Whittaker blasts former national head coach

Pugh declines to publicly voice his “challenges” in CIFA

Cayman Islands Football Association President Alfredo Whittaker has lashed out at former national men’s team coach Ben Pugh, accusing Pugh of abandoning local players and failing the Cayman Islands Football Association.

Pugh stepped down from the post on 6 July, 57 days before his current contract was set to expire, according to CIFA General Secretary Marcos Tinoco.

His resignation came less than a month after several national team players voiced frustration to the Cayman Compass over how CIFA and the national programmes are run, as well as accusations from players that Whittaker verbally abused Pugh.

Whittaker – who is currently on a six-month suspension handed down by FIFA stemming from “misconduct” at a March World Cup qualifying match – said Pugh’s resignation took CIFA by surprise.

“Lots of players believed in him, a lot of players have trust in him, but he was not genuine to the players,” said Whittaker, who stressed that it was Pugh, not CIFA, that initiated the coach’s departure. “He left the players feeling like CIFA was the one that fired Ben. But it was nothing like that. He failed the players and he left us hanging. Personally, I feel offended with the way he left.”

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Whittaker made the remarks during an extended interview with the Compass, during which he spoke about several aspects of the association’s operations, including the controversy that has surrounded Whittaker and the programme this summer.

Pugh went 4-7-1 in international matches, according to soccerway.com. Most of those comprised of CONCACAF Nation’s League and World Cup qualifying matches.

Pugh’s highlight as coach was a 3-2 upset over Barbados in 2019 and he recently was featured on FIFA.com. Pugh, however, failed to significantly improve Cayman’s world ranking, which currently sits at No. 197.

When reached by the Compass for response to Whittaker’s comments, Pugh declined to go into detail.

“I always strive to conduct myself professionally and respectfully and will continue to do so,” Pugh said. “Those who worked closely with me are aware of my reasons for leaving and I stand by my decision not to voice the details publicly. I have the utmost respect for the players …they have always had my back, as I have had theirs. They know the challenges we faced, and I will always appreciate their commitment and efforts.”

Pugh left Cayman for the United Kingdom on 9 June on the heels of the team’s 0-3-1 performance in World Cup qualifiers.

Whittaker says CIFA leaders were under the impression Pugh was simply leaving for vacation but it turned out he had packed up and left for good.

“Next thing you know, we received an email, and thank you very much,” said Whittaker. “I felt that the Cayman Islands was used, CIFA was used, for coach Ben to get his name. We had a verbal agreement that whenever he got a possibility of migrating to a better club, or a better national team, he would communicate with us at least a month in advance.”

According to Tinoco, CIFA is not looking to replace Pugh at the moment, as the men’s national team won’t have international competition until the second quarter of 2022.

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