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Kelvin Jack: ‘United TTFA has no moral authority to risk the immediate future of T&T football’

I have chosen to publicly break my silence about the current impasse between United TTFA and FIFA. In my opinion, the atmosphere around our football reeks of toxicity.

When Fifa appointed the normalisation committee, my first reaction was one of genuine surprise. I made that known to the president William Wallace and to [United TTFA member and technical committee chairman] Keith Look Loy.

Photo: (From left to right) Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach Terry Fenwick, Caribbean Chemicals chairman Joe Pires and TTFA president William Wallace.
(Courtesy TTFA Media)

I was empathetic towards the situation they were put in. I was particularly irked because I felt they only just assumed office but were then being forced out. 

Remember, I was appointed Men’s National Senior Team goalkeeping coach and assistant coach and TTFA Head of Goalkeeping by the ‘United TTFA’. I felt a sense of loyalty towards the president because they worked hard to be in the position to lead Trinidad and Tobago football.

I believe I am qualified to publicly speak about this, as I represented Trinidad and Tobago from the U-14 level all the way to World Cup qualification in 2006. I have paid my dues more than most, when you consider I was only 30 and at my peak; but was never selected again after playing against Paraguay at the 2006 World Cup.

This still rankles with me but age and the passage of time has allowed me to forgive Jack Warner and co for their malicious vindictiveness. Yes, myself and a couple of us were blacklisted for having the temerity to request our bonus contract be honoured.

Back to this impasse that has crippled football. In my opinion, the ongoing court action is nonsensical and has a debilitating effect on Trinidad and Tobago football. The court action should be discontinued immediately.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Kelvin Jack wrestles with Paraguay forward Nelson Valdez (left) during the 2006 World Cup.
(Copyright AFP 2014/Roberto Schmidt)

I have analysed the various arguments for the continued progression of this court action. From the supposed invasion of Trinidad and Tobago sovereignty, to no football is being played right now because of the global pandemic, to the view by some that Trinidad and Tobago wouldn’t qualify for the 2022 World Cup anyway.

These reasons are weak and incredibly disrespectful to the players, fans, potential sponsors, coaches and referees. 

I have never in my life seen such a toxic atmosphere emasculating Trinidad and Tobago football. The negativity and confusion is lamentable, unnecessary and not in the interest of our young players.

The government and honourable sports minister have already made themselves clear. There shall be no funding for the TTFA if this court case continues. Sponsors will almost certainly shun us. Fifa will obviously starve us of funding.

So the question is: how will United TTFA fund football if they are ruled by the court as the legitimate leadership? We truly need to know; all 1.4 million of us.

Photo: Soca Warriors supporter Joey “Posh” Richardson (right) exchanges notes with some football fans during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against the United States on 17 November 2015.
The two nations played to a goalless draw.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Maybe there is a plan? How will development programmes be funded? How will salaries be paid? How will the players gain valuable international experience?

How will our  women’s team close the gap on our international rivals? How will our aspiring international referees develop? 

Committed die hard fans will be starved of watching their beloved national teams play in tournaments.

The one argument I take particular exception to is the argument by some that Trinidad and Tobago will not qualify for the 2022 World Cup anyway, so a ban is not too bad. That opinion is shortsighted and myopic.

I played at the 2006 World Cup because I learned valuable lessons being involved during the qualification matches for the 2002 World Cup. Learning from the older players, observing how they prepared, learning how they dealt with high pressure situations. That experience was vital. 

World Cup qualification failure in 2002 was the catalyst for success in 2006.

Photo: Stern John (second from right) celebrates with goal scorer Dennis Lawrence (centre), Kenwyne Jones (far right), Aurtis Whitley (second from left) and Cyd Gray after going ahead against Bahrain in a famous 2006 World Cup playoff contest on 16 November 2005.
(Copyright AFP 2014)

The uncertainty plaguing football at the moment is unacceptable. We are in the middle of a global pandemic and I’m aware there are restrictions in place to combat Covid-19. However, I am certain the government of Trinidad and Tobago would have been reasonable in allowing us to utilise the vital Fifa international friendly dates this month and next month for important preparatory games.

This could’ve been done overseas. The manager and myself have been looking at various opponents to play against. Now that is not even an option for us, as we are suspended.

There are 211 countries that adhere to Fifa statutes; we are one. If we are truly honest we must realise we cannot on one hand utilise all the provisions of Fifa—for example, receive funding and playing in international tournaments—but then frown when one of the very statutes which we agreed to, the implementation of a normalisation committee, is used by Fifa.

If we detest the role of a normalisation committee in the Fifa statutes so vociferously, why did we join Fifa in the first place? Shouldn’t we have objected to the statutes all those years ago, or at the very least inform Fifa that we do not agree with the role of a normalisation committee—as we believe our sovereignty as an independent country supersedes their statutes?

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (centre) is flanked by FIFA president Gianni Infantino (right) and TTFA president David John-Williams during the opening of the TTFA Home of Football in Couva on 18 November 2019.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

Why haven’t we openly criticised  the supposed injustices of other normalisation committees which were implemented on other football federations worldwide? 

I am completely dumbfounded by the notion that suspension now is not a big thing. The United TTFA has no moral authority to risk the immediate future of Trinidad and Tobago football. I look at our U-15 National team and it borders on criminal that these kids could potentially be barred from experiencing international competition.

I need to reiterate that of course I had empathy for the manner the United TTFA were replaced. Out of respect, I informed Keith Look Loy I will be making a statement. I am certain Keith and William will have a lot to say about my statement. 

However, it’s imperative they realise that I truly love Trinidad and Tobago football with the most passion imaginable. But this has now gone too far and the damage done is immense and potentially irreparable. It will take many more years  to get football back on track and at a half-decent level.

Photo: Soca Warriors coach Terry Fenwick (centre) demonstrates to his players during training at the Police Barracks, St James on 3 July 2020.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

The Honourable Justice Gobin shall be making a ruling [soon]. It is my hope that the healing process is allowed to begin immediately with the discontinuation of this court case. The toxicity and disorganisation must end.

The number one priority now must be the development of Trinidad and Tobago football. All egos must be set aside. Tranquility and organisation needs to take over now.

The longer we remain suspended, the longer it will take us to become competitive on the field of play. 

The stakes are far too high to continue this action. It must stop.

About Kelvin Jack

Kelvin Jack
Kelvin Jack is a former Trinidad and Tobago international football team goalkeeper and was first choice at the 2006 Germany World Cup although injury restricted him to one outing against Paraguay. Jack is an ex-San Juan Jabloteh captain and played professionally in the UK with Dundee (Scotland) and Gillingham (England).

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  1. A pleasant good morning to you. I wish to compliment wired868 on their excellent coverage of the FIFA/TTFA impasse. There was an article written earlier this month on the issue highlighting the internal intrigues regarding contracts Wallace signed with certain board members, Terry Fenwick and an English sports company. I can’t seem to find it in your archives. The article alludes to Wallace favouring recolonization by the British instead of colonization by Fifa. Could you rerun that article or forward it to me at my email address? Thanks in advance.