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‘Is TTFA/ Fifa issue, not also a matter of sovereignty?’ Wallace fires back at sport minister

“[…] Is [Shamfa Cudjoe], as minister of sport, agreeing that the constitution that governs the TTFA—or perhaps even the constitution that governs any national sporting organisation—can be set aside by a foreign power?

“Just recently when a member of the opposition wrote to the US Embassy re the government’s ignoring the Rio Treaty, the government’s response was to take that individual to task, robustly defending the sovereignty of Trinidad and Tobago.

“Is the TTFA/ Fifa issue, not also a matter of sovereignty?”

The following letter to the editor by Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president William Wallace is response to an i95.5FM interview with Minister of Sport Shamfa Cudjoe, who asked Wallace to stop resisting Fifa and work with its normalisation committee chairman, Robert Hadad:

Photo: Fifa president Gianni Infantino (left) presents Minister of Sport Shamfa Cudjoe with a gift during the opening of the TTFA Home of Football in Couva on 18 November 2019.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/TTFA Media)

As the elected president of the TTFA, I have listened carefully to each of the Minister of Sports, Ms Shamfa Cudjoe’s various public pronouncements on the impasse between FIFA and the democratic elected TTFA executive. Each time, alas, I am left more confused.

Her latest statement came yesterday in an interview with i95.5FM host Andre Baptiste. In it she stated that ‘William Wallace and his entourage should work with the normalisation committee’. In my view such a statement is at least disrespectful, even bordering on contempt. The duly, democratically elected vice presidents of the TTFA are not the president’s ‘entourage’.

Ms Cudjoe is a member of the same parliament that has created and given life to the TTFA. Is she, then, suggesting that decisions made by the Parliament should be treated with scant courtesy?

Is she, as minister of sport, agreeing that the constitution that governs the TTFA—or perhaps even the constitution that governs any national sporting organisation—can be set aside by a foreign power?

Just recently when a member of the opposition wrote to the US Embassy re the government’s ignoring the Rio Treaty. The government’s response was to take that individual to task, robustly defending the sovereignty of Trinidad and Tobago.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (left) plays with a football while Fifa president Gianni Infantino (centre) and then TTFA general secretary Camara David busy themselves during the opening of the TTFA Home of Football in Couva on 18 November 2019.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

Is the TTFA/ Fifa issue, not also a matter of sovereignty? But the government has a public forum in which to defend its action.

When FIFA made its normalisation announcement in March, the minister [appeared to] indicate in an interview that she had known of Fifa’s impending decision for some time before. Questioned further on that statement, she […] said she had been misquoted.

In a subsequent interview she openly supported FIFA’s action. However when questioned, she declared that she remained neutral, having taken no sides in the matter.

Displaying this brand of continuing neutrality yesterday, the minister called on the elected officers to work with the appointed normalisation committee.

Presumably the minister is aware—it’s no secret so she should know!—that the elected officers have on three occasions reached out to Fifa and their representatives, proposing mediation. But minister Cudjoe calls for us to work with Fifa, not the other way around.

In yesterday’s interview she also stated that Fifa has clearly stated its reasons.

Photo: TTFA finance officer Tyril Patrick (right) poses with Fifa president Gianni Infantino during the opening of the TTFA Home of Football on 18 November 2019.
Fifa attempted to place Patrick in immediate charge of the TTFA, although he was the subject of an internal probe for alleged professional misconduct.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/TTFA Media)

Yes, minister; indeed, minister. But where the shoe pinches is that the reasons advanced were discovered at the end of February, whereas more than one person with knowledge of the situation—including the normalisation committee’s head—confirmed that the decision to normalise was in fact taken at least as early as January. Very likely earlier.

It is also unfortunate that even now, with the matter before the court, the minister is continuing to make pronouncements as to what should happen.

The minister has also said that since we were elected to office we did not ask to meet with her. I believe it to be standard practice for the sports minister to extend congratulations to a newly elective executive of any sporting organisation and also invite them to meet with him/her at a time convenient to both parties.

If this has not been the protocol, I stand corrected.

We have taken what we perceive to be a stand against injustice. We are prepared to endure whatever pain we have to endure so that all of us may be better for it.

Photo: TTFA president William Wallace.
(Courtesy TTFA Media/Allan V Crane)

I call attention to the events currently taking place in the USA. We have seen that there are those among us who have no issues when a knee is placed on someone else’s neck, who are only prepared to deem it injustice when the knee is on their own neck.

We have also seen that among us are the opportunist who use the opportunity to secure personal benefit. We reject both positions out-of-hand.

We have stood—and continue to stand—against all injustice. And if it comes down to a choice between country and ourselves, we are more than aware that this is not a real choice.

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Letters to the Editor
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