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FIFA (world football's governing body) for the sport ousted the four-month-old, democratically-elected executive body of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association, led by President William Wallace, on March 17, 2020, and replaced it with a Normalizing Committee, ten days later. This action has far-reaching implications and eventually dire consequences for Caribbean football. The dictatorial action by FIFA against a CFU (Caribbean Football Union) member without consulting the Caribbean regional body reveals the absolute lack of respect for and a condescending attitude towards the region's football administrators. Those who believe that this FIFA move is a one-off situation is myopic and had better think again.

FIFA's action against Trinidad and Tobago stemmed from relatively moot reasons; the main charge was that the four-month-old Wallace executive body had no proper debt relief plan in place for the reportedly TT$50 million debt inherited from the previous administration led by David John-Williams, who campaigned for the recently-elected FIFA president Gianni Infantino. The Wallace group's actions in office pale in comparison to the performance of the previous administration.

Thanks to the John-Williams administration, Trinidad and Tobago football is now nothing short of a calamity; the once Caribbean powerhouse Soca Warriors is now a debt-ridden organization that can't win a Gold Cup contest. The signature achievement - Home of Football - was inoperable until the government recently made improvements for it to host COVID-19 quarantine victims and use it as a step-down facility. FIFA bias is prevalent in this fiasco!

The world body's actions could lead to dictated leaderships in the region in the future, with very limited autonomy for CFU member associations.

Here is an analogy of FIFA's action that hits home: someone comes into your house, accuses your child of wrongdoing and without your consultation, proceeds to severely punish that child in your presence and neither you nor anyone else in your household could defend your child; neither you nor anyone else in your family could even render a word as to the extent of the punishment or even to suggest a form of discipline in the matter.

This is a weak household with no love in that family. This weak house will eventually crumble!

CFU, where's the love among the family? Where's the strength in the household? Where is the pride? Where is the solidarity?

CFU was virtually absent in this fiasco because we can't answer the aforementioned questions. CFU should have been in the position to strongly influence FIFA's decision; we should have demanded that FIFA act in good faith and instruct its Normalization Committee to work with the newly-elected executive body to develop a plan to solve the debt problem and review the statues and meet other FIFA suggestions. This would have allowed the legally elected William Wallace administration the time to work through the calamity it faced, to kick-start Trinidad and Tobago football. Sentiment would have favoured FIFA. Instead, FIFA's embarrassment of Trinidad and Tobago is an affront to the entire Caribbean; this is a portend.

Caribbean football administrators have to get their house in order and there is no better opportune time than now.

CFU president, Randy Harris, must show strong leadership instead of a defeatist attitude; he must cultivate Caribbean solidarity and remind FIFA that our collective 25 votes could determine the FIFA presidency; CONCACAF will also get the message (Past CFU administrators have discouraged CFU block voting, which is a mistake).

The only thing FIFA respects is the power of the vote, and we are 25-votes strong, and we must wield this power every four years. Our vote is the only strong leverage that we have to ensure progress in our football until we can consistently beat the top CONCACAF teams and send at least two Caribbean teams to every World Cup. With success comes power!

Caribbean Solidarity is the only way that we will control our destiny! Solidarity means to forgo the complacency caused by FIFA funds and take on initiatives to do for ourselves, guard our autonomy and have the ability to survive FIFA recriminations and consequences. CFU must find ways to finance its tournaments at every level and with every gender; we should constantly seek corporate funding for progress and not settle only for the provisions of CONCACAF. We're in a lull because of the Nations Cup tournament, a good competition, but more games do not translate to more opportunities for major tournaments like the Gold Cup and World Cup.

Let's not be fooled. We must wake up and realize that this FIFA/CONCACAF supported action is an attempt to make minimizing CFU appear to be inadvertent! Today, Trinidad and Tobago, tomorrow, who? CFU must support our family member, Trinidad and Tobago, today, tomorrow support another!

A show of solidarity will send a message to the Court of Arbitration (CAS) and the rest. We must begin to assert ourselves to have a say in CONCACAF; we have the COLLECTIVE vote. Let's remember how Jack Warner became powerful in world football.

Our history is one of struggle against colonialism; the struggle must continue against neo-colonialism. Solidarity is our only hope for progress.

Editor's Note

Patrick Horne, who resides in New York, is an author, sports administrator and football coach.


SOURCE: T&T Guardian