FORMER Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) and W Connection football club president David John-Williams has been remembered as a “pioneering, purpose-driven, passionate patriot” by his close friend David Martin, during his funeral, on Thursday, at the St Paul’s Roman Catholic Church, Southern Main Road, Couva.
The 59-year-old John-Williams died last Friday, after ailing for some time.
John-Williams founded W Connection in 1998 and the club became one of the most successful in TT’s football history – the club earned five TT Pro League titles, four FA Cup trophies and six First Citizens Cup trophies.
He also served as the TTFA boss from 2015-2019 and his lasting achievement was the construction of the Home of Football, located next to the Ato Boldon Stadium in Balmain, Couva.
Martin, who was John-Williams' friend for 40 years, said, “David loved W Connection, he loved Trinidad and Tobago football and he loved his family, and sometimes I was tempted to believe it was in that order, but it was not. David loved his family. It was what grounded him.”
He continued, “Most of us know him in the public space, and his lengthy list of achievements, but it was in his family that his heart was rooted.”
Reflecting on John-Williams' life as a football administrator, Martin said, “David had the ability, not gifted to many, to create a vision and transform it to a reality. He took the brand of a fete-match playing squad and created the most decorated local professional football club in over 20 years.”
According to Martin, “This purpose-driven man, when he had an idea or when given an assignment, was all in, 100 per cent, with energy and vigour, that made it difficult for most of us to keep up with. He did not see obstacles, he saw solutions.
“He was meticulous and he was resolute, and that’s another word for stubborn.... boy was he stubborn. But he was stubborn in his purpose, if he felt what he was doing was right and would benefit others. When he latched on to an idea, you could love him or you could hate him, but you could not ignore him. I'm sure the folks in FIFA could attest to that.”
Martin said, “In one sentence, David John-Williams was a pioneering, purpose-driven, passionate patriot. That is the man his family had, that is the man W Connection had, that is the man Trinidad and Tobago football had, that is the man Concacaf had.”
After the service, former CEO of the TT Pro League, Julia Baptiste, and TT men’s team coach Angus Eve shared their memories of John-Williams.
“I always remember the passion that he had for the sport,” said Baptiste. “I always would remember the way he would verbalise all that he would want to see done (and) have done. David was really a man who had football at heart, and to take a unit that at one time (was) a fete-match side and bring it to a professional unit, with a number of championships and a lot of trophies, speaks volumes for the desire that he had.
“His desire for the sport was so much that he took it and he made it his own, by showing us what he thinks a professional unit should really be, if we wanted to get into professional football,” she added. “He didn’t just speak it but he did it through his club. I loved the fact that it wasn’t only talk but it’s things that he did. It’s sad to see him go and I think he would be missed. He would be a name that would go on. Everybody knows of his domineering personality, he was an indomitable force.”
Concerning her personal memories of John-Williams, Baptiste said, “David was a friend of mine. He gave me the opportunity to become part of football. I remember going for that interview with the Pro League when it had started (in 1999).
“We didn’t always get along, we didn’t always see eye-to-eye but, after it was all said and done, we could still see one another and say ‘how you’re going’. We respected one another’s opinions.”
Eve, who would have known John-Williams from his days as a player (with San Juan Jabloteh and Joe Public) to a coach (with North East Stars, St Ann’s Rangers and Club Sando), lauded the ex-TTFA boss for “his competitiveness, his willingness to win, his loyalty to his coaches and his players.
“A lot of his players, when they finished playing, went back and coached (at) the club. That shows loyalty and that showed that he cared about the people that passed under his charge.”
Eve heard about John-Williams' death in Honduras, where he was in charge of the TT team at the Concacaf Under-20 Championship.
“It was a little bit bitter-sweet,” he pointed out. “Sometimes you never get to tell somebody what you’re supposed to tell them. I always like to tell people about the contribution that they would have made.
“None of us are perfect, but David would have made a tremendous contribution to Trinidad and Tobago football and his legacy would live on, with the Home of Football.”
About his personal memories of John-Williams, Eve said, “When his team was playing, you would hear him in the crowd spurring on the players and he was pushing them forward. His passion for the game, his love for the game would be the most memorable things.”
A staunch lover of calypso, veteran artistes Carlos “Skatie” James and Weston “Cro Cro” Rawlins gave impromptu performances at the end of the hour-and-a-half long service.
John-Williams, who was a businessman and contractor by profession, leaves to mourn his wife Vanessa Atherley, children Renee and David Anthony, brothers Louis, Christopher and Patrick, and his grandchildren Sydnie and Gabriel.