said Warner, in his tribute to Camps. “What he did was to build character, to build people.”
Warner seemed to throw a jab at the current TTFA administration headed by David John-Williams, who was also among the hundreds at the funeral.
“He did not build buildings, that was not his legacy,” said Warner, seemingly referring to the controversial Home of Football project in Couva which is nearing completion. “His legacy was to build people. That is why in the era of Ollie Camps there were so many players having overseas contracts, unlike today.
“In Ollie’s time, as far as I was concerned, when there was uncertainty, Ollie was a venerable force.”
Warner said he knew Camps for some 49 years. "During that time, we fought, cried, laughed together, and then laughed again. Ollie was good, kind, benevolent.
"It gives me some relief to know that I was with him the day before he died, and many days before that.”
Camps, he said, had "performed a role in football that no other president performed, or tried to perform, or will perform, in our collective lifetimes. Under Ollie, this small nation went to four FIFA World Cups.”
Warner touched on an issue involving Camps and ex-TT coach Wim Rijsbergen. In January 2016, Camps had to sell one of his properties to pay an approximate $3.8 million debt to Rijsbergen for non-payment of the Dutchman's salary.
“I want to express some regret,” said Warner, a former government minister. “He mortgaged his property for football, as I had done before. But unlike me, he lost his for football and no one came to his aid.”
Warner expressed his condolences to Camps’ family, including his companion Farida Sanchez and daughter Sandra. Sandra and her cousin Elizabeth Camps delivered the eulogy at yesterday’s funeral.
“His generosity and spirit extended beyond family,” said Elizabeth.
Referring to the mortgage issue, Elizabeth said, “God was at the helm and saw him through it all. Our heartfelt thanks go out to all the Maritime family for their unwavering love and support.”
Sandra said Harvard Club, of which Camps was a long-time member, president and patron, was his second home. "He would go there every evening before coming home. Many lifelong friends were made at Harvard."
But, she later said, “My dad’s relationship with God was the most important part of his life. As a young man, he was expected to become a priest, such was his devotion.”
John Smith, chairman of Maritime Insurance, said, “I couldn’t find the strength to come (yesterday) morning, having just lost my own son (on Saturday)."
Smith was referring to actor Chris Smith who died of leukaemia.
About Camps’ lengthy association with Maritime, Smith said, “Nothing happened in general insurance without Oliver. If you had a problem, you can go to Oliver.”
Dignitaries who attended included ex-TTFA presidents Peter O’Connor and Raymond Tim Kee, and TT men’s team coach Dennis Lawrence, as well as members of the Strike Squad team, Maritime Insurance and Harvard Club.
Camps was buried in a private interment at the Lapeyrouse Cemetery.