Chaos as Saintfiet quits after five weeks

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – Trinidad and Tobago’s football was thrown into chaos yesterday when men’s head coach Tom Saintfiet dramatically quit the post after just five weeks and four games in charge, citing a lack of support from the country’s Football Association.

In a statement dated January 10, the 43-year-old Belgian said his appointment had been “second-guessed” from the first day by FA president David John-Williams and with critical 2018 World Cup qualifiers beckoning in March, did not believe he could succeed “in this environment.”

Saintfiet’s sudden departure leaves the FA scrambling for a third head coach in two months following the sacking of Stephen Hart last November.

Tom Saintfiet

“I would like to inform you all that I have decided to resign, today, Tuesday 10 January 2017, as national team coach of Trinidad and Tobago,” Saintfiet said.

“Given the mandate to guide the team past Panama and Mexico in the coming World Cup qualifiers of March 2017, I have come to the conclusion that I can’t be successful in this environment.”

Belgian Tom Saintfiet … has resigned after just five weeks in charge.

“From the first day of my unveiling, I did not get the support of the TTFA and its President, support which is needed to be able to do my job in a professional and successful way. I never got the chance to work with the players nor staff requested.”

He continued: “Perhaps I should have taken this decision right from day one of my appointment, after the President openly second guessed his own choice of employing me. But I gave him at the TTFA the benefit of the doubt.”

“It was an honour and privilege to work for a beautiful nation like Trinidad and Tobago and I wish the players, staff, TTFA, fans and the whole football family the very best.”

Saintfiet made an unflattering start to his tenure, losing three of his four games in charge. In a two-match series away to Nicaragua last month, T&T lost the opening friendly 2-1 before winning the second game 3-1.

Significantly, however, T&T last week lost both games in the Caribbean Cup playoff series, to miss out on any chance of qualifying for the prestigious CONCACAF Gold Cup in July.

They went down 2-1 to Suriname and then succumbed 4-3 to Haiti.

When Saintfiet was unveiled last month, John-Williams issued him with an ultimatum of winning the next two World Cup qualifiers or facing the axe.

“If he doesn’t get the job done on the 24th (against Panama) and 28th of March [2017] (against Mexico), he will be looking for a job and I make no apologies for saying that,” John-Williams warned at the time.

On Wednesday, the TTFA said the search for a new head coach would start immediately.

“The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association wishes to advise that Tom Saintfiet issued a letter of resignation as head coach of the National Men’s Senior Team to TTFA President David John-Williams on Tuesday night,” a statement said.

“The TTFA President then referred this letter to the Technical Committee of the TTFA and the Committee recommended that Saintfiet’s resignation be accepted and be ratified by the TTFA board.

“The Technical Committee has advised that a replacement for the post of Men’s Senior Team Head Coach will be found in the shortest possible time and the TTFA will make an announcement on this in due course.”

Saintfiet was a controversial choice to replace Stephen Hart who was fired last December, after the T&T’s poor start to the CONCACAF final round of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

He had never held a high-level coaching position nor stayed in one for an extensive period. In fact, his appointment as T&T coach represented his eighth posting in the last nine years following stints with Namibia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Yemen, Malawi, Togo and Bangladesh

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