If the majority of the TT Football Association’s (TTFA) 49-member delegation disagrees with the stance taken by its ousted president William Wallace and his executive to have the legal matter against FIFA heard at the High Court, they should withdraw the claim for the greater benefit of T&T football.
This was the sentiment shared by several senior and aspiring national footballers who have called on Wallace's team to cease their legal battle against the sport’s global governing body, as the possibility of suspension for the local governing body looms.
Belgium-based national defender Sheldon Bateau, T&T's Under-23 and former QRC goalkeeper Jacques Poon-Lewis and two other locally-based players believe Wallace's United TTFA should “do the right thing” and approach its membership and hear their views on this crucial matter.
According to the quartet, the extension of this legal battle – which poses repercussions to the future of T&T football – should not be decided by the actions of Wallace and his deputies Clynt Taylor, Susan Joseph-Warrick and Joseph Sam Phillip only.
In a phone interview on Friday, Bateau said, “The membership makes up the TTFA, their opinions matter and I believe those are the people you should listen to. Their opinions play an important role. If the votes are against them, I believe they should listen to the majority.
“It’s a big risk they’re taking. I believe in taking risks but when so much is at stake, it doesn’t make sense. They believe they’ve been done an injustice so I somewhat understand from their point of view also, but the risk is too great.”
FIFA gave Wallace's team until September 16 to withdraw the claim from the local court, insisting the Court of Arbitration for Sport is the only recognised body to hear matters involving FIFA and its members.
A FIFA ban could end T&T's chances of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, with qualification set to kick off soon.
When asked on the possibility of T&T being unable to participate in World Cup qualifiers, Bateau said he would be irate if this becomes a reality.
“It’s difficult to say the type of feeling I would get if we’re not allowed to compete at the qualifiers (October). I’d be disappointed and maybe a bit angry. I can speak for all the other guys from my generation. The goal is to reach a senior World Cup and we have been working over the years with this in mind. Now, we more or less have a better chance, I would like for everything to work out in a positive way so we could focus on the games ahead,” he added.
YOUNG PLAYERS 'FRIGHTENED'
Poon-Lewis, 20, has also been following the legal see-saw battle and is a bit fearful of his football future. He hopes good sense can prevail, especially with the youth in mind.
“It can definitely jeopardise my future as a young footballer. I think it can be disastrous for any footballer who is aspiring to play for a national team at this point in time. If CAS is the official court for these matters, I think they should just drop the matter and stop being so selfish,” he said.
A national player who plies is trade in the TT Pro League, but who requested anonymity, said the uncertainty has local players frightened and concerned on their sporting future.
He said, “I think for local football, it's chaos. It not helping in no way to the World Cup schedule. We have (World Cup qualifying) football to play in October and they still fighting one another. We not sure how the court case is going to swing. It real tough being a footballer, knowing playing for the national team is your biggest dream and it does not lie in the hands of players but in a court room.”
The footballer said a FIFA ban would end the dreams of countless footballers whose goals are to play abroad. The uncertainty of what lies ahead as a sportsman is of his, and several others, greatest concern.
The fact that his World Cup dreams hangs in the balance of a courtroom decision, according to him, is “one of the worst things to happen to local football.”
“Guys frightened, panicking. We don't know what to expect in the court case. Some players don't have any government work so that's their bread and butter. That is 30 something to 40 families not knowing where their next meal is coming from. The club level we have, they (scouts) don't really rate it. Only time a player recognised is playing for national team and playing against big nations, you get to shine,” he stated.
The athlete said players are also being owed match fees for matches played about a year ago. He said players are grumbling as FIFA recently sent money to the normalisation committee but it was used to pay staff instead.
SPORTS MINISTER WEIGHS IN
Minister of Sport Shamfa Cudjoe hosted an emergency virtual meeting of major stakeholders of football on Thursday urging members to "take action and let good sense prevail."
According to a Ministry of Sport press release on Friday, the meeting attracted 39 people representing various clubs and interests groups. The ministry said all members of the TTFA executive were invited, including Wallace, Taylor, Joseph-Warrick and Phillip.
None of the TTFA executive members attended. However, In a radio interview, Wallace said he never received any invitation to the meeting.
The ministry said TTFA members shared their concerns and said the legal challenge of FIFA was undertaken without the support of the membership.
"They expressed that this situation had to be looked at from the athlete’s position and it was their duty to support the FIFA normalisation committee and the sustained development of the sport sector," the ministry said.
Cudjoe called on the right-thinking stakeholders at the meeting “to step up; your action or inaction can shatter the dreams of our athletes and our youth.”
Cudjoe made it clear the Government would not bail out the TTFA financially.
Sport Company chairman Douglas Camacho also outlined implications of a FIFA suspension, the most critical of which affect TT’s youths.
According to him, a decision to suspend TT’s membership means: youth and senior national teams would be unable to participate in any international football competition including friendlies; players would not have the opportunity to compete in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers, forcing some players into retirement; the marketability of players would be affected with youth national players not being afforded the scouting opportunities at these qualifying matches; youth teams would not be able to travel to compete in sanctioned club tournaments outside of TT; scholarship opportunities would be affected as players who play at the CONCACAF Under-17/Under-20 tournaments are positioned to have top college recruiters watching them; loss of investment from the private sector ; TTFA’s continued indebtedness.