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Rowley ready to help! Wallace meets PM and sets EGM date, as TTFA targets Fifa deadline

Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president William Wallace will convene an extraordinary general meeting on Sunday 25 October with member delegates of the local football body.

And the agenda will deal specifically with ‘the way forward’ for the TTFA and the current Fifa suspension.

Wallace confirmed the date and agenda to Wired868 last night. As promised, the embattled administrator contacted his board within 24 hours of Tuesday’s High Court win, with the majority of directors agreeing to the meeting.

Photo: TTFA president William Wallace poses during a staff photoshoot on 9 January 2020.
(via Allan V Crane/TTFA Media/CA-images)

The TTFA has until 3pm on Friday 18 December to satisfy Fifa’s terms, or they could miss out on the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup as well as the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying series. Fifa gave the TTFA until 3pm CET (Central European Time), which would be 9am here. Concacaf’s deadline is 3pm Eastern Time, which is the same as T&T’s local time.

Football fans will hope the rift with Fifa is patched up before then, although the cost of doing so remains uncertain.

On 24 September, the Bureau of the Fifa Council, which is headed by Fifa president Gianni Infantino, said: ‘this suspension will only be lifted when the TTFA fully complies with its obligations as a member of Fifa, including recognising the legitimacy of the appointed normalisation committee and bringing its own statutes into line with the Fifa Statutes’.

Thus far, Fifa has not clarified what amendments are required, although it is presumed to be something that will allow the governing body to treat the TTFA’s elected officials as replaceable employees, rather than partners with some level of autonomy.

Photo: Fifa president Gianni Infantino raises his arm in celebration after his reelection in Zurich, Switzerland on Friday 26 February 2016.
(Copyright AP Photo/Michael Probst)

The TTFA’s legal team challenged the Fifa suspension at the Court of Arbitration (CAS) for Sport on 25 September but are yet to get a hearing date. Wallace said they have asked for an expedited hearing. However, if one is not granted before the 25 October EGM, then the local body’s 47 member delegates will decide if to allow the case to continue, or if to withdraw it.

“The priority is trying to get the Fifa suspension lifted because the 18 December is right ahead,” said Wallace. “We don’t want to linger.”

Yesterday, Wallace and third vice-president Sam Phillip met Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, Minister of National Security and Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young, and Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe from 2pm at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s.

The meeting was arranged at the request of the prime minister and, ironically, it was the first time that Dr Rowley met Wallace since he was elected TTFA president on 24 November 2019.

Young did not even acknowledge Wallace’s emails, a few months ago, when the TTFA president thanked him for an upgrade at the Home of Football and subsequently enquired about footballers stranded in El Salvador. Instead, the Port of Spain North/St Ann’s West MP dealt exclusively with Fifa-appointed normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad at the time.

Photo: National Security Minister and Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister and MP Stuart Young (right) has a word with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
(Copyright Trinidad Newsday)

Cudjoe repeatedly derided Wallace’s legal battle with Fifa in the press, while Dr Rowley mocked the administrator’s legal win on Wednesday morning.

Wallace said Dr Rowley’s social media post did not come up in the meeting. And, although nobody congratulated him on Madame Justice Carol Gobin’s High Court ruling, the football president said the discussion itself was cordial and calm.

“The prime minister wanted to know if we want to continue playing football under Fifa,” Wallace told Wired868. “If we did not, then he wanted to know our plan going forward; and if we do, then he wanted to know what we have to do to remain playing as a part of Fifa.”

Wallace informed the prime minister that the TTFA does want to remain a member of Fifa, and the way forward from here on will be discussed with the membership on 25 October.

“I also told him that, based on the court’s interpretation of our statutes, the Parliament may very well have a part to play in that,” said Wallace, in reference to the yet unspecified constitutional amendment demanded by Fifa. “[Dr Rowley] said in whatever way they can help, they are willing and ready to help.”

Photo: (From second to left to right) Concacaf president Victor Montagliani, then TTFA president David John-Williams, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, FIFA president Gianni Infantino, Sport Minister Shamfa Cudjoe and deputy House Speaker Esmond Forde cut the ribbon to formally open the TTFA Home of Football in Couva on 18 November 2019.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/TTFA Media)

Wallace noted that Trinidad and Tobago are not the only member association within Fifa which is incorporated by an Act of Parliament. The same is also true of England, Portugal, Australia and the United States of America, among others.

“If they are asking Trinidad and Tobago alone to change, then we will have a real issue with that,” said Wallace.

But he insisted that the general meeting will decide. Unlike their previous meeting with members, the 25 October conclave will be a formal one with the president obliged to follow the guidance of his membership.

Does Wallace want to remain in charge of the TTFA after that meeting? Does he see himself at the helm come December?

“I am not answering that yet,” he said. “I want to show the members the respect of talking to them first.”

Wallace said he has no regrets about his seven months of struggle with Fifa, which led to a provisional suspension from the football body but also vindication in the court.

Photo: TTFA president William Wallace (far right), general secretary Ramesh Ramdhan (second from right) and technical director Dion La Foucade (second from left) talk to Women’s U-20 Team manager Maylee Attin-Johnson during practice at the Ato Boldon Stadium training field in Couva on 7 February 2020.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/Wired868)

“It has to be said that the law expects the TTFA to do what its statutory duty requires, even in the face of unlawful pressure,” stated Gobin, in her judgment on 13 October. “[…] In the circumstances, the TTFA’s actions of seeking redress before the court was perhaps the only appropriate response, which avoided capitulating to the demands of Fifa and thereby elevating the status of Fifa Statutes above the laws passed by our Parliament.”

Wallace said it was his favourite excerpt from the ruling.

“If that is the only thing that we accomplished, then to me it is a major accomplishment—who wants to move that [Parliamentary protection] after, it is their problem,” he said.

He suggested it was not so much that Fifa did not defend themselves in court as they could not defend their actions.

“Remember Fifa provided affidavits upfront from Veron Mosengo-Omba and I was able to respond to every one, it just did not make sense,” said Wallace. “And the judge cited those affidavits in her judgment and came to the same conclusion. It is not that they were not involved, because they paid to take part in the Court of Appeal hearing, so you can’t be participating in part of the court and not the other part.

Photo: (From right) Fifa official Veron Mosengo-Omba, Sport Minister Shamfa Cudjoe and TTFA president David John-Williams inspect the TTFA’s Home of Football in Couva on 20 August 2018.
(Courtesy MSYA)

“The reason they did not try to defend themselves [on Tuesday] is because they could not defend the indefensible.”

Wallace said he reached out to Fifa on eight occasions for mediation, but was snubbed each time.

“Even a condemned man is given a chance to be heard,” he said.

In the end, Wallace said he is saddened that his legal stance has so divided his countrymen.

“For me, there were so many lessons in this,” he said. “This wasn’t just about football and what happens on the field of play… Our sovereignty was being threatened by a foreign entity; we were right to defend that. It was bigger than just football.

“I have no regrets.”

Wallace said he shared some of the issues involving the local game with the prime minister. Chief among them is a debt estimated at between TT$50 to $80 million, which he described as a ‘stranglehold on the local game’.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago U-15 captain Jaheim Marshall (centre) celebrates a goal with teammates during TTFA U-15 Invitational action against Panama at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva on 17 July 2019.
Panama won 5-4.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)

“I told the prime minister that regardless of who is running Trinidad and Tobago’s football, that debt is a major problem,” he said. “If normalisation would have meant Fifa paying that off, I would have gladly walked away there and then.

“The prime minister’s response was that taxpayers’ money can’t be used to deal with it and I agree with that—not in this time at least, when people are suffering and losing their jobs and so on.”

The TTFA’s problems will not be solved merely by re-entry to Fifa and, possibly, normalisation. Wallace suggested introspection is needed, rather than noise.

“We need to reset Trinidad and Tobago’s football,” he said. “We cannot continue doing the same things over and over with half-prepared teams. We need to start properly developing our players so they can have a real chance.

“Everybody’s talking about missing out on this and missing out on that but we should be focusing on building up our players, so they can go out there and perform. Instead we have been taking a little bit of money and running into competitions and coming back out early, running in and coming back out again.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago forward Afiyah Cornwall (left) tries to win space from St Kitts and Nevis defender Kaleah Smith during Concacaf U-20 Championship action on 23 February 2020.
Cornwall scored four times as T&T won 6-0.
(Copyright MexSport/Concacaf)

The TTFA entered just one tournament under the Wallace-led administration. The Women’s National Under-20 Team finished as quarterfinalists at the Concacaf 2020 competition under head coach Richard Hood.

It was a significant improvement from a bunch of players who were humiliated at Under-15 level under coach Marlon Charles—they lost 22-0 to USA and 15-0 to Mexico—and failed to even reach the final Caribbean Under-17 qualifying round under Jamaal Shabazz.

However, within weeks of the Women’s Soca Warriors credible showing, the Bureau of the Fifa Council stepped in to remove Wallace. Revelations about a secret contract handed to marketing director Peter Miller and deals with Soca Warriors head coach Terry Fenwick and general secretary Ramesh Ramdhan that did not match terms agreed to by the board, weakened Wallace’s moral authority too.

Arguably, Gobin’s judgment offered a touch of redemption to the former Carapichaima East Secondary vice-principal, who was voted into office with a largely unblemished record from his time as Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) president.

Photo: Then SSFL president William Wallace (centre) greets players before kick off between Shiva Boys Hindu College and Naparima College at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva on 8 September 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)

Even with the High Court win under his belt—once it is not snatched away by the Court of Appeal on Monday—Wallace would surely need a CAS miracle to survive at the helm of the TTFA. That is particularly ironic considering his team’s acrimonious departure from the Swiss-based sport arbitration body in May.

At this stage, though, Wallace’s fate still remains in his own hands.

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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5 comments

  1. Nobody has won anything. TT football has been loosing for decades now. Since 1970 to be precise. We are going nowhere. Mr. Wallace and his team are no different from the the past regimes. One man rule the roost. Contracts altered or signed in secret but wants the public to pay for it. . One man took the CoE, One the HoF and this one wants the Arima Velodrome. The next one will want the HCS. There you go doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Let the Nc rule for 5 years while we get rid of these predators. The Gov’t must ask for long and medium term plans. Audited statements. Minutes of meetings. Plans for preparations of team before money is dipursed. Be pro active not political. Elections gone do your work in a professional manner.

  2. Also Mr PM
    Why didn’t you and your minister of sport intervene sooner, like when the foreign bully abruptly cancelled the DEMOCRATIC process of a NATIONAL sporting association which was established by an act of Parliament??? Or when the bully ban YOUR country for filling a withdrawal of the case a whole 2 minutes later than the bully’s self determined deadline?????
    Was it because infantino is allyuh friend, but Wallace isn’t?
    Was it because infantino installed more of YOUR friends as the normalisation Committee???
    Before yuh answer, another saying… a picture paints a thousand words… Talk nah

  3. “The prime minister wanted to know if we want to continue playing football under Fifa,” Wallace told Wired868. “If we did not, then he wanted to know our plan going forward; and if we do, then he wanted to know what we have to do to remain playing as a part of Fifa.”
    Mr PM
    This is the foolishness that seeps out of your face when you have square pegs in round holes. I trust you understand that, given the penchant of Tobagonians to talk in riddles.
    You see, you actually believed the donkeyness you wrote about playing with ourselves and we would always win, and all that utter rubbish. And the reason for that is because of your decision to place Shamfa Cudjoe as the minister of sport. People like you are slow to admit your errors, and are obsessed with images of yourself as beacons of integrity, and proper leadership, even though you are a mere human being. I always wonder why your ministers are quick to point out that anything positive or worthwhile that happens is because of your leadership,, and I now understand why…. Well your fellow Tobagonian, William Wallace just taught you a lesson about walking the talk. When you take an oath of office, you stand up and honour your oath like a man.
    I heard you Mr PM, talk about professor Julien sending you for training on energy matters to prepare you for holding the office of prime minister, and this helped you to take decisions on assuming office. It is very obvious when you listen to Shamfa Cudjoe that she is clueless in a role as minister of sport. So why you doing this country that, eh why???? Did you send her for training?
    In fact, why did you choose her? Is it that the PNM don’t have any other suitable candidates for the post?
    Clairence Rambarath lost 2 elections, but he is minister of agriculture because of his skill sets. So why isn’t Brian Lewis the minister of sport, eh why????
    Because I know leadership, and I know management, I would offer to you this position : you are ill advised on matters of sport because you have not appointed a suitable individual to the post. You are failing the country with your leadership style because you are surrounding yourself with courtiers, and not capable persons that support the vision of the pnm.
    Check yourself before you wreck yourself Mr PM

  4. While I have heard a lot about the TTFA and its challenge of the FIFA status quo as far as TT is concerned, I note that no one has questioned the bona fides of the so-called normalization committee. How were the members selected? What led FIFA to select these individuals and how were their terms of reference decided. Should a normalization committee work in conjunction with the established football authority in TT (especially one incorporated by an Act of Parliament) or should they be managing football instead of the TTFA.

    Now another thing lost in the mix; I read somewhere that Mr. Infantino himself has some cloud over his head in his dealings with football. I don’t know what the outcome of that Infantino situation is but he who is without sin is casting boulders. It would be nice if in the interest of balanced media reporting that we get some info on this aspect of the situation seeing that FIFA is challenging or has challenged a body incorporated through the laws of the highest court in the land – Parliament!

    At the end of the day, TT and the TTFA has to walk away with its integrity intact and not prostitute itself on FIFA’s altar of world football.

    • Earl Best

      Sorry, Ken. Shakespeare did not include it in his list but another thing that comes not back is a ruptured maidenhead. Check to records between 1989 and 2012 to see how many times and whom TTFA football was raped.