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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.


ABOVE SOURCE: T&T Guardian

RELATED NEWS

TTPS: No investigation of Wallace-led TTFA; football president accuses i95.5 of destabilising campaign.
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868).


The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) confirmed this morning that there is an ongoing fraud investigation centred around the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA).

The investigation was revealed on i95.5FM as ‘breaking news’ this morning by talk show host Andre Baptiste. Baptiste spoke to Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith, who confirmed that the police are investigating the local football body.

Baptiste’s promo stated: “The Fearless One Andre Errol Baptiste talks with Police Commissioner Griffith on some recent developments involving Police and football at 10am on i95.5FM… Listen attentively… It is unravelling!!!”

However, what Baptiste did not say is the investigation mentioned on his show—as confirmed by a very senior  TTPS source—was actually filed roughly three years ago and centres on a former administration, headed by the late president Raymond Tim Kee and general secretary Sheldon Phillips.

How can a police probe started three years ago on a football administration that demitted office in 2015 be considered a ‘recent development’?

Wired868 asked Baptiste: Is this an investigation into the current administration or the Tim Kee administration? And if it is the latter, then how can it be considered as ‘recent’? Are you intentionally trying to mislead I95.5FM listeners into believing the police are investigating the William Wallace-led TTFA administration when you know that is not the case?

Baptiste’s response to the aforementioned question was: “Please refer all questions to the police.”

Wallace, who appeared on Baptiste’s show on i95.5FM yesterday evening along with his general secretary Ramesh Ramdhan, criticised the radio station’s broadcast this morning and claimed that people with cynical motives were using the media to destabilise his administration.

“Everything is being done to make sure that Fifa comes into Trinidad and Tobago [with a normalisation committee],” Wallace told Wired868. “And this is not a one man effort; it is a effort involving many persons. Anyone who sees a headline like that one from i95 will think it has something to do with my administration.

“I checked and this is something to do with a past administration. Somehow it has become part of the narrative now and there is a reason it is part of the narrative.

“They are are trying to do everything in their power to encourage and justify a normalisation committee.”

At least some of the media confusion was, arguably, made by the current administrators themselves. A Trinidad Guardian article yesterday titled ‘TTFA reveals $50M debt-eradication proposal’ and based on an interview with Ramdhan, caused collective head-scratching, as the general secretary suggested that the local football body signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a ‘multi-billion dollar state-of-the-art football, residential and sporting facility’ to be constructed at the Arima Velodrome.

The project, according to Ramdhan, was scheduled to begin later this year and involved ‘international UK architecture firm’ Lavender and the Arima Borough Corporation.

The Arima Borough Corporation, headed by Mayor Lisa Morris-Julian, wasted little time in pointing out that the Borough was not even formally considering the project—since it still has not received an official proposal—far less about to allow any work to be done.

In January 2020, Morris-Julian received a ‘courtesy visit’ from the TTFA which discussed the project. However, officials of the local football body were advised that:

A project of the magnitude must be approved by the Cabinet before proceeding with any further discussions.

There must be consultation with Stakeholders and burgesses of the Arima Borough.

The construction would have significant disruptions for the burgesses and businesses in Arima.

“Following this, the officials of the TTFA stated that they were making arrangements for a formal proposal,” stated the Borough release. “To this date, there was nothing forthcoming to Council.”

Ramdhan said the project was not, as some have speculated, another ‘Home of Football’ or even a TTFA-led initiative. Instead, he suggested that a private investor, Lavender, was in the market for a facility that could be upgraded and sold for profit.

So, essentially, Lavender would upgrade the Velodrome and create a business centre and high-rise gated residential community in the same location. The property would be leased to Lavender but the Borough would retain its ownership. And the TTFA, according to Ramdhan, would get TT$50 million for simply facilitating the deal.

The TTFA had not returned to the Borough, he said, because they were supposed to discuss the project with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. They hoped to meet Rowley in mid-April, only for the Covid-19 pandemic to make it impossible for the international would-be investors to fly to Trinidad.

“Lavender get their profit from selling the condominiums, we resolve our debt and the Arima Corporation gets a state-of-the-art facility and a business centre, which the TTFA will hope to have profit sharing in,” said Ramdhan. “It is a win-win all around.”

Wired868 could not locate any online evidence to suggest that Lavender is a reputable company with a history of completing projects of this scale.

Wired868 remains unable to substantiate the credibility of Lavender.

If Lavender is not a household name and discussions with the Arima Borough Corporation were at a preliminary stage at best, why did Wallace pass the proposed deal on to Fifa as the cornerstone of their debt reduction solution? And why did Ramdhan share the information with the Guardian?

“Making it public with the Guardian to me was a problem and I spoke to the secretary on that,” said Wallace. “We were not ready for that. In terms of the Fifa part of your question, based on my knowledge of Lavender—and there was another international investor who was very much interested in investing in the project and advance money—I was 98 percent sure that the project was a reality.

“I was extremely hesitant to hand over the MoU to Fifa. But based on the situation we were in [as we were being] pressured to give a credible answer to our debt, I handed it over to Fifa.”

Wallace said Lavender were involved in construction for the Qatar 2022 World Cup and are still keen on the Arima project, although some of their potential sponsors were spooked by the ‘negative press’ aimed at his administration.

The estranged football president stressed that he had no issue with the truth but said they were victim to a barrage of ‘spin’.

“There are people who profess to love Trinidad and Tobago football but are doing everything to make sure it does not progress,” said Wallace. “One of our sponsors who promised to put in 250,000 pounds has pulled out because of what is happening in the press. It is extremely sad that the people who are doing everything to get into power will so destroy football that when they get back into power, they will be starting from zero.

“The truth must be told, yes, but they put a particular spin on it so as to create a totally different impression.”

At present, the TTFA is awaiting a normalisation committee. Last Tuesday, Fifa secretary general Fatma Samoura informed the local football body that its board of directors had been dissolved and controversial finance manager Tyril Patrick was now in charge of its affairs.

However, on Saturday morning, Patrick informed New City Chambers attorneys Dr Emir Crowne and Matthew Gayle, who were hired by the ‘TTFA executive’, that he had decided to decline the Fifa appointment.

Fifa has not indicated who will take Patrick’s place.

The New City Chambers attorneys wrote Fifa last week and announced their intention to appeal the matter at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), as is permitted by the world governing body’s statutes.


Editor’s Note: TTFA general secretary Ramesh Ramdhan subsequently sent two brochures with a impressive portfolio of work from AFL Architects and BH Sports and Entertainment. Neither attachment mentioned Lavender.

AFL Architects and BH Sports and Entertainment are both easily searchable online. Wired868 remains unable to substantiate the credibility of Lavender.