Tue, May

Cudjoe: Money is not the problem.

Un­der-prepa­ra­tion and not the un­avail­abil­i­ty of funds for the coun­try's Olympic men's team pre­vent­ed it from con­test­ing the Qual­i­fiers, Sham­fa Cud­joe, Min­is­ter of Sports and Youth Af­fairs said at a press con­fer­ence at the Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter in St Clair on Mon­day.

On­ly last week Richard Quan Chan, a mem­ber of the Board of Di­rec­tors of the T&T Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion said it was un­like­ly that the team would go to the qual­i­fiers due to no fund­ing. How­ev­er, Cud­joe re­vealed that in a meet­ing with the em­bat­tled foot­ball as­so­ci­a­tion last Fri­day, she was told the teams could not go be­cause they were just not pre­pared.

"We would have met with the TTFA last week Fri­day, the Min­istry of Sports, along with SporTT and in our dis­cus­sions with the TTFA pres­i­dent David John-Williams we were told that even if we had the mon­ey to go, we would not have sent them be­cause they were not ready, so that re­quest was not made to us to pro­vide fund­ing be­cause TTFA would have tak­en that de­ci­sion that the team was not ready."

She added, "They would have ex­plained that in or­der for a team to be well pre­pared for that kind of un­der­tak­ing, that train­ing and in­vest­ment should have come at least four years ago, so even if we threw all the mon­ey at them now, they don't have suf­fi­cient time, suf­fi­cient re­sources and the ca­pa­bil­i­ty to be ready."

Her com­ments come on the heels of a re­lease by the TTFA, ex­plain­ing the Un­der-23 men's foot­ball team for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games had re­gret­tably been with­drawn from this year’s CON­CA­CAF Men’s Un­der-23 Olympic Qual­i­fiers, as a de­ci­sion was tak­en to fo­cus its re­sources on oth­er com­pe­ti­tions for the rest of 2019.

The T&T team was drawn in Pool B of the 16-team com­pe­ti­tion against min­nows Bar­ba­dos, and US Vir­gin Is­lands and Cu­ba with the ini­tial round of qual­i­fy­ing in the Caribbean phase tak­ing place from Ju­ly 17-21 across four dif­fer­ent venues.

The re­lease stat­ed the fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties of the lo­cal as­so­ci­a­tion have been no se­cret to the pub­lic with a debt of over US$ 5 mil­lion (TT$34M) and most re­cent­ly, the freez­ing of the bank ac­counts.

"De­spite these tur­bu­lent times, the TTFA with the sup­port of the Gov­ern­ment of T&T has man­aged to suc­cess­ful­ly field teams in all of the com­pe­ti­tions thus far for the 2019 com­pe­ti­tions cal­en­dar. With the lim­it­ed fund­ing avail­able, and 11 na­tion­al teams to ser­vice, the T&TFA has tak­en the de­ci­sion that in mov­ing for­ward we must not in­crease the debt of the as­so­ci­a­tion and thus we must pri­or­i­tize which tour­na­ments are a 'must' to par­tic­i­pate in."

With re­gards to putting the sta­tus of lo­cal foot­ball un­der the mi­cro­scope of a FI­FA ban, the T&TFA re­lease not­ed that ac­cord­ing to FI­FA Stat­ues, mem­ber as­so­ci­a­tions are man­dat­ed to par­tic­i­pate in a max­i­mum of two com­pe­ti­tions for a pe­ri­od of four con­sec­u­tive years to keep its FI­FA mem­ber­ship sta­tus.

But Cud­joe said they will be head­ing to France to­day and will at­tempt to sort out is­sues with the FI­FA, "We have to keep in mind that TTFA has 11 na­tion­al teams un­der its re­mit and it re­ceives the same kind of sub­ven­tions from the FI­FA, like any oth­er coun­try that has five na­tion­al teams, two na­tion­al teams or one na­tion­al team. So as we pro­ceed to France to­mor­row to have dis­cus­sions with FI­FA, we are go­ing to be speak­ing about eq­ui­ty rather than equal­i­ty, as it re­lates to fund­ing in foot­ball de­vel­op­ment in the Caribbean re­gion and the less­er de­vel­oped coun­tries."

The coun­try's women's team, how­ev­er, will par­tic­i­pate at the Olympic qual­i­fiers as the T&TFA said it re­mains com­mit­ted to the de­vel­op­ment of foot­ball and thus has pledged its funds to oth­er com­pe­ti­tions for the rest of the year, in­clu­sive of their qual­i­fiers as well as the men's CON­CA­CAF Gold Cup 2019; Con­ca­caf Boys Un­der-15 Cham­pi­onships; 2019 Caribbean Foot­ball Union Un­der-14 Girls Chal­lenge Se­ries; 2019 Caribbean Foot­ball Union Un­der-14 Boys Chal­lenge Se­ries; Con­ca­caf Un­der-17 Women’s Cham­pi­onships; Con­ca­caf Un­der-20 Women’s Cham­pi­onships, and Con­ca­caf Na­tions League.