It took just one week and a small army of private sector companies, according to Robert Hadad, to get the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association’s Home of Football ready for use.
Or rather, as the South-West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) re-christened the facility, the ‘Home of Football-Wellness Centre’.
The controversial project, built on leased land from the state with an amalgam of Fifa and TTFA funding, was opened under former president David John-Williams before it was completed or had the requisite clearances. His successor, William Wallace, acquired some of the clearances but said it would take a significant outlay to remedy the ‘poor project management’.
Hadad, head of the Fifa-appointed normalisation committee, was thrilled to see the project completed within his first month on the job at no cost to the TTFA whatsoever.
As it turned out, the Covid-19 pandemic did have a silver lining for the local football body as the government oversaw the refurbishing of the venue with the private sector picking up the tab.
Minister of National Security Stuart Young, according to Hadad, coordinated the building effort while Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh ensured that it was fit for purpose. Hadad could not give an estimate for the works done and also referred that question to the government.
The venue, which has an 80-bed capacity, now falls under the South-West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) and will serve as a ‘step down’ facility to accommodate asymptomatic patients, recovering from the novel coronavirus disease.
“We got all of the approvals from the government agencies and we got all the remedial work done,” Hadad told Wired868. “The [national security] minister is going to be the one to acknowledge all those companies. A lot of companies helped out and a lot of government agencies helped out, so I would not want to miss any out.
“Corporate Trinidad and Tobago was amazing! The [national security] minister spearheaded that side of things and I myself called a few people that I knew.
“Everyone wanted to play their part.”
In the first instance, the Home of Football-Wellness Centre will be used by guests who are staying free of charge and would probably prefer to be at home. But Hadad insisted that the HoF is fully ready to accept paying guests, as soon as the current crisis is over.
Current TTFA president William Wallace expressed concern last week over the fact that the government chose to liaise with Hadad for use of the property that belongs to the local football body.
At present, Fifa is refusing to acknowledge Wallace’s authority over the game in the twin island republic and has made that point clear to the government. Neither Young nor Deyalsingh responded to Wallace’s letter.
Sport Minister Shamfa Cudjoe distanced herself from a Sunday Express story which claimed that she had prior knowledge that Fifa was about to send a normalisation committee to Trinidad and Tobago. Instead, she said she was only informed after the fact via an email from regional Fifa development officer Marlon Glean.
Glean’s email, according to Cudjoe, was the only correspondence she received from Fifa.
Further, the Minister of Sport blamed Wallace for the fact that they have not met formally. Cudjoe said she attended a secondary schools football event at the invitation of the TTFA president last year but suggested that the football president did not reach out to her thereafter, until roughly two weeks before Fifa ‘intervened’ in its affairs.
“Wallace did not ask for a meeting with the Sport Minister,” said Cudjoe. “It is only about two weeks before [the normalisation committee] that they reached out. Before that they reached out to everyone but me. They wrote to the Minister of National Security, the Prime Minister, the Mayor of Arima.
“So okay, we are all one government. But they chose to talk around me.”
Cudjoe insisted that she was ‘neutral’ about the tussle between Fifa and the TTFA, although the latter body is formed by an act of Parliament. The constitution of the local football body stipulates that officials can only be removed by its own members using a specific process.
The sport minister pointed to a hint of irony in the TTFA’s request for government protection from Fifa.
“Two years ago, there was an issue with the Women’s National Senior Team and their manager Jinelle James asked for the ministry’s intervention,” said Cudjoe. “When John-Williams came in, he said ‘I don’t know what I’m doing here because I never requested this meeting. TTFA reports to FIFA’.
“And that has been the position and posture of TTFA ever since. So don’t play a different game with me now that you’re having trouble with FIFA.
“My position remains one of inclusion and cooperation. All stakeholders must work together to revive football in TT.”
Wired868 could not reach Wallace for comment.
Editor’s Note: Click HERE to read a subsequent response from TTFA president William Wallace.