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Best review: Can Wallace unite fractured TTFA; or will only half the pack follow his lead?

The Wired868 headline leapt out at me. DJW dethroned after one term in office, it said. I couldn’t help myself. I’ve been fascinated by language and language-related matters since I was that high. So, dethroned hit me right between the eyes.

To my trusty dictionary I went. According to the ODE, to dethrone means to remove (a monarch) from office. Congratulations, Wired868. Right on the ball. By succeeding in ridding itself of David John-Williams, national football has indeed contrived to remove a monarch from office.

Photo: TTFA president David John-Williams (left) embraces FIFA official FIFA official Veron Mosengo-Omba during the opening of the TTFA Home of Football on 18 November 2019.
Mosengo-Omba, a DR Congo national, was the FIFA official with line responsibility over the construction of the HOF.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/TTFA Media)

Congratulations, electorate.

That wished-for end now achieved, my attention immediately turned to the issue of what now? What’s next? Unsurprisingly, my age-old love affair with language also affected the way that major concern manifested itself. It took the form of this question: will United TTFA be successfully and seamlessly succeeded by a united TTFA?

After the first round, Lasana Liburd’s early story told us, Wallace had 20 votes, John-Williams had 16 and Richard Ferguson had 10. (…) (S)ix of Ferguson’s supporters then voted for Wallace while the remaining four backed John-Williams. And it meant a 26-20 victory for Wallace, who would (sic) steer local football for the next four years.

Had we had a landslide 40-6 vote in favour of the freshly elected incumbent, I should have had little concern. I should have commiserated with John-Williams whose best had proved to be not good enough, congratulated William Wallace on his victory and for his courage in accepting what will doubtless be a daunting task and gone back to my multiple pressing dominical tasks.

But 26-20 gives pause and cause for concern. Why? It may mean the TTFA is split almost down the middle, is not just divided but fractured.

It may mean that all hands are not now and won’t tomorrow be on deck. It may mean that the way forward for the new TTFA starts not at the beginning of the highway but at the crossroads. And that may mean that, whereas some 26 may want to take the road less travelled, 20 others may well prefer the beaten track.

Photo: (From left) South FA president Richard Quan Chan, Concacaf president Victor Montagliani, TTFA president David John-Williams, FIFA president Gianni Infantino, former TTFA vice-president Ewing Davis and Tobago FA president Anthony Moore during the opening of the TTFA Home of Football in Couva on 18 November 2019.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/TTFA Media)

Fortunately for all 46, for us all and for football, President Wallace is emphatically a people person. I can say without fear of successful contradiction that he is acutely aware of the adage which warns about a house divided against itself. He will neither be content to lead half the flock nor will he fight shy of the job of persuasion required to weld the two halves into a harmonious whole.

I can say without fear of successful contradiction that he disagrees vehemently with Jamaal Shabazz’s view that dictators, benevolent or otherwise, are good for football. You can bet your house that his will not be a presidency in the mould of the administrations led by any of Eric James, Jack Austin Warner or David John-Williams.

I can say without fear of successful contradiction that President Wallace will reject out of hand both the JAW model and the immediate post-JAW model, which makes the TTFA president merely the puppet of the TTFA Special Adviser.

Former long-standing SSCL secretary Forbes Persaud, who has been Wallace’s close collaborator over more than three decades, scoffs at the suggestion that the newly elected president might not be his own man.

Calling him “an honest, caring, unselfish, proactive and sincere leader,” Persaud says that he “does not get involved in any organisation for personal benefit but for the betterment of the people and the society as a whole.”

Photo: SSFL president William Wallace (middle) is the centre of attention during the media launch of the 2019 season at Fatima College, Mucurapo on 3 September 2019.
Wallace was elected TTFA president on 24 November 2019.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)


But I found myself wondering if there is not some one of DJW’s close collaborators who, four years ago, would have said or actually did say much the same about him. The taste of the black pudding, we have long known, is not in the advertisement but in the eating. And the road to administrative hell, is littered with scores of black pudding vendors.

So I think that, impressive-sounding though it is, Wallace’s “list of immediate priorities”—transparency, collective governance, constitutional amendment, sweeping audits and coaching contracts, Wired868 reports—overlooks at least one important item. Healing

The first step in the march forward, I submit, has to be an attempt to win John-Williams and Ferguson over to the United cause, well, to the new TTFA’s cause. United, after all, is dead, long live united.

That, however, will be no easy task. Wired868’s report makes it clear that DJW is hurt. And probably hurting. The ex-president “shook Wallace’s hand at the final tally of the presidential ballots” but “promptly left the AGM and did not stick around to support the remaining members on his slate.”

It sounds like he is unlikely to be interested in any olive branch. Still, I submit, Wallace would be well advised to extend it in full view of the public.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago football fans enjoy the show during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Some people simply never say die—think Dave Cameron. So I wouldn’t put it beyond King David to offer himself for office again one of these days.

Ferguson should be an easier sell. Sunday’s Express listed the would-be president’s thrust as “a financial change in football.” Williams must, I think, see that this is not a man who can be allowed simply to walk away from the organisation with whatever assets he had been willing to bring to the table. Perhaps more importantly, the football community must be allowed to see what we are to make of Ferguson’s comments that “(t)his (his candidacy) is not about power. (…) It is just me trying to help.”

Didn’t United TTFA campaign on the theme “Let us rebuild this together”? Nobody, I feel certain, took that us to mean just United TTFA.

Nor does anyone take that together as including those who have no interest in serving football but are merely interested in setting up a dynasty or in serving only themselves…

…and/or their relatives and other connections.

About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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  1. Since AJW football split continues. He still rules the roost. Now that Look Loy and Harford directs football by remote control change and unity will be scarce.. Who do we owe the 50 – 60 million. Publish it.