Jaguars Assistant Coach: Charlie Slusher Suddenly Sent Home!Tonight, the Belize Jaguars National Football Team members and coaches are making final preparations to go to the USA where Belize will make its historic first appearance in the Gold Cup.
And, thereís a big pep rally being planned for tomorrow at the airport to give the team a fitting send-off.
But even as excitement is at a fever pitch, all is not well in the Jaguars camp, and on the cusp of departure, the team faces a major distraction.
Thatís because the FFB Executive decided last night that Assistant Coach Charlie Slusher will not accompany the team to the Gold Cup.
What effect Ė if any - this decision will have on the team is yet to be seen, but Slusher has been a major part of the coaching staff since the Copa Centroamericana. For a while, he was even interim head coach. But now, heís in the rearview mirror, and today, FFB president Ruperto Vicente explained the rationale behind the decision.
Ruperto Vicente - President, Football Federation of Belize
"It is not my style to bash anybody but looking back to Costa Rica we had difficulty with Mr. Slusher. He apologized and that is how we got him back on the national team, and there have been some things going on with him and the players and just recently on Saturday night, Mr. Slusher took the players out late at night for drinks and they came back to camp early or late Saturday morning. As of Saturday night they were out, and it was the assistant coach who took them out and came back late."
"It would seem fly in the face of Mr. Slusher who has been the one with the sort of the work horse taking over since the departure of coach Leroy Sherrier, he stepped in to take a leadership role. It's obvious that after that he deserves a little bit more respect and courtesy Sir. So did the federation take these things into consideration before they made a decision?"
"Certainly, we took everything into consideration. We took into consideration the fact that Charlie Slusher has been with us and Charlie love the sports and I understand that. Charlie has been with us since Mr. Lewis left and after he apologized, I took him in and I said, we are big men, even though he disrespected me in Costa Rica, but I will not hold that against Charlie but we see that the same thing that happened in Costa Rica is going to happen in United States and we cannot take that risk. This is not a pleasant moment for Charlie nor for me; I like Charlie and I respect him too and I would want to protect him as much as I possibly can and I have. But at this time I just cannot - it's an executive decision and the executive has made the decision and I have to go along with the decision of the executive, not to take Charlie at this time. We are not, I have said before, we are not firing Charilie, we are not getting rid of him. We believe he has great potential and I believe that Charlie is going to be the young man who is going to take our national team to higher heights. I believe in him and so I am going to keep Charlie and when we were talking to him this morning and that is to assure him that he is a part of the federation and we are not going to let him go, he is a part of us, he is a part of the family and so Charlie is going to be with the federation for as long as he desires."
Staff member Kent Gabourel will be acting Assistant Head Coach while the team is in the US.
Slusher Gives His Side Of The Story Itís a sharp change of direction because up until yesterday, the team Ė and the entire country for that matter Ė was expecting that Slusher would be part of the coaching staff leading the team in the US.
And, you heard in the interview where Vicente left the opportunity open for Slusher to return to the team after the Gold Cup. Well, we had a chance to speak with him this evening, where he told us that he has turned down that offer.
Hereís how he explained it:
Charlie Slusher - Assistant Head Coach
"I spoke to the president a while ago and he said the same thing that I'm not going to the Gold Cup but he will want to work with me in the future and thanked him for the offer but as far as I am concerned - this is it for me when it comes to working with this federation and this executive. I told him that I don't have any more intentions of doing it because as a head coach, it's not just about me, if the players are not treated the right way and you as a coach have to fight for your players. How could I want you to go on the field and perform to your best and I'm watching them taking advantage of you?"
"How do you think that the refusal to allow you to go on the trip will affect the players? I know that when coach Sherrier departed, you took a very big leadership role becoming the interim coach."
"I'm really hoping that it does not because at the end of the day I still want the best for the team and I really believe in those guys. I feel that it's my team because we have worked so hard to get them where they are and I believe it's a better team. You know I've been 'bosing' about this team for a while and I really hope that it doesn't affect them but it's really hard to say because I know most of the guys have been calling to extent that they say that they will strike later - but I don't want that, I want the guys to remain focus.
I'll be okay - thank God that the Olympic committee had already purchased and paid for a study scholarship for two weeks in Holland which will be August 1st I'm leaving the country and after that I'll probably spend my vacation in the states. But again it shows that it's not the federation doing anything for me and I'm saying that in the sense that the federation will not keep me down. If this is my dream, even when I was a player, I will continue because this is my life. My entire life has been football - as a player and now as a coach and the same drive that I had as a player, the same drive I now have as a coach. So I'll be here coaching whether it's youth football, whether it's semi-pro team but all I have said is that I will not be coaching with this present administration. So maybe I'll be with the federation if there's a new administration next year or if in ten years after because I will still be around because I love this game - this is my life. A lot of people that are making decisions about the team and even about myself - they don't love football, it's like non-footballers making decisions about you that know the game. I will be around longer than them because this is my life and it's not about any money because I don't get anything from this but this is my passion."
Slusher Lifts The Curtain On Hardball Negotiations That same topic came up today in our interview where Slusher confirmed our report; and he should know what heís talking about because he was in the meeting between the players at the executive.
He explained to us that he sided with the players during the discussion, and he now feels thatís why heís being penalized with such suddenness:
Charlie Slusher - Assistant Head Coach
"So all the information he got was second hand information from Sergio Chuc but I believe the real reason why they let me go because there was a meeting yesterday because the team had said that they would not go to the practice game if nothing was solved - they even went further to say that they would not board the plane if a decision or an agreement had not been made with them and the FFB, it went to that extent. We as the coaching staff do not want that - what we wanted was that this matter should be settled so that when we go abroad, it's just about focusing on the game and that's what we did in UNCAF. When we went there, we didn't have issues about money - the guys were focused, the agreement was made long before so everybody didn't even have issues about money and the guys were happy and contended -and that is what makes a player perform when you don't have to worry about that. All the disastrous trips that the National Team has had in the past was because of the issue of money when it was trying to be solved abroad during that process.
From experience, we tried to make sure that that doesn't happen and I really don't want the Belizean public to get against the players. If you want to get against Charlie Slusher then I have no problem with that but the players really work hard - when you talk about what they're doing up there and sacrificing themselves and the way they are treated - it's sad. None of the players are mercenaries because they are the ones that qualify to this tournament - they are the ones that allowed the federation to get all those monies because of their hard work so they should be rewarded. If you as a coach even mention those things you will be penalized. Like I said - let me be the bad guy, I have no problem with that but I just want the players to be comfortable."
Tomorrow, we will be at a pre-departure pep rally with the players, where we will get their feedback on this last minute distraction.
FFD Pres Denies The Team Threatened To Call Off PortlandAnd while that issue is now in the foreground, shadowing it in the back is what we reported last night: that the team refused to play the final international friendly against a selection from Melchor until certain matters were settled Ė eventually taking the field over three hours late. And reports are that they only agreed to play after an agreement was reached between them and the FFB executive.
Additionally, we got credible reports saying that that the team threw out the suggestion that they were prepared to go as far as not getting onto the plane tomorrow.
We still donít know how strong that threat was, but today, FFB President Ruperto Vicente was asked about our report. He categorically denied it, saying that the players never intended to endanger this very major opportunity.
Hereís what he said:
Ruperto Vicente - President, Football Federation of Belize
"We had a meeting with them yesterday because they were concerned about their finances and so we have assured them that they are going to be getting their monies and they have asked for a little bit more, they were going to get $50usd per day and now they will be getting a stypen of 75US dollars per day and at game time we have gone up from 200USdollars per game to 250US dollars per game. Then if we move on to the second round of tournament there's additional monies that is going to come to the federation as a result of qualifying to the second round, we have agreed with the players that we will give them 50% of that extra monies, once we qualify to the second round.
The players were very concerned because they had wanted an agreement, a contract. I was reluctant to give them a contract not knowing how much money we were going to be raising, and there is no way I would give them a contract or promise them anything not knowing what I have. I am not going to do that. I will not promise players anything if I know I cannot get it to them, but we manage to reach a compromise with the players and to assure them as well that what we have promised at this point, we will get to them. We had a game scheduled yesterday against a team from Melchor and they threatened not to play that game if we didnít come that an agreement with them. The world cup was never at risk and I believe the players will never put that at risk because it is an opportunity for them"