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WAITING ON $$

Ministry funds for Soca Warriors coming by Tuesday

By Ian Prescott ian.prescott@trinidadexpress.com

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO senior national footballers will probably have left St Kitts-Nevis without paying their hotel bill by the time a Government cheque arrives to cover expenses accrued during their participation in the first round of Caribbean qualifying.

The team are currently in St Kitts-Nevis where they were up to press time last night facing the hosts for a place in the Digicel Caribbean Cup main draw. T&T end Group 5 qualifying tomorrow against Anguilla. Team manager William Wallace will probably be also be unable to immediately pay $218,000 in appearance fee to players, four of whom are overseas-based.

The team only went to the Caribbean qualifiers at the last moment after the Ministry of Sport reconsidered an earlier decision not to fund the senior national football team's participation following a public outcry. Initially, the Ministry of Sport had blanked a request by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) for $423,218 in funding to cover airfare and allowances for the senior national football team, citing "the abysmal performance of the senior team".

And Yesterday, Ashwin Creed, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs, disclosed that the "Soca Warriors" can probably only expect a cheque on Monday or Tuesday of next week.

"The Ministry of Sport is not a bank," Creed said by telephone. "We (Sports Ministry) don't have an account where we can just go and draw out funds. We have to work on credit. They came to us asking for help and we promised to help. We told them what was the situation and when we would be able to help. This is just the first month of the new financial year, and we had to wait on the release of funds."

Meanwhile, the fallout from the new Ministry of Sport policing of dealing directly with managers of national football teams has already begun. On Wednesday, Sport Minister Anil Roberts held a press conference where he disclosed that the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) should not expect Government funding until the local football body holds elections. Roberts further announced a new policy which requires managers of individual national football teams to submit their budget on a TTFF letter head, and come to the Ministry of Sport to discuss funding.

"I tell you that All Sport, TTFF, Tony Harford not getting ah cent," Roberts insisted yesterday. "All managers of all (national football) teams must come specifically on the letterhead of the TTFF and put in their budget one by one. So the manager of the senior team came and their team is going (to the Caribbean Cup). When they come back and move on, they will do the same again. The under-23 manager...the women's manager will do the same until elections in the TTFF and some sort of accountability come about," Roberts said.

Well yesterday, the Ministry of Sports' new policy seemed to be causing some confusion, since neither the TTFF nor the team manager Wallace knew exactly what the position was financially. The team was scrambling to gather money to make ends meet in St Kitts-Nevis.

"There has been no change in the situation," Wallace reported from St Kitts yesterday. "An e-mail was sent and we were promised money at the end of the week, but nothing has happened as yet".

Likewise, the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) was clueless as to what was happening.

"We have gotten nothing (from the Ministry of Sport)," stated TTFF general secretary Richard Groden. "I don't know if it was sent directly to the team manager, William Wallace. Mister Wallace will probably know if they got any money".

Wallace himself related some of the teams struggles in St Kitts.

"We are surviving as best we can...we are not dying," Wallace said, "but there is a serious concern how we go forward in terms of the payments for personnel and things like laundry services. Stipends have to be paid and these things have to be paid in cash."

Interim TTFF president Lennox Watson, meanwhile, has reportedly been defiant in response to calls by Roberts for him to step down.

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