Trinidad and Tobago Football Association president David John Williams’ vision that is the Home of Football Hotel has finally materialised and was officially opened yesterday, drawing praise from Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who were both feature speakers at the opening ceremony for the facility in Balmain, Couva.
Rowley admitted that he wasn’t keen on the partnership when he was first approached by John-Williams but now, having bought into the idea, he said the public will be expecting a massive improvement in the national team’s performances in the near future.
Rowley recalled John-Williams coming to him with an idea, “but I said it couldn’t work because people make organisations and I do not see the people who could change what I considered to be a football disaster.”
But Rowley explained that John-Williams persisted and after Infantino took charge of FIFA and gave assurances that FIFA would operate with transparency and integrity, the PM bought into the idea, and the rest is now history.
“This is just the beginning,” the prime minister said. “We have boys and girls who are relying on the management of this sport. The government has played its part, what is missing is the management we used to have when people served for service sake.
“Having partnered with football to make this public asset land available to you and money available to those involved in the management of the game, the taxpayers will expect no less than a dramatic improvement and the full use of this facility, in the vision it was presented and in the way it was built for the
purpose it was designed.
“We are happy that today that the building is there and I trust that the TTFA owns it. And I want to acknowledge the youngsters who will one day come out of this facility and walk onto an international field and look back and say ‘I started my career at the Home of Football in T&T,’” Rowley concluded.
For Infantino, he too was sceptical on his first visit to T&T during his campaign for the FIFA presidency. “I have to thank David for dreaming about it, believing in it, for fighting for it and for making it happen. I come here now for a third time. First time I came, I was campaigning to become FIFA president and I was trying to find around the world people who were believing in what football can achieve.
“People who have their heart beating for football. I came to T&T and did not believe I would find somebody like this is T&T because the TTFA was more or less in the same state as FIFA at that time. We are proud to be hear because today T&T is the capital of the world and today we can present something to the world that the world can be proud,” Infantino added.
Meanwhile, John-Williams showed his passion for the sport saying the opening of the Home of Football was an emotional day for him and said T&T football will be well served by the hotel for years to come. “When I entered the doors at the TTFA as president, it was confirmed what we already knew, that the organization was in dire need of restructuring and needed to be placed on a solid financial path,” said the TTFA boss.
“This investment is just one spoke in the strategic wheel that is quickly accelerating to put T&T football on a sustainable path. It was a priority to restore our administrative dignity and reputation with FIFA and CONCACAF and the government of T&T as well as corporate T&T from the shambles we met in 2015,” added John-Williams.
“This 72-room facility along with the new training fields and associated facilities along with the income-generating project to the front of the Ato Boldon Stadium, positions the TTFA in pole position to rise from the ashes,” he exclaimed.
“We are indeed happy and grateful to the government who believed ion the vision and provided the prime acreage for these facility located in close proximity to the Cycling Centre and Aquatics Centre. We are confident that this investment will make the TTFA self-sufficient and self-sustainable in the not too distant future,” he added.
In terms of the senior team’s performances, John-Williams said he shares the public’s disappointment but, “I also recognise that we are in the rebuilding stage. We were able to secure fund for our youth development programme and elite football. The future is bright.”
He also made bold request to the government to facilitate the TTFA, to get a full deed of lease for the Ato Boldon Stadium “to improve upon, manage, and operate the Ato Boldon Stadium as a dedicated national football facility, thus completing this area as a world class sporting hub.”
Also attending yesterday’s opening ceremony was Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs Shamfa Cudjoe, CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani and T&T’s first Olympic gold medallist Hasely Crawford.