Dear Editor: Fifa, TTFA, normalisation and ‘the overrated bliss of being right’

“[…] All sides would have to initiate a reasonable offering as a sign of good faith. A prudent place for Fifa to start is to cease its threats of suspension or expulsion of the TTFA, while the ousted TTFA executives can remove their High Court substantive claim and refile said claim with CAS…”

The following Letter to the Editor on the impasse between Fifa president Gianni Infantino, normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad and Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president William Wallace was submitted to Wired868 by former TTFA general secretary Sheldon Phillips JD:

Photo: A Trinidad and Tobago football fan gets behind her team at the Germany 2006 World Cup.
(Copyright AFP 2014/Lluis Gene)

The greatest place to be is at a World Cup during the first week of competition. It is a time when the excitement of the trip, anticipation of matches, interaction with fans from all over the world, and the festivity of the event is at its highest.

Having experienced this euphoria three times, each in different capacities: 1994 as an executive for the Washington DC venue, 2006 as a spectator, and 2014 as general secretary for a member association; it was the 2006 tournament that provided the most gratifying sporting moment I’ve ever experienced.

For those who went through the agonising disappointments of the 1974 and 1990 World Cup qualifiers, seeing our country’s players and flag amassed at midfield alongside Sweden’s players must have raised pores.

For many, including myself, hearing the national anthem play on that sunny June afternoon in Dortmund lifted our spirits to heights not experienced since.

What also made that moment special was it provided an opportunity to spend two weeks driving around Germany, immersed in world class football, and its culture with my father—an unforgettable time I will forever treasure.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago full back Cyd Gray (left) brushes aside England midfield star Steven Gerrard during World Cup action in Nuremberg, Germany on 15 June 2006.
(Copyright AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

Fast forward to 2020 and it’s safe to say the prospects and performance of T&T football have greatly diminished since 2006. Though 2012-2015, there was a brief resurgence of our national teams, but the organisation and its programs have since fallen into a desperate state.

Like many, I have watched with growing sadness and concern at the expanding impasse between Fifa and ousted TTFA executives. Having served football in various capacities for over 30 years, I am acutely aware of the serious consequences this completely avoidable conflagration can inflict on the development of the local game.

However, the combatants seem to be oblivious or perhaps not empathetic enough to recognise the trauma being heaped upon an already battered and abused corps of players, coaches, and referees.

One has to ask; is Fifa’s sabre rattling accompanied with the threat of suspension or expulsion really the most constructive approach to take against a troubled organisation?

Does the ousted TTFA executive team really believe they have the right to volunteer the dreams of current and future generations of footballers and coaches as collateral damage?

Photo: Naparima College attacker Mark Ramdeen (centre) poses with his 2018 SSFL MVP trophy between SSFL president William Wallace (right) and ambassador Shaka Hislop.
(Copyright Annalicia Caruth/Wired868)

Can it be credibly accepted that a team consisting of a successful captain of industry, a banker, and a lawyer is unable to find a way to communicate with stakeholders whom they have pledged to deliver desperately needed assistance?

The truth is none of the actors in this saga have bathed themselves in glory or can claim the prospects of the game are better today.

The prospect of Fifa, the ousted TTFA executives, and the normalisation committee reaching an amicable resolution in their increasingly toxic and expanding impasse can still be achieved.

All sides would have to initiate a reasonable offering as a sign of good faith. A prudent place for Fifa to start is to cease its threats of suspension or expulsion of the TTFA, while the ousted TTFA executives can remove their High Court substantive claim and refile said claim with CAS.

As for the normalisation committee, its chairman can engage in substantive and meaningful communication with TTFA members and all its staff on a regular basis. Once such steps of reasonable accommodation are taken, a noticeable reduction in tension should follow.

Photo: Fifa president Gianni Infantino struts at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva during an exhibition match on 10 April 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

The advancements of those aforementioned offerings can provide each side an opportunity to take a step back from the proverbial edge.

Fifa is the world governing body of football; when it sneezes, its members catch a cold. Showing restraint in its language and actions will do little to undermine its authority, as Fifa will always have the right to bring its members in line with its statutes and regulations.

More importantly, favouring restraint over force will do more to underscore Fifa’s legitimate interest in helping all its members develop football in their respective territories.

The ousted TTFA executives’ removal of the claim from the High Court will preserve its asserted rights as proscribed in the Fifa Statutes without placing the organisation, which they still hold a duty to protect, in the path of direct liability.

Lastly, the normalisation committee can establish its local relevance through respectfully acknowledging the very people who are key to the organisation’s overall performance—specifically the players, coaches, and referees.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago national football team coaches are barred from entering the Ato Boldon Stadium to deliver appointment letters for normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad on 25 August 2020.
(Copyright Ghansham Mohammed/GhanShyam Photography/Wired868)

Principled-based leadership from all sides is what is called for, rather than the transactional leadership we see all too often, leading to not benefit yourself but others.

When stakeholders approach an impasse in good faith and with the mindset of principled-based leadership, the chance of resolution to the reasonable satisfaction of all parties will significantly increase. The end product will be a much better foundation to launch proper and sustainable reform of not only the TTFA, but also, its member associations.

Hopefully, recognising the folly of this unfolding and impending tragedy will inspire wisdom to prevail, to de-escalate the tension and forge a new beginning that values the main pillars of the game: our players, coaches, and referees.

But first, we must undo the Gordion Knot constructed by those who seem to have forgotten why we all love football. It will require humility, mindfulness of others, and a willingness to acknowledge that being right is often overrated.

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  1. Over a year has passed since this article was written. How have things worked out since all sides continued their game of chicken? Where is the football now that everyone involved has indulged themselves? Does anyone believe if cooler heads prevailed back then, T&T football would be in the mess it is in today?

    The silly response of “Talldog” clearly shows reason and rationale will continue to take a back seat as there is nothing in the article to even suggest support for DJW. I don’t support DJW and have gone on record several times with that sentiment.

  2. This is an absolute stupid article.. Written in a vacuum or bubble or somewhere far from reality.
    Please don’t ever offer yourself to get involved in national affairs, as it becoming clearer why our game suffered so badly over the years…. Any way once you not addressing the facts, you are trying to deceive the public, just like the DJW fans and the i95 crew…. Once again, if DJW was transparent in his actions when building the home for football, he would not have lost the election. If DJW was an honest and decent man, he would not have fired a coach that had the senior national men’s team performing at its best in years, and replace him with a coach that was simply an abysmal failure. Thats why he lost the election to Wallace.
    So, Sheldon Phillips stop playing the damn fool, and trying to tie up the public with your DJW crap. He was a piss poor corrupt administrator, and I hope the minister of sport is paying attention to these posts from the public. I hope she opens her eyes to see how this bunch of corrupt incompetent jokers that was feeding from the DJW largesse of corruption are spinning a Web of deceit around her and the govt. It’s simple… Let DJW come forward and explain his management of the TTFA funds. The problem that fifa claims that exists, why they need the step in was the work of DJW, i you have to be either STUPID or CORRUPT to belive otherwise, it is that simple….

  3. Forget CAS. Again, United TTFA has written SEVEN times to FIFA for talks/mediation. They have ignored us. The intransigent party here is FIFA. Support for the deadbeat Normalization Committee is support for the cover up of the sins of the last administration, in which FIFA is COMPLICIT. If FIFA agrees to accept the DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED Wallace administration and to discuss TTFA’s financial situation, the case would be withdrawn the same day.

    Imagine an adult, proposing to defend our youth while lecturing that “being right is overrated”. Nice lesson that. The irony is laughable. Let him tell that to all the people who sacrificed for the independence we just celebrated, or that of the country where he was born.This is the problem. If “being right” requires too much effort or sacrifice, then just forget it. “It’s overrated”

    • And if being right really doesn’t matter,all of you who pursued payment after being UNFAIRLY dismissed might have opted to leave the TTFA with your money, no? Paying you took a huge chunk out of the TTFA’s finances, did it not?

      But memories are short in this God-forsaken country where we are long on fine-sounding talk but very short on meaningful back-up action.

    • Imagine that eh. Being right is over-rated? Wow.

      Disappointed in Mr. Phillips here.

  4. I fully agree with the sentiments expressed here.

  5. Yes this sounds good, the writer sounds intelligent but I have to ask, how does it become Mr. Wallace’s fault if FIFA reacts to his court case by threatening to banish the entire association?

    Isn’t the overreaction the issue. Mr. Wallace has really done them a favor by testing the legality of their actions in the first place because compatibility between the laws of FIFA and the laws of The Republic of Trinidad &Tobago or any other country is essential to the existence of FIFA.

    If Mr. Haddad were to shoot Mr. Wallace for being uppity, could FIFA then restrict the Police in the country from arresting Haddad? or threaten to suspend the entire TTFA unless the case was sent to CAS in Switzerland for resolution?

    Sure some Football Clubs would be in the streets protesting that the Police withdraw and may even threaten to suspend the Police team from the Pro League in an emergency TTFA Congress because their players want a chance to participate in the World Cup and that is more important to them.

    The Swiss Government has opened some form of inquiry into the President of FIFA, would a proportional response be; to bring to the FIFA congress a motion to suspend the Swiss F.A. because all the FIFA members are convinced that their President is innocent before even charges are laid.

    Why did FIFA not suspend the US Soccer Federation when the Department of Justice started to arrest high ranking FIFA officials since FIFA is a law unto itself?

    If the football members , players of the TTFA do not see themselves as equal in FIFA law to any other citizen in rich and powerful countries then their seems to be little point in taking the field to compete anyway.

    Be hopeful because there in Trinidad, every creed and race has an equal place and side by side you stand Islands of the Caribbean Sea and in your native land.

    Wallace might not be the most articulate spokesman but his cause is the cause of the people of Trinidad and Tobago….the people of the Caribbean

  6. incredible! Your naiveté, Mr Phillip, is immense.

    Your fundamental assumption is fatally flawed; there is no “good faith” on FIFA’s side. Their whole manner of proceeding screams schoolyard bully. Or worse.

    Infantino and Samoura and Mosemba-whatever are thugs and for them it’s our way or the highway. As far as they are concerned, no other options are on the table. Or will ever be.

    Were that not the case, on what grounds would they have declined seven offers to resolve the issue through mediation?

    • And I also wanted to invite you to make sure and watch the presidential debates in America.

      Biden is a decent, honest democrat (common d!) with a conscience–and a moderate war chest. Trump is a classless, bullying, crooked fascist who cares only about himself and who, with half of Wall Street supporting him with their wallets, will stop at NOTHING to get his own way.

      See any resemblances? Fair fight, right?

      • Mr. Best, you and some others seem to take the misguided position that my call for the parties to set aside the notion of being “right” is directed exclusively or mostly at United TTFA. In fact, I urged each of the three parties (FIFA, Normalization Committee, and United TTFA ) to come out of their entrenched positions and seek other avenues that could reverse the current course. Certainly not a naive position to take.

        Furthermore, I didn’t urge United TTFA with withdraw their case. If you carefully read the article, I actually urged United TTFA to withdraw their case from High Court AND RE-FILE their case in CAS, the exclusive forum accepted by TTFA and FIFA. Filing the case in an improper forum has known consequences.

        I have also recognized attempts to frame this dispute and the decision to move this case from CAS to a local court as being an extension of the Civil Rights Movement or Black Liberation struggle. This is hyperbole at best and exploitive and offensive rhetoric at worst. The struggle for civil rights and Black liberation is a continuing fight for basic inalienable rights (life, vote, police reform, etc.) which some people have suffered, died, and been imprisoned in order to advance. As much as we all love football and believe it to be an irreplaceable part of our lives; there is no inalienable right to be part of FIFA. This matter is a contract dispute; nothing more, nothing less.

        The truth is United TTFA didn’t have the funds to pursue the matter in CAS; especially to appeal the unfair CAS decision to allow FIFA to forego payment of its arbitration fees and requiring United TTFA to pay the total filing fee for both sides. An appeal in the Swiss Federal Tribunal stood a good chance to succeed. It is unfortunate United TTFA did not have funds because a legitimate set of questions surrounding whether; 1) there are limits to FIFA’s use of their Normalization Committee power and 2) were there other less than legitimate reasons used to activate the normalization committee, needed to be answered.

        So, 1) United TTFA is not singled out to set aside their feeling of being right or to withdraw their case, 2) This fight is not a civil rights case, and 3) there are legitimate questions FIFA should be required to answer.

        • Sheldon, you’re not serious! And I knew it the moment I read “Filing the case in an improper forum…”

          But I read right to the bitter end. In vain.

          Tu marches a coté de tes pompes. monsieur! You miss the point COMPLETELY.

          I have no more to say here; I reckon I can just as effectively talk to the walls of my study.

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