Wed, Mar

Eve: FIFA suspension 'a football pandemic'

NATIONAL Under-17 football coach Angus Eve believes FIFA’s indefinite suspension of the TT Football Association (TTFA) has quelled the hopes, dreams and aspirations of local youth players striving to reach their highest potential.

The 48-year-old former national midfielder and captain shunned Thursday’s climax of a seven-month legal battle between the two entities and declared T&T’s future generation of footballing prospects as the fiasco’s biggest losers.

“It’s a football pandemic. Those who have us here in this position right now are killing the dreams of young people who envision themselves to represent their country in the beautiful game. People don’t know what to do. We’re unsure what comes next,” he said.

In a statement on its website, on Thursday, FIFA stated, “The suspension was prompted by the former leadership of the TTFA lodging a claim before the TT High Court in order to contest the decision of the FIFA Council to appoint a normalisation committee for the TTFA.”

In March, TTFA president William Wallace and his executive, who took office in November 2019, were removed by FIFA, due to the TTFA’s mounting debt, and a normalisation committee, headed by businessman Robert Hadad, was put in place to run the affairs of T&T football.

The ousted administration opted to contest FIFA’s decision in the local courts with FIFA firing back declaring the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) as the only legislated entity under its by-laws where such a matter could be heard.

Wallace and his United TTFA slate of Clynt Taylor, Susan Joseph-Warrick, Joseph Sam Phillip, as well as Keith Look Loy and Anthony Harford, had until 3 pm on Wednesday to withdraw its case.

The affidavit of Wallace in support of the application for permission to withdraw was sent in two minutes past the FIFA deadline thus resulting in T&T immediate suspension.

However, in a strange twist on Friday – just one day after FIFA sanctioned T&T, suspending it from international football – United TTFA sought to withdraw its withdrawal of its lawsuit against the FIFA.

“Now kids don’t have the opportunity to play at a national level may it be Under-13, Under-15 and so on. If you go into something, it’s because you want to perform at the highest level. But now the highest level has been taken away from you, when you didn’t even have a chance.

“T&T is now ranked at 104th on the FIFA Rankings. It’s traumatic for young people. Young people can’t go to school and are not being allowed to play sport due to coronavirus. All hopes of returning to national duty or working towards achieving such status is now out the window,” Eve said.

One month ago, the Naparima College and Club Sando (Pro League) coach led a contingent of over 30 national coaches to TTFA’s headquarters at Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva to query their non-payment of salaries for over six months.

In early September, coaches were allowed to individually meet with Hadad concerning their outstanding salaries. After their meetings, coaches expressed satisfaction with the responses from the normalisation committee chairman.

With regards to the TTFA’s suspension and the repercussions on their salary payment, Eve opted to maintain a positive mindset.

“I’m not going to be naive to think this (suspension) is not going to affect our payment of salaries. (The TTFA) don’t have money in the bank account to pay (coaches and players), and that’s the reality. We’re dependent on FIFA funding so they can pay and run programmes. If we don’t have FIFA funding, how does anything work?

“To be fair, those talks (with Hadad) have been always ongoing and they have never been suspended. Even with this suspension, Hadad reached out to us and said that it was still on course. I don’t know, if now, he’s been working behind the scenes if he can organise it for us and the players. The players haven’t been paid for about nine matches,” he said.

On Friday, Hadad said there may be a possibility T&T can compete in the 2021 Gold Cup.

In a media release, Concacaf said it held an “emergency meeting” on Thursday night and revealed that T&T will be included in the 2021 Gold Cup draw which is set to take place on September 28.

“However, they will only participate in the competition if the suspension imposed on the TTFA is lifted by 5 pm on December 18,” the release read.

If the ban is not lifted, T&T will be replaced by Antigua and Barbuda.

Eve continued, “FIFA was still a bit lenient by giving us a suspension. Still being selected for the Gold Cup is still benign from my standpoint. But beyond those dates, I think we will be banned and removed from those 2021 tournaments.”

The Under-17 coach admitted several other national coaches were also distraught with the suspension and had some choice words for those responsible.

Newsday also contacted national women’s football coach Richard Hood for a comment on the impact of FIFA’s suspension on T&T football but he responded, “To be honest, I’d rather not say anything about that at this time. I still have to gather my thoughts on it. I won’t make any comment at this point.”