By Paul Nicholson
October 7 – The Trinidad and Tobago FA have been given a deadline of December 18 by FIFA to get their suspension lifted or face exclusion from the Qatar 2022 World Cup Qualifiers. The TTFA has been given the same deadline for the 2021 Gold Cup.
While that is a hard deadline from FIFA in reality the real deadline for the TTFA if it wants to have any chance of re-joining world football and competing in the Gold Cup and World Cup qualifiers is this Friday in the Trinidad and Tobago High Court. That is when a judge will rule on whether former president William Wallace and his board were illegally replaced by a FIFA Normalisation Committee.
FIFA is not defending the action as it doesn’t recognise the jurisdiction of the court – it says that the appeal should be heard at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
The Trinidad and Tobago court will almost certainly award to Wallace’s group in default and the decision written into local law. The problem for Wallace and his United TTFA group is that FIFA, because it does not recognise the Trinidad and Tobago court, will not lift the TTFA suspension until the law is removed, which can only be done by an act of parliament.
In Trinidad and Tobago that process will likely take at least 18 months to two years. And even at the end of that process there is no guarantee the TTFA will be re-admitted into world football. Currently the frustration is so great within FIFA circles that discussion is increasingly focussing on expulsion of the TTFA as the only real solution.
Realistically the earliest Trinidad and Tobago could be seen back in World Cup action would be the 2026 World Cup qualifiers, likely to be held in 2025, but even that could be a stretch depending on how early Concacaf organises its qualifiers. The chance of any meaningful Gold Cup action for Trinidad and Tobago would also likely be pushed out to beyond 2025 – and that assumes it had any players capable of competing at the improving standards within the region. A five year non-competitive gap means a lost generation of potential international footballers.
World Cup deadline
In a letter to Normalisation Committee chair Robert Hadad, FIFA general secretary Fatma Samoura said that with World Cup qualifiers beginning in March, the December 18 deadline was set as time is needed to ensure logistics, complicated by the covid pandemic, can be arranged to ensure fixtures can be completed safely.
In the first round Trinidad and Tobago is grouped with St Kitts and Nevis, Guyana, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. Normally Trinidad and Tobago would start as firm group favourites but with nations across the Caribbean developing rapidly, Trinidad and Tobago is getting left behind as it turns itself into a pariah in the Caribbean as it continues to play politics over a battle for control of the local federation.
In her letter Samoura said: “The organisation of such competition (World Cup qualifiers) entails complex logistical and operational matters intensified by the COVID-19 crisis. In view of this, please note that FIFA has decided that, in order to ensure the proper preparation and planning of the participant teams, if the suspension imposed on the TTFA is not lifted by 18:00 CET on 18 December 2020, we have no choice but to exclude the TTFA from participating in the Concacaf World Cup Qualifiers.”
In the same letter Samoura also said that the Normalisation Committee “has necessarily ceased all operational and management functions over the TTFA”, but that the only communication with the TTFA will be with Hadad.
“However, we want to highlight that the only legitimate leadership of the TTFA, recognised by FIFA and Concacaf, is the one led by Mr. Robert Hadad. Having said this any communication from FIFA with TTFA will continue to be exclusively being with Mr. Robert Hadad,” said Samoura.
With FIFA having withdrawn and Hadad, and his committee being told to cease operations the TTFA is effectively paralysed with no finance, no support, no wages for staff and no football activity.
On the face of it all that has to happen for the TTFA to retain its status is for the suspended president Wallace, his former board and their puppet master Keith Look Loy, the former TTFA chair of the technical committee, to withdraw the case before the Trinidad and Tobago High Court rules on Friday. They can still appeal to CAS.
The December 18 deadline becomes somewhat meaningless if the court rules for Wallace and Look Loy because the issue will be that for TTFA to be complaint with FIFA’s rules it will require an act of parliament that could never be achieved before Christmas.
If Wallace and Look Loy want to be part of world football and enjoy its benefits and FIFA’s money then they will have to abide by the organisation’s rules – like more than 200 other national associations around the world do.
Wallace and Look Loy do not have the support of the football stakeholders who voted them into power in November 2019. They want the case withdrawn, players want opportunity restored and staff, reliant on football for their livelihoods, want to be able to feed their families.
What now looks most likely is the massive personal egos and unquenchable thirst for power of Look Loy and Wallace, is about to usher in the darkest of all football dark ages.
Trinidad and Tobago’s football in reality has 24 hours left before a local court hands it a one-way ticket to oblivion. Few will mourn their passing, after all, this is the house that Jack (Warner) built. And this is the country that has fallen over itself to protect the former FIFA vice president from facing justice in the US as part of the FIFA Gate scandal.
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