IN July last year, TT Football Association technical director Anton Corneal sought to close the disconnect between the local football body and the media by outlining the organisation's plans for the short, medium and long term.
Corneal and TT head coach Dennis Lawrence addressed a select group of journalists at the TTFA office, Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, revealing their goals and going in-depth about how they intended to achieve them.
Given all that has transpired since then, one can't help laugh and recall the words of boxing legend Mike Tyson: "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth."
Make no mistake, Corneal, entrusted to chart the way forward for TT football from the youth to senior level, has taken his share of punches.
This last blow has him on one knee contemplating throwing in the towel. Since that meeting in July, Corneal has not been paid his salary and has now downed tools in protest.
This isn't Corneal's debut in the game of cat and mouse that TTFA coaches and officials have to play to get paid. Corneal is a veteran in this game and has come out on the losing end – even if he won in the courtroom.
In April 2014, Corneal, who was technical director then, quit after going unpaid for over a year. He was owed close to $3.5 million.
After winning a lawsuit against the TTFA, Corneal was rehired in the same capacity with an agreement thathe would be paid the money owed to him as well as his new salary.
But in an e-mail to the board yesterday, Corneal said, "My last paid salary was June 2018, and the agreed contractual arrangement to pay off my owed arrears has not been honoured since December 2017...I honestly believe this situation is affecting my health, it is eroding my family life and forcing me to find other means of income to support my family."
Where is our football headed if Corneal's portfolio is not respected enough to find the money to pay him? Who will be playing at the Home of Football when it is completed?
At that round-table discussion with the media last year, Corneal divulged the TTFA's goals: “Long-term is to compete at the highest level, to qualify for Youth World Cups, (Men’s) World Cups, to be the top team in the Caribbean and to be in the top four teams in CONCACAF.
“Of course, there must be areas where we have to measure how we are developing. Some of them would be how we compete in our regional tournaments (and) the Gold Cup, how the under-15 boys and girls compete in their regional tournaments. So that’ll give us an indication.”
The signs so far are not good. The under-15 girls failed even to arrive at the 2018 CONCACAF Championships because the TTFA bungled their visa applicarions. The National Under-20s' quest to qualify for the World Cup was doomed because the team failed to train for close to three months before the CONCACAF Championships in November last year. Coach Russell Latapy, in an exclusive interview with Newsday, said he and his staff had not been paid and were unable to hold training sessions. A late training camp just before the tournament was never going to be enough, and "The Little Magician" was unable to conjure any magic, as TT exited at the group stage.
The national women's team also expressed a similar tale of salaries and contracts not being honoured in a timely manner. It takes no genius to know what happened to their World Cup campaign last year.
And like a broken record, the men's team recently complained about not being paid for over a year, even though salaries have been slashed by over 50 per cent. Funding and sponsorship are hard to come by, but TT footballers have every right to strike for being unpaid – and they've threatened to do so vs Wales in March!
Firing former coach Stephen Hart to bring Tom Saintfiet was also another move that backfired horrendously and cost TT a place at the 2017 Gold Cup.
The current state of local football is bad.
But TTFA head David John-Williams remains silent on the disaster that is unfolding – save for boasting about the Home of Football project.
What really is the plan going forward? Can we trust in the success of the projects, development programmes and template expounded upon by Corneal last year – when he can't even be paid? It might be time to just take ah sweat instead of taking football seriously.
Skate tackles must be banned from all football locally. After all, is just ah sweat. To the former Central FC footballer who was playing a hockey post tournament for $10,000 in Sangre Grande two days before a CONCACAF Champions League match, I must apologise for castigating you among my peers. You were ahead of your time. Is just ah sweat. Pro League clubs should remove the ban imposed on their players competing in minor league football. Is just ah sweat.
Organised football at the highest level is dying. Let's just take ah sweat.