Former T&T senior men's team captain and current national youth team coach Angus Eve has welcomed the decision by FIFA to remove the ban on T&T football.
On Thursday, FIFA lifted the T&T Football Association's (TTFA) international suspension with immediate effect after what it described as "fruitful discussion" between FIFA and the Normalisation Committee representing the TTFA.
In their release, FIFA said it had taken note of a recent decision by the of the T&T Court of Appeal and the express wish of the members of the local Football Association (TTFA) for all associated legal claims brought by parties purporting to act in the name of the organisation to be terminated, and after deliberating its Bureau of the FIFA Council had decided to lift the suspension.
By lifting the suspension, all of 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.
In addition, the members of the TTFA normalisation committee, which was installed by a decision of the Bureau of the FIFA Council on March 17, has also been granted permission to resume with their duties.
In an immediate response to Thursday’s reinstatement by FIFA, the Normalisation Committee via a press release said it noted that the TTFA's "membership rights in FIFA will be reinstated in time for T&T to compete in the 2021 (CONCACAF) Gold Cup and the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.
This after the Bureau of the FIFA Council took the decision to suspend the TTFA on September 24 after the previous administration of the TTFA, led by former president William Wallace persisted with legal action in T&T's high Court challenging FIFA's appointment of a normalisation committee in March of this year.
According to the Normalisation Committee, such action was contrary to and a breach of article 59 of the FIFA Statutes.
The TTFA was granted victory in the matter on October 13 by Judge Carol Gobin, who deemed that FIFA's decision to activate the normalisation was improper and made in bad faith.
However, 11 days later Chief Justice Ivor Archie and Justice Nolan Bereaux overturned Gobin's ruling when they determined that the lawsuit brought by Wallace and his United TTFA team had contravened the TTFA’s constitution.
Facing a TTFA Extraordinary General Meeting to decide whether the TTFA should recognise FIFA's normalisation committee, Wallace stepped down as TTFA president, clearing the way for the normalisation committee chairman, businessman Robert Hadad, to initiate discussions with FIFA.
Eve, T&T’s most capped player with 117 appearances, on Friday said it was a really great day for T&T football.
“It’s really good to see that FIFA has risen the ban on our football, said an upbeat Eve, a member of the recently formed National Coaches Association.
“This is positive news in that it now allows for players to get back involve in some form of training locally with the aim of helping their respective national teams qualify for international tournaments, for officials to be appointed to competitions on an international scale as well as coaches to get back out there and help develop the nation’s youths.”
Reflecting on the day that FIFA opted to re-instate the TTFA, 48-year-old Eve said, “Ironically, we celebrated November 19 (Thursday) in remembrance of the “Strike Squad” not just only coming so close to qualifying for the Italy 1990 World Cup, but as a day that brought the country together in the most positive way through sports.
“And in a sense with us now being re-instated on November 19 it feels like we have been liberated again because sports and in particular football has a way of making such a positive impact on our society as it has shown in the past."
With regards to all the issues surrounding the payment of coaches which were put on hold when the normalisation committee ceased operations, Eve, the current national Under-17 coach said that they will be ready and willing for any positive discussions when the opportunity is presented to them.
Already national senior men's coach Terry Fenwick has resumed training with a mostly locally-based group of players.
On Friday morning ahead of the start of the national team's practice session, Hadad paid them a visit, addressing the members of staff and players.
"It was a great boost for everyone this morning to have the normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad at our training session the very next morning after the ban was lifted and normalisation committee reinstated to run the affairs of the FA.
"He addressed us and while we are fully aware that there is much work to be done as we look ahead to a hectic 2021, I think his presence was well received and we are all anticipating more positive developments for our football in the months ahead," Fenwick said.
However, with no FIFA international match window available until next March, Fenwick will be hoping to navigate his way around organising some international friendlies with neighbouring countries with the aim of getting his players up to the required fitness levels needed for international competition.
When the Concacaf World Cup qualifiers for Qatar 2022 kicks off in March, T&T will compete in Group F with Puerto Rico, Guyana, St Kitts/Nevis and Bahamas from which only the winners will advance to face the table-toppers from Group A, which comprises US Virgin Islands, El Salvador, Grenada, Antigua & Barbuda and Montserrat.
Fenwick's men will also face minnows Montserrat in their first-round playoff for the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup with the winners to face the victor between French Guiana and Cuba for a spot at the Gold Cup in a tough Pool A than consists of Curacao, Mexico and El Salvador.