“Whoever comes in to take up the mantle of our football has to come squeaky clean and that is what we need,” says former men’s national football team captain Clayton Morris.
Morris represented the senior team for ten years, played over 100 games and served as captain for five years. He also represented the T&T national Under-19 team from 1979 to 1981 and was national FUTSAL coach as well.
Morris believes that a lot of good has come out of the so far seven-month battle between the sidelined Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) executives and FIFA, which ultimately resulted in FIFA suspending T&T from international football on Thursday after Wallace’s United TTFA group failed to meet the 3pm deadline the world governing body had set for withdrawing its challenge of the normalisation committee from the High Court. Wallace has since restarted court action and also taken the matter of T&T’s suspension to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Many revelations have been made over the past seven months, including an investigative documentary into the Home of Football which has prompted police enquiries.
“I believe that there is a victory somewhere along that line,” Morris said prior to FIFA’s announcement of the suspension.
Morris, who in the past criticised the way former FIFA vice-president and TTFA special advisor Jack Warner operated, felt T&T football administrators had failed both players and the sport for many generations. The proactive stance taken by stakeholders in the face of the pending international ban, he felt, indicated that they are no longer willing to stand by without objection when the overall best interest is threatened.
“I think it is healthy for our football,” Morris declared.
Morris was at last Tuesday’s meeting where the majority of delegates voted that United TTFA should cease its court action against FIFA.
Morris observed protocols set as the representative of the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) and voted with the majority — not to have T&T suspended. However, he does not believe the stand taken by Wallace and United TTFA is a wasted effort.
“We are happy that in respect to the accountability factor, it brought to the forefront that a police investigation is there in relation to the (alleged) misuse of funds or what have you,” said Morris, who also felt there was a bigger picture.
“Trinidad and Tobago is now recognised, not just for being the smallest country to have qualified for a (FIFA men’s) World Cup back in 2006, but as a country that decided on principle to stand up to FIFA,” he said.
“I think that is something that augers well for us going into the future. I think a lot of smaller countries like in Africa and those places, would take strength from the position that we just took against FIFA.”
Before Thursday’s FIFA sanction, Morris was not convinced that a ban would have been bad for football in the country where the game is at an all-time low at local and international level, and the Association has now been shown to be near TT$100million in debt.
He thought a couple of years without international competition might give T&T the time needed to develop young footballers. And not having to constantly direct meagre funds into competing teams might also help the Association to address its huge debt problems.
“Most times were are training our athletes for competition and missing that aspect of proper development,” said Morris.
He highlighted two national teams which had proper development — the T&T 2001 FIFA Under-17 World Championship squad involving Kenwyne Jones and the 1989 Strike Squad which was together for two years under coach Everald “Gally” Cummings.
“It shows that we need that time to really develop in the right way,” Morris said.