As the clock ticks on the impasse between Fifa and the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA), the future of the ‘beautiful game’ on these shores is at stake—but not for the reason that most think.
The TTFA, despite the shrill bleating of uninformed voices, is not hamstrung by a legal stalemate. Rather it is paralysed by a glaring lack of analysis.
The TTFA Constitution states that an extraordinary general meeting, which has the power to order or remove any elected officer of the local football body, must be convened within 10 to 30 days of a request by member delegates.
So why are the likes of interim Pro League chairman Brent Sancho and Men’s National Under-17 head coach Angus Eve talking about the negative impact that a suspension can bring in 2021? Why stand outside of a house screaming and hurtling abuse at the occupants when you have a key in your pocket to enter?
At present, TTFA president William Wallace is contending that the local football body’s constitution does not permit an external body—yes, even Fifa—to remove its elected officers.
But do you know what Wallace has not argued? Neither he nor anybody else has said the member delegates cannot move him.
There is no dictatorship here. Only grown men and women who seem either unwilling to read or incapable of understanding a fairly straightforward document, or who insist on sitting on their hands and waiting for an external party to fly in and solve their problems.
Article 29.2-4 of the TTFA Constitution states:
‘The Board of Directors shall convene an Extraordinary General Meeting if a majority (more than 50%) of the accredited delegates to the General Meeting make such a request in writing. The request shall specify the items for the agenda.
‘An Extraordinary General Meeting shall be held within 30 days of receipt of the request, unless the agenda includes the election of members of the Board of Directors or the members of the Electoral Committee, in which case the Extraordinary General Meeting shall be held within 60 days of receipt of the request.
‘If an Extraordinary General Meeting is not convened within the indicated time, the delegates who requested it may convene the Extraordinary General Meeting themselves. As a last resort, the Members may request assistance from Fifa and Concacaf.
‘The Members shall be notified of the place, date and agenda at least 10 days before the date of an Extraordinary General Meeting.
‘When an Extraordinary General Meeting is convened on the initiative of the Board of Directors, the Board of Directors shall draw up the agenda. When an Extraordinary General Meeting is convened upon the request of Members, the agenda shall contain the points raised by those Members.’
The High Court is due to rule on 9 October whether Fifa can legally remove the TTFA’s elected officers, through the implementation of a normalisation committee.
If Wallace and his remaining vice-presidents Clynt Taylor and Sam Phillip lose the case, the TTFA immediately falls under the control of Fifa—with two months left before the new 18 December deadline to ‘lift’ the current suspension and be confirmed for the Concacaf 2021 Gold Cup qualifying phase.
Should Wallace prevail, he promised to immediately call a proper EGM for direction from members. He can do so within 10 days, which means if the likes of Sancho and interim Veterans Footballers Foundation president Selby Browne want to see the back of him, they can remove him between 20 October and 9 November.
Again, there would still be more than enough time for members to prostrate themselves before Fifa president Gianni Infantino if they so desire.
If it is so simple to remove Wallace and his colleagues, you might ask, why has it not been done already? Well, ask Infantino.
For the Fifa president, who is currently under criminal investigation in his homeland, Trinidad and Tobago always seemed to represent something more than a professional relationship.
Former TTFA president David John-Williams, also supposedly the target of a corruption probe, was the first Caribbean football leader to pledge support for Infantino—when he ran to replace Sepp Blatter at the helm of Fifa in 2016.
And John-Williams claimed to have Infantino’s support when, that same year, he unsuccessfully contested the position of Caribbean Football Union (CFU) presidency.
It’s a matter of public record too that Infantino refused to act on several emails from TTFA board members urging a probe into John-Williams’ handling of the Home of Football construction. And, six days before last November’s TTFA election, the Fifa president was in Couva urging stakeholders to share his faith in ‘DJW’.
All of which to say that Infantino’s investment in Trinidad and Tobago is unusual and has never been about the benefit of the twin island republic—as a cursory glance at the TTFA’s record on and off the field under John-Williams will testify.
Infantino’s curious relationship with DJW and the TTFA might help explain why, instead of having the Member Associations read the riot act to the new TTFA administration, the Fifa jefe opted for the knife of the seven-member Bureau of the Fifa Council and ‘normalisation’ instead.
That intervention did not work as smoothly as Infantino might have expected and the Fifa president repeatedly bungled attempts to ‘bring the TTFA in-line’ ever since.
Meanwhile, the TTFA’s member delegates have been passive observers of the struggle, watching with popcorn in hand and no apparent interest beyond finding out the date for their next football match. (Apart, of course, from Sancho and his frantic but thoughtless efforts to prove himself useful to Fifa.)
All the while, they ignore Infantino’s clay feet as well as their own culpability in the farce.
Accustomed only to submission, Trinidad and Tobago administrators appear to lack the clarity of thought and/or self-belief to chart their own destiny—despite having the means to do so. They are in a cage of their own ignorance, yet, ironically, talk about passing on lessons to the nation’s youth.
Who has the power to straighten out Trinidad and Tobago’s football?
On this evidence, it is neither Infantino nor Wallace. But the people running about like headless chickens, screaming to be allowed into an open house.
To paraphrase Football Referees Association vice-president Osmond Downer, the people who are letting our young footballers down are the ones who want to lead, but not to read.
If Infantino wanted regime change, he might have done so long ago by leaking information of Wallace’s own violations and giving local delegates a nudge. But, apparently, that did not suffice. He seemed to want to ‘discipline’ Trinidad and Tobago for not electing the president of his choice on 24 November 2019; and, blinded by the infinite powers he thought he had, overreached.
Somehow, six months after the Bureau announced a normalisation committee in Trinidad and Tobago, Infantino remains unable to get the better of a former school teacher in charge of a functionally bankrupt organisation who showed himself to be anything but a shrewd negotiator in his handling of TTFA business this far.
Of course, this can only end one way. Local football will be under new leadership long before Christmas. But Wallace’s court actions will ensure that his eviction is done by his compatriots and not foreigners who almost certainly do not have Trinidad and Tobago’s interests at heart.
Does that matter? Well, everyone is entitled to their own opinion on that score. However, if the aim is to bring the era of the United TTFA slate to an end, member delegates should close their mouths and use their brains.
Open question to Brent Sancho: if TTFA delegates sent a request for an EGM to Hadad, and High Court Judge Carol Gobin said it was addressed to the wrong leader; who do you think is the right person to send that motion to?