Why I’m rooting for the Sport Minister against the TTFF

Football fans are a funny bunch; they have never had any doubt whatever that their enemy’s friend is their enemy. Or their enemy’s enemy is their friend. So once they dislike a team, that dislike is forever and ever. Amen.

Logic and reason have nothing to do with it. It may simply be that that hated person or team was responsible for the result that caused their team to be relegated 20 years ago. Or it might be that the person or team had won a dodgy penalty that lost their team a title or a trophy.

Whatever the reason, most fans have a team they love to hate. But what do you do when your hated team is actually quite good and fields some decent players? Or worse, when your team fields a player from a nation that is, quite literally, your enemy?

Take, for example, the case of the English dislike of Argentina. And Argentinians. This hatred was born out of the Falklands War in the late 1970’s and exacerbated to the point of virulence by Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal in 1986.

It posed a particular problem for Tottenham Hotspur supporters who had in their ranks at the time the Argentine star of the 1978 World Cup and a great Spurs crowd-pleaser, Osvaldo Ardiles. A major conflict of interest was therefore in evidence, pitting the fans’ English patriotism against their loyalty to their club favourite, Ossie.

Photo: Former Argentina and Tottenham star Ossie Ardilles.
(Courtesy Telegraph.co.uk)

I find myself similarly conflicted these days. You see, I have my reasons to dislike both parties in the TTFF versus Anil Roberts dispute. But, truth be told, I also have an urge to support both parties, my friend’s enemy being automatically my friend, get it?

Anyway, in this dispute, I am not really as conflicted as the Tottenham supporters of the 1980’s; I’ve decided without too much difficulty that Minister Roberts is my friend. Surprised? Well, yes, so am I. But let me explain.

There is no doubt that the minister is being vindictive against Tony Harford and Lennox Watson. And this anti-football stance is easy to understand in the light of the letter written by Jack Warner instructing his colleague to cut off all funding to the TTFF until they showed themselves more plaint and malleable.

However, Roberts, yes, Anil Roberts, has called for accountability and transparency, in the process highlighting his ministry’s inability to accurately record information as well as the Minister’s truly amazing ability to quote figures from accounts that he has not yet seen.

But you can’t disagree, can you? Every taxpayer dollar should be accounted for, whether it be spent on defence, construction, helicopter rides, producing unnecessary and unremarked Machel Montano albums or expensive basketball projects involving high-profile NBA stars. There really should be no need to repeat this but, one never knows, there may be a minister or two reading so I shall have taught somebody something.

Anyway, Minister Roberts’ stance, though dubious, is laudable; the only problem for me is that he has not gone far enough.

Photo: Sport Minister and COP MP Anil Roberts.

Why, for instance, did he not demand full accountability of the FIFA Grassroots funding received by the TTFF for years? I look around and I see technical directors, coaches, administrators, etc, but I don’t see any grass. And for the life of me, I don’t see any youth academy.

Sure, a few coaching schools came and went along the way, but those were never grassroots. Do I hear the TTFF argue that they have no facility to house an academy? Really? So what about the house that Jack built in Macoya on the verge of the Joe Public Stadium? Isn’t that named the Centre of Excellence? Excellence in what, exactly? I see the Sesame Street crew will be there next week. So who, do tell, collects the profits from that large-scale income-generating venture?

If the TTFF had any balls (not of the 32 panel kind marked “Adidas”), it would petition the CFU, CONCACAF and FIFA to obtain control of that facility and, here’s a novel idea, use it to develop excellence in football. The money generated from this facility would, on its own, fund youth development.

But, notwithstanding the fact that it claims near bankruptcy, the TTFF doesn’t seem interested in generating income of its own or in bothering to go after a fortune owed to them since 2006. However, it does seem interested in spending vast sums of money.

It is easy for people to view the court case pitting the TTFF against the Soca Warriors as an attempt by “mercenary”- the adjective belongs to the former Special Advisor – footballers to get themselves a huge payday. That may well be accurate. But let us not forget that part of the story which says that there are millions of dollars of TTFF money missing, something in the region, one recent estimate runs, of $100 million.

Yes, the TTFF, who couldn’t raise $425,000 to send the national senior team to an important regional competition, know the whereabouts of $100 million owed to them by the Local Organising Committee 2006 Ltd (LOC2006). It refuses to ask for it.

Photo: The Trinidad and Tobago national senior football team has vowed to secure the 2012 Caribbean Cup trophy but its preparations are being hampered by in-fighting.
(Courtesy TTFF Media)

Well, maybe they have asked but the person in control of the LOC2006 at the time, National Security Minister Jack Warner, has paid the request scant heed. And on the grounds that Minister Warner may force the organisation into bankruptcy, it refused to pursue the matter even when a judge ordered the TTFF to ask for its money back.

Hello? Is there anybody home? You already owe the 2006 players $4.26 million that you haven’t got. Last time I checked, if a debt is being called in and you can’t pay it, you are bankrupt. And you are refusing to claim money that is yours as of right? Hello?

Another interesting issue is the more than $100 million that the TTFF owes Jack Warner. How? Why? Where are the documents to prove this? But do the math. If you are missing $100 million and you owe somebody more than $100 million, you spent over $200 million. How? Why? On what? An election campaign perhaps?

So I am backing Roberts in his call for accountability but I insist that it not stop with Harford and Watson and the TTFF. Roberts must ask pertinent questions about LOC2006, for instance. And that will require no special effort since Mr Warner sits in front of him in Parliament.

But there are more very relevant questions that Minister Roberts might ask. How can the TTFF, for instance, who can’t raise $425,000 to pay for the national team’s participation in the Caribbean Cup, afford to pay a UK barrister $250,000 – not including the fees for their team of local lawyers – every time he spends half a day in the High Court?

Or, how can the “bankrupt” TTFF, who can’t make the $4.6 million interim payment awarded to the aggrieved 2006 players earlier in the year, be now negotiating a settlement rumoured to be between $10-$15 million?  And continuing to pay the monthly salaries of the office staff, the utility bills, the office rent?

No way, José! This has gone on long enough! We have had six years of waste, ineptitude, inefficiency, pussyfooting and shaming of the good name of national football which players have fought to build over decades. So I’m backing the Minister in his fight to bring the TTFF to account and to rid the country of a truly cancerous football administration.

And if you still don’t understand how those Tottenham supporters could root for their Ossie back in the 80’s, my advice to you is this: Ask Anil!


Editor’s Note: Do you have an opinion to share on the ongoing battle between the TTFF and the Sport Ministry? Leave your thoughts in our Comments section.

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  1. Brilliant Lasana…Your article brings out the factors controlling football in our country. I totally agree that all should be investigated and processes be put into place to deal with the “mercenaries.” Only then our football will progress. Whoever is the new President has a lot to chew.

    • I’m glad you liked it Indigold. I cannot take credit though. I write under my own name and Mr Livewire. All other pieces are done by contributors and most prefer anonymity for now. You can feel free to contribute yourself;-)

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