In his first public statements on the current impasse between the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) and world governing body FIFA, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has offered to intervene to bring about a resolution.
Since March 17, the administration headed by president William Wallace has been sidelined by a Normalisation Committee appointed by FIFA, a move which has now led to Wallace and his sidelined executives taking the matter of their replacement to the local High Court.
Attorneys for the “United TTFA” group which Wallace and his team go under, have repeatedly called for mediation with FIFA, with no response from the world body thus far. But speaking yesterday at the opening of the Point Fortin Hospital, Prime Minister Rowley said he was ready to help.
He began by noting: “I had put a call through to the head of FIFA (Gianni Infantino) whom I’m in a good relationship with, but then I cancelled it because the conversation might not have been appropriate. And because the matter had swiftly turned into a legal matter, the Government kept out of it,”
The Prime Minister noted why he was concerned about the deadlock.
“Our football is in some aspect of turmoil at the moment and would not and should not be allowed to continue. I, as head of the Government, got involved in trying to facilitate improvements in our football because where we are now is not where we used to be. We used to have the best team in the Caribbean. Today, I think we are at some ridiculous position, one hundred and whatever (FIFA world ranking). But more importantly, the administration seems to have come apart.”
Referring to the Home of Football project, he said: “The Government of Trinidad and Tobago did in fact partner with FIFA. The Government gave land and a commitment; FIFA gave money and a commitment to pay attention to improving football in Trinidad and Tobago. The opposite seemed to have happened. And there were those who turned to the Government to intervene. It is not something that the Government can just jump in to.”
He said Minister of Sport Shamfa Cudjoe and himself had been watching the football developments and “very gingerly, hoping as we step along the sidelines of the field that we would come to a place very quickly where the difficulties could be overcome. They might not disappear but we need a working relationship. What exists now cannot be allowed to continue because it has serious threat to the well-being of our young people.”
But he then added: ”It appears as though that legal position may not be concluded in the short term, so on behalf of the Point Fortin footballers and all the others in the country, I give you the commitment today that I would try again to talk with FIFA and to talk with the TTFA, to see if there is a possibility of having the current arrangement pass us by or some kind of arrangement can be arrived at which would allow our youngsters to enjoy the beautiful game.”
In opening the hospital, PM Rowley also mentioned the refurbishment of Mahaica Oval. And tying that work into the current state of local football, he said:: “If Mahaica Oval is coming back, football has to be available for the people of Point Fortin. We’ll see whether there is a role for the Government in this matter. Can’t guarantee you anything, but we’ll try.”