Tue, May

National football coach Terry Fenwick during a training session at the Ato Boldon Stadium on July 17th 2020. PHOTO: Allan V. Crane/CA-images

FIFA yesterday announced that Trini­dad and Tobago is once again free to play international football by lifting the suspension it imposed on September 24.

The news has thrilled several members of the local football fraternity, among them senior men’s national coach Terry Fenwick; T&T Pro League acting chairman Brent Sancho; Clayton Morris, the former national team captain and Futsal coach; and boys Under-17 national coach Angus Eve.

Most affected, national coach Fenwick welcomed news that the suspension had been lifted, allowing his team to compete in early 2021 qualifiers for the Concacaf Gold Cup and Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup. Concacaf had given T&T a December 18 deadline to have the ban lifted or else face expulsion from June 2021 Gold Cup qualifiers.

“Thank God it had been removed,” Fenwick declared, the news coming two days after his 61st birthday.

“Today is a big landmark decision for us,” stated Fenwick, a defender for England at the 1986 FIFA World Cup. “Am pleased we are in a position (to compete internationally) and am looking forward to working with the management moving forward,” Fenwick stated.

“It’s one step at a time. I am hoping that the football fraternity across the board in Trinidad and Tobago can come together for the benefit of the youngsters in the country and move the game on,” he added.

“It’s been removed at the end of what was our last window for practice games before World Cup qualifiers. We are lagging behind the rest of the region, everywhere else they are playing football. There are development programmes all continuing and we are at a standstill.”

FIFA suspended the TTFA on the September 24 Republic Day holiday, for breach of FIFA statutes when the former TTFA executive led by president William Wallace went to a domestic court to challenge FIFA’s March 17 decision to replace them with its own management (normalisation) committee. FIFA rules state that the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is the only venue to hear disputes with its member associations. Yesterday, FIFA issued a release officially lifting its suspension of T&T.

“The TTFA membership rights have been reinstated and TTFA representative and club teams are again entitled to take part in international competitions. The TTFA may also benefit from development programmes, courses and training provided by FIFA and/or Concacaf. Moreover, FIFA member associations may again enter into sporting contact with the TTFA and/or its teams,’ the governing body stated.

“The members of the TTFA normalisation committee, which was installed by decision of the Bureau of the FIFA Council on 17 March 2020, will proceed with their duties. FIFA regrets the stances and actions taken by the members of the removed executive committee, which negatively impacted all aspects of Trinidad and Tobago football,” the release added.

Earlier, the normalisation committee issued a release, through chairman Robert Hadad’s assistant Amiel Mohammed, indicating its part in having the suspension lifted.

“The normalisation committee recently held fruitful discussions with FIFA and we are pleased to deliver the good news that the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association’s suspension will be lifted and its membership rights in FIFA will be reinstated in time for Trinidad and Tobago to compete in the 2021 Gold Cup and the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.

“This could not happen without the decisive contributions by numerous T&T stakeholders in signalling their desire for a new chapter for football in our country. However, we have a long way to go, and there is a lot of work to be done to ensure that this return to competitive action, in all age categories, is sustainable.”

Pro League representative Sancho, Eve and Morris were all pleased with the ban being lifted but not surprised.

“I think it was inevitable,” Eve said. “They (FIFA) gave us so many chances. I never really thought they wanted to ban us totally, and once the court case and matters were taken out of that domain, I always believed we were going to make the December 18 deadline (for Concacaf Gold Cup qualifiers).”

Sancho also felt that once the majority of TTFA delegates instructed Wallace and his executive to withdraw legal action from the Trinidad and Tobago High Court, then the suspension would have been lifted. “The suspension coming to an end is good for Trinidad and Tobago football,” Sancho said. “Now the healing process needs to start ASAP.”

Morris added: “It’s not a surprise, but it’s a good feeling to know that we are free to participate in international competition. It’s the dream of every footballer to play at the highest level of the sport.”

SOURCE: T&T Express