COMMISSIONER of Police Gary Griffith said his son’s selection to the national senior men’s football team was achieved based on his own merit and not on the premise of his father’s position at the helm of national security.
Griffith made these statements at a police press briefing on Monday. This comes nine days after an incident involving now former national men’s team goalkeeping coach Kelvin Jack and the CoP’s son, Gary Griffith III, which took place at the team’s camp in Nassau, Bahamas.
A short video clip of the incident was recorded by Griffith III and showed a visibly upset Jack telling the player, “I don’t care who you go and tell because your father doesn’t have more influence than me in TT football.”
Hours after, TT was eliminated from a chance to advance to the second round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Concacaf Zone qualifiers.
Ironically, when the team returned home, head coach Terry Fenwick, assistant coach Derek King and Jack were all sacked for their failure to reach the second round of FIFA World Cup qualifying.
Before Griffith’s statement, it was said that Griffith III stormed out of a team-building exercise and was disrespectful because he was not selected to play in the Bahamas clash.
The CoP opted to clear the air on this matter and took aim at two particular journalists, who have “never kicked a lime” and who he said have been targeting his son to tarnish his character.
“Now we are seeing a desperate point to absorb lies, fake news, especially if it is juicy, to discredit my son because of who I am. Talks about my son being indisciplined and how he stormed out disciplinary meetings. That is a lie!
“That is a blatant lie. He never stormed out. My son was at a dinner table with the national team and after he completed dinner, he was going to the bathroom and he left. That is it! My son said nothing, he did nothing!
"The hatred and bitterness that some (people) have over me; they have trained it to my family. Judge people for who they are and not who their parents are,” he said.
Since the incident, the CoP said his son has been negatively affected. He added that anyone who holds a position of authority in TT is “demonised and discredited” because, as a society, “we always find everything negative and see the glass half empty.”
Griffith even said that the team was not even in a team-building session but was singing karaoke.
According to him, his son played for TT in the Under-17 World Cup qualifiers and was invited on a number of English trials with Queen’s Park Rangers, Ipswich Town, Bury FC, Gateshead FC and South Shields.
He is also the only TT footballer to receive a full football scholarship, for two years, at Sunderland College. Griffith III, however, although making the final 23-man team for the FIFA World Cup qualifiers, did not feature in any of the four matches (Guyana, Puerto Rico, Bahamas and St Kitts and Nevis). He is the youngest players on the senior team but is yet to make his national debut at this level.
Griffith even directed blame at an online journalist hinting that his negative reporting on the national team prior and during the tournament may have been the decisive factor in getting them kicked out.
“Every article he has put out on the TT football team has been negative, something of bacchanal and of gossip. That has done nothing to assist the national football. Thanks to (name called), he might have very well been the catalyst towards us not qualifying for the World Cup.
“Because when you put negativity constantly on a team, that can affect players before they go on to the field. So thank you Mr (name called) for what you have done.
“Here we have an 18-year old national player doing his best for this country and all you have from persons with no degree of coach qualifications in any aspect in football wants to demonise a national footballer without understanding the fact,” he added.
The CoP also called on corporate TT and other entities to stop criticising the team’s shortcomings and help invest and elevate the squad in its development.
So much so, that he even challenged those questioning his son’s talent for a game of one-vs-one against Griffith III.
“How many persons in the private sector have assisted any of our national teams ever? Very little! Our objective is to demonise, criticise and discredit our national teams, players and staff.
“People who want to continue to criticise my son, I challenge any of you all, seeing that you figure he can’t play football, let’s have a small goal (tournament), him against you. I’ll give you a four goal head start (to five). If you win, I’ll eat my police cap,” he said.
After the incident, Griffith said he would step away from his involvement in sport if it continues to affect his son.
When asked if this decision remains, he said, “It’s still the decision. If it is that my involvement is going to affect the development of my son, I’ve achieved, my son is just starting. I think I am the only person in this country who has been doing anything to help our national football team.
“We have so many companies, so many persons; just help. It’s unfair for me to be doing everything possible to help my country and to help the national team, and my son is being targeted for it. I think it is unfair to him. He should be judged based on who he is and not who his father is.”