Since my last article a few weeks ago relating to this TTFA/FIFA saga, I genuinely thought things would have gotten better. How silly was I? Every day, a different headline appears in the media and I have been following the battle intensely.
This, as I have from day one, felt and still believe that FIFA is wrong and the stance taken by Wallace and company is a principled one which I completely endorse - although one or two of my colleagues have tried to persuade me otherwise.
I am certain that many of us have found ourselves going down a similar road that the deposed TTFA (T&T Football Association) executive is travelling on. But, it is natural and good practice to stand up for what you believe in. What does not affect us personally, we have a lethargic tendency to sit back and watch on.
Interesting and encouraging is the fact that persons like T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis, who does not question FIFA statutes to appoint a normalisation committee, are questioning their “illogical manner” and unreasonable behaviour without any due process for its heavy-handed imposition on the TTFA.
Then, 'Mr Constitution' himself, Osmond Downer spoke out about FIFA's lack of principles concerning natural justice. These learned gentlemen could have easily sat in their corner and not gotten involved. But, they clearly know wrongdoing when they see it and have spoken out. Ultimately, no one can accuse either of them of favouring the deposed TTFA.
Unfortunately, upon my investigation, the same can't be said for other persons who have positions in various regional associations. So when a headline yells out, “Regional associations: Ban Wallace and Friends, not TTFA”, my initial thought was that Wallace had lost his support within the football fraternity. I would also expect the normal man in the street, following this impasse, would be thinking the same.
But, on checking the four regional associations - Southern FA (SFA) Eastern FA (EFA) Central FA (CFA) and the Eastern Counties Football Union, it was brought to my attention that they never supported the democratic election of Wallace and company in the first place. They were all openly in favour of other candidates. Moreover, when you examine each of these associations, they represent a sorry state of affairs for regional association football.
The SFA has five registered football teams to participate in their league and that represents the whole of the south zone - much unlike cricket which is broken down into south, south-east and south-west. Then, the EFA has seven teams. To lend some perspective, years ago when I coached Carib FC, there were two divisions and the first division had 12 teams alone. CFA has 10 teams of which seven are opposed to the president of the CFA, one of his supporters works for him so I don't know if one can count him in.
Undoubtedly, the biggest scandal of all is Eastern Counties - they have not had football there for two years but somehow they still have voting rights. What a disaster! I understand they were to have an AGM (annual general meeting) but it hasn't happened. I suppose COVID-19 would be a good excuse for them to use.
Imagine, these are the regional associations calling for Wallace to be banned. Shameless. These footballing outcasts (or are they misfits?) suddenly found a voice once again, seeing as nobody has heard from them since the elections apart from now to oppose the deposed TTFA. Quite frankly, I wish they will all just go back in their regional associations and try and improve their leagues whenever football gets going again because they have been failing miserably.
The Eastern Counties, on the other hand, should perhaps beg the imposed normalisation committee to come and help them so they can identify what a football looks like.
I remain confident that there are some in this country who can email or pick up the phone and call FIFA and say that what they are doing is damaging the image of T&T football. And if you are true to your word and really love the beautiful game, let's all sit around a table and see how we can solve this ugly mess. The crux of the problem is that I don't think FIFA wants to break this deadlock. We all know what they want and who they want. But, what they did not expect was this fight and resistance from the deposed TTFA. Credit to Wallace and his team because who in their right frame of mind would take on the mighty FIFA - often perceived as one of the world's most corrupt organisations.
Now, why would FIFA want to solve this dispute when they very well have orchestrated the heavy-handed imposition of this normalisation committee to suit their own purpose? This is the same FIFA that has recently agreed to bailout the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) of its US$10 Million debt which equates to about TT$67.5 Million. This bailout is in addition to the US$1 Million grant that FIFA issues the association annually. The TTFA's debt is roughly TT$17 Million less than the ZIFA but they send a normalisation committee here in T&T. Somebody, please help me with the maths here but I suppose it has nothing to do with maths, does it? You see, justice must not only be done but seen to be done. There is no justice here.
It will hurt if we get banned by FIFA and the youngsters will suffer - I have heard this ad nauseam and it is indeed indisputable. But, we have an obligation to those same youngsters to talk to them and teach them right from wrong; to stand up against injustice in a correct, law-abiding manner; to know that injustices should never be allowed to occur.
When we coach youngsters, it is not only to improve their football but to make them better human beings and this is one lesson, as tough as it may be, that they need to learn from and understand. No matter the outcome, little T&T stood up to FIFA to fight against injustice, hypocrisy and dirty underhand dealings.
Editor's note: The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer and do not reflect the views of any organisation of which he is a stakeholder.