TTFA vs FIFA puzzle—Pt 2: probity, perfidy and piss-poor presumptions about vows of poverty

Why did satisfying [Terry] Fenwick and [Peter] Miller matter so much to Mr [William] Wallace? That is the intriguing question posed by Wired868 reader Louis Carrington to which I am seeking to offer an answer.

Three more reminders: (1) This is opinion, not reportage. For my facts, I rely essentially on Wired868’s excellent, comprehensive reporting.

Photo: FIFA president Gianni Infantino addresses the audience during the opening of the TTFA Home of Football in Couva on 18 November 2019.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/TTFA Media)

(2) I am not, however, impartial; In Pt 1, I asserted and argued here that Wallace, my friend of long-standing, is a decent man. He is, I contended, a ‘little unsuspecting sardine in a shark-infested ocean,’ who is guilty of errors of judgement.

I believe context and motive to be important when judging action. Which is why I reject out of hand Wired868’s classification as ‘scandals’ its revelations about Wallace’s secret unilateral signing of several contracts which emerged post-normalisation.

(3) “I thought the short-term future of T&T football was in their hands. And I thought I could trust them with it.”

I put those pithy 20-plus words into Wallace’s mouth as my answer to Carrington’s question.

All of that said, allow me now to present some of the embattled president’s own words, uttered in November 2019:

“The true mark of leadership is the willingness to take responsibility for things that go wrong, to acknowledge your mistake, to learn from it and to move on and remain focused on the job at hand.” (my italics)

Photo: Then SSFL president William Wallace (centre) prepares to hand over the 2019 Premier Division trophy to Naparima College at CIC grounds on 4 November 2019.
Wallace was elected TTFA president on 24 November 2019.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

None of that is just talk.

Remember how at the November launch of the United TTFA campaign, a mysterious, ‘fraudulent’ (said Wired868) letter of support from Junior Sammy was unveiled?

Do you know who provided the group with that letter? I don’t either. I just know that there was speculation about it being either the soon-to-be national coach or the soon-to-be general secretary. It was soon-to-be president Wallace who accepted full responsibility.

Fast forward to June 2020. The now president, Wired868 reveals, had unilaterally altered the contracts of both the GS and the national coach.

As Gefferson Goulart might attest, the latter bathes in the milk of human kindness. And Fenwick soon seemingly severs ties with United TTFA and finds himself a high-profile ally who talks enough for 11 XIs, let alone one coach!

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach Terry Fenwick gestures to the media after training at the Police Barracks in St James on 3 July 2020.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

But what does one hear from the two gentlemen themselves? I’m still waiting to hear from either that, in view of the circumstances, I agree to have my contract amended…

I mean, you scratched my back…

Or, alternatively, that: “I did not come to take from Trinidad and Tobago football but to give to it.”

That declaration comes instead from the under-the-gun president. And I take him at his word. He has been in the football business for three decades, Wired868, with nary a whiff of scandal.

We know—and he also now knows—that such altruism is rare. Even rarer is the candour of the PNM’s Desmond ‘All ah we tief’ Cartey and the UNC’s Brian ‘I never took any vow of poverty’ Kuei Tung.

Ditto the barefaced brazenness of former globe-trotting TTFA secretary Austin Jack Warner whose cravatious actions always spoke loudly for him, not least when a devastating earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010.

Photo: Then Fifa vice-president Jack Warner shows what he can do with the football at Robben Island in South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s 89th birthday on 18 July 2007.
Warner conferred honorary membership on the Makana Football Association, which was the competition formed by the prisoners of Robben Island.
(Copyright AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

So even if you’re a leader determined to rescue national football because you’ve made a promise to your late friend, you simply cannot proceed as if everyone around you is sea-green incorruptible. In international football especially, if you’re going to err, it must be on the side of caution.

Here are three very good reasons: (1) Andrew Jennings’ 1992 Lords of the Rings, co-written with Vyv Simpson (2) Jennings’ 2007 Foul and (3) his 2017 The Dirty Game: Uncovering the Scandal at FIFA, an exhaustive study of corruption in football’s umbrella body.

But ignoring my early public warning, Wallace neglected the requisite due diligence.

Too deep in the trench? It might well be that, buried in a TT$50m hole, you simply don’t see or hear anything but offers of solid, material help. And of possible salvation.

Or it might be that, fired by reforming zeal, you focus on the job at hand to the exclusion of all else—including the machinations of those in your entourage, including but not limited to the foreigners.

Photo: TTFA general secretary Ramesh Ramdhan (left) makes a presentation to Men’s National Senior Team head coach Terry Fenwick during his unveiling at the National Cycling Centre, Couva on 6 January 2020.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-Images/TTFA Media)

“Let me reiterate here,” one reads in Wallace’s media statement, “that I didn’t think we had anything to lose by engaging Miller. If he were successful, I reasoned, the TTFA would also be successful; if he failed, then we would simply have remained in the hole that previous administrations had dug us into.”

I didn’t think we had…” and “I reasoned…” but “we would…” From there to unilateral action is but a baby step…

Perhaps the fire of reforming zeal renders a leader blind and deaf to grammatical niceties. But does it also make him anosmic?

Long before Mark Bassant’s exposé. Wallace’s nose—and Keith Look Loy’s relentless insistence on accountability—has to have told him that something was rotten in the Home of Football. But instead of spawning extra caution, the succession of post-election discoveries about the steadily increasing depth of the debt hole seem to have merely strengthened his resolve to succeed with the rescue act he had initiated.

And such narrow focus on the job at hand meant failure to acknowledge that to his ‘if he failed, then…’ scenario, there was this massive rider:

Photo: Controversial British salesman Peter Miller.

provided that he was really prepared to accept no payment for his efforts.

Was Wallace’s naiveté so great as to allow him to take that for granted? Never to put that critical question to Fenwick’s friend and agent, Miller?

And, persuaded that the constitution permitted him to be the Voice of One, to speak unilaterally for the entire group, to sign on the dotted line, without a cast-iron, justiciable assurance from the horse’s mouth?

Or, alternatively, from trustworthy attorneys?

My answer, emphatically, is in the affirmative.

Because, to my mind, there is no disputing that Wallace came to perceive Miller as the goose that would lay the golden egg.

An egg, alas, made entirely of fool’s gold!

Voilà pourquoi, M Carrington, votre fille est malade…

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