Normal has become abnormal in these times for the world. There are many in this world currently that believe that abnormal is the new normal and in this context, I am not talking about person’s behaviour, integrity or beliefs but rather the abstract opposite that defines a country and in some cases a sport, a constitution and the organization charged with the responsibility to manage such.
The announcement on March 17 by FIFA that it is sending a Normalization committee to this country has sent shockwaves to all if not most but the question is - Should we be surprised?.
There may be at least six other sports in this country that require some intervention.
The facts are that Football is the most popular sport in this country while remaining not the most successful given only one Senior Men’s World Cup qualification in 2005 for the 2006 World Cup. However, if you do not measure success on World qualification events both for men and women then football is a success because it is the sport in this country for which nearly all citizens would have participated in at one time or the other at any age-group level. This, therefore, dictates that it is critical in every which way to this country.
Therefore, history will dictate that after 2006, the senior men’s team lost its way through the corridors and offices of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) and has not recovered since. In 2014 our senior women footballers inspired by a team spirit and drive from all involved from administration to coach to the captain to players to supporters and even among our latent doubters (that “L” word again) overcame one obstacle after another to just fall short at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on tears filled night on December 2.
After that loss and disappointment, Many felt the hammer of Fifa was coming thereafter but wisely a change in the constitution to allow the one club vote system based on the recommendation by an elite group of T&T citizens (willing to volunteer time and energy for no financial reward) may have bought the Raymond Tim Kee administration some time, it was finally ratified in July 2015 but then later in 2015, Tim Kee’s new policy unlocked the door to democratic elections, as it should always be in any organization.
And In came David John-Williams whose style after the election rubbed some the wrong way. Perhaps he did not trust those around him, Perhaps they did not trust him but sadly for all, under the new dispensation of the TTFA everyone had a voice, each person could speak and even if not heard by dissenting voices, the advent of social media and political one-upmanship meant their views would be made public somewhere else, over time it would become toxic. John-Williams believed in his idea because he was a football man, rich in the history of the Pro League with W Connection and willing to invest his money where his mouth is. And Fifa all this time lurking in the background would have again taken note and sharpen their pencils after all this was T&T the country of Austin” Jack “ Warner, a man they now despised because of what they believed he had done to them (interestingly not for them).
As well a change in the leadership of FIFA, with Giovanni Infantino seeking out and getting John- Williams support in his FIFA presidency would have made the FIFA internal thrust to move in on T&T, possibly get a stay of execution. Infantino was elected President of FIFA in February 2016.
Thus until November 2019 when the Home of football was opened, all Normalization thoughts and talks were averted or discontinued. So like Tim Kee, John-Williams had avoided the hammer by not only mere strategy but also I suggest by listening to advice from others.
William Wallace wins in 2019 in a competitive but fair election on the backdrop of not only change but also ideas and promises as well.
The country is ready and waiting, but not for what comes next, after several logical proposals for new staffing and roles, comes the thought that there is no money to fund such. Where are the FIFA money, the FIFA support, and the FIFA grant?
FIFA’s handle though was over, they were no longer directly involved, not visiting, not checking the facility, not checking the payments, not readily in discussion with the TTFA and that was now going to be a concern. But the question has to be - Why should it? This was a facility that was to be an income generator eventually through the hotel and a planned income generator entertainment centre as well, like football fields to rent or lease out. But that never materialize because of questions raised by the newly appointed team on the facility and eventually the publicly endorsed closure of the reported $2 million US facility.
FIFA’s rationale for implementing the Normalization committee has been questioned in light of the words expressed on my programme by President Wallace and the General Secretary Ramdhan and the apparent assurances given to both by Fifa officials just over three weeks ago. Just as I told both men, they needed to get those thoughts and opinions in writing because at this stage they mean little.
Ramdhan shoots from the hip and talks from the heart, they are a good pair at times, because they are both passionate but again in this football environment that is Trinidad and Tobago where egos exist, there are always people trying to shut you down for your beliefs because it was not theirs.
The days of just rolling in and expecting no questions are gone. Communication works both ways and not just one alone. There is a sense that Wallace and Ramdhan may want what is best for our football and so too did John-Williams and Tim Kee but the difference may just be how each proceeded in this regard and also who was in charge of Fifa at the time. Tim Kee was the President during the rough days of Fifa investigation and changing of the guards while John-Williams supported the incumbent.
Sadly both Wallace and Ramdhan missed the opportunity to stake their intentions and claims personally with both the President of FIFA and CONCACAF in November
Lastly, FIFA in this environment will find it difficult to select persons who will be able to withstand what may come next one way or the other unless they can get the – buy-in – of the public by themselves being open and transparent with all the information in their possession. It is the only way forward and let our hopes they realize that before Trinidad and Tobago pay the ultimate price. It may also be extremely difficult to convince professionals of FIFA way unless they can explicitly detail their findings and objectives and not hide behind innuendos. It may be asking a lot of them, but we the people of this country – deserve no less than that.