FORMER TT footballer Angus Eve and former national cricketer Andre Lawrence both hold the late sports administrator and broadcaster Anthony “Tony” Harford in high regard, saying his influence was pivotal in their success not only on the field, but off it.
Harford, a director at All Sports Promotions, helped develop TT and regional athletes by affording them opportunities to travel overseas.
Eve, a former national midfielder who has the most caps in the history of TT football, represented the national senior team from 1994-2005. Eve played for TT 117 times.
Eve, now head coach of the national senior team, first met Harford when he was still a child growing up in Carenage. Since his retirement from playing Eve has spent time as a coach, including at school, club and national level.
He has also done TV commentary, both locally and regionally.
“One of the key lessons that Tony would have taught me as a coach, as a budding professional, is to read more. (He said), ‘Expand on your vocabulary,’ because I was doing a lot of TV (commentary) at that point in time: I was doing the World Cup, I was doing stuff with SportsMax (in Jamaica).” Eve said Harford encouraged him to be a leader and to have integrity.
“The second one is about professionalism. Leadership always comes from the top. You (have) to set the tone. If you are early and on time all the time, then everybody else would follow…he spoke about integrity a lot, hence the reason he has been in the game for so long and in sport administration for so long and as a business person for so long and so respected for so long, because of the level of integrity that he had.”
Eve was a member of the national Under-20 team which competed at the 1991 FIFA World Youth (Under-20) Championships in Portugal. That team comprised many players who made names for themselves at senior level, including Dwight Yorke.
Around that time, Harford wanted Eve to remain focused, and gave him the opportunity to leave his home in Carenage and stay at a property he owned in Woodbrook.
“They had a guesthouse on Carlos Street (and as) a boy from Carenage, there were a lot of issues in those type of areas…it was thought that for a little while I should stay in a different environment.”
Eve said Harford played an integral part in his development.
The former national footballer said Harford would always give him advice when he was growing up playing for Carenage United. He may not have known the value of the advice then, but Eve certainly appreciated it more as he got older.
“When you are a younger person you don’t really understand when somebody gives you advice. You just feel like these old people just want to talk. It’s only when you get a little older you really appreciate more what the person was saying to you.”
Eve also got to witness how Harford operated as a sport administrator when he worked alongside him in North Zone Football.
Eve admired Harford’s humility and simplicity, saying his favourite meal was corned beef and rice.
Lawrence also benefited from Harford’s goal of providing the opportunities for athletes to fulfill their potential.
“Very big mentor and help to me personally,” Lawrence said. “His help basically changed my life and for that I could never repay.”
Lawrence, who described Harford’s contribution to sport as “immeasurable,” said the former sport administrator quietly helped behind the scenes.
“What people don’t know is that he did a lot of his work without fanfare. Very quietly he did a lot for a range of sports. He had football leagues in the Queen’s Park Savannah for juniors...Tony’s contribution is something that should be highly recognised, but as I said why he is probably not at the forefront where everybody knows him and knows of what he did is simply because he did it very humbly, very quietly.”
Lawrence, who represented the national cricket team in the 1990s, fondly remembered Harford giving a youthful regional team the chance to travel overseas for tours in the early 1990s, including a tour to Canada.
Lawrence, who captained the team, said, “Tony, alongside his business partner Bruce Aanensen, both of them organised those tours…those things were tremendously influential (in) grooming young players like myself, as I said, Rawl Lewis, Cameron Cuffy, and there were several others as well.”
Former TT cricketer Keno Mason also gained experience by touring as a young cricketer.
Lewis, who is now the manager of the West Indies team, eventually represented West Indies, along with Cuffy.
Even over the last few years, Lawrence got a front-row view of how Harford’s support propelled athletes to further heights. Lawrence was the coach of a TT schoolboy team that travelled to New Zealand in 2016. Joshua Da Silva, a member of that team, is now a wicket-keeper batsman on the West Indies Test team.
“If you remember correctly, in 2016 (Da Silva) went to New Zealand, got accustomed to the conditions and started opening the batting there, which built his confidence.”
Lawrence said Da Silva returned to TT and started scoring heavily for Queen’s Park Cricket Club II in the premier division. He eventually earned selection on the TT Red Force team and in December 2020 made his debut for West Indies in no other place than New Zealand.
“That trip to New Zealand (in 2016) was a huge turning point in launching Joshua’s international career, a major factor,” Lawrence said.
Aanensen, who worked alongside Harford for several years at All Sports Promotions, said his friend was like no other.
When the Soca Warriors qualified for the 2006 World Cup, Harford and his team arranged affordable packages for supporters to travel to Germany for the tournament.
Aanensen said, “If he priced his tickets above and beyond so he could make a profit, then those people will never be able to go. That is the nature of the man. People came first to him. Money was secondary. He was a very generous guy who always wanted to help whoever he could help.”