CHARGÉ d’Affaires at the US Embassy John McIntyre issued a statement yesterday advising the public not to “let folks with cocoa in the sun mislead you.” The comment concluded a statement McIntyre issued on the embassy’s website and Twitter feed.
It criticised TT Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams for “poor planning” and “dropping the ball” over women’s team visa applications for the Concacaf Under-15 Women’s Championship.
The developmental tournament kicked off on Monday, and unlike several smaller Caribbean nations, the national U-15 women’s team was unable to attend because the TTFA did not obtain visas for the players by the deadline. The team was preparing specifically for the tournament and members were reportedly “very disappointed” to learn they would not be going.
McIntyre’s statement said he and his colleagues at the embassy rarely comment on visa matters, out of respect for applicants’ privacy, but added that he “must respond to the red-card commentary of Mr David John-Williams.” On Thursday, John-Williams was quoted in a newspaper report as saying the TTFA had applied for visas in the usual way, at the usual time. .
John-Williams said, “We made every possible representation, from the Ministry of Sport, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Concacaf, the US Olympic Committee, to get a group appointment for the girls. And it was unsuccessful...It’s a situation that Concacaf needs to look at in terms of where they place the tournaments.”
However, McIntyre said in response he felt compelled to speak because John-Williams’ “failure to plan is effecting (sic) promising football players from TT who we would welcome playing in the USA. In addition, your comments can adversely affect our ongoing efforts to grow our sports diplomacy programs here in TT.
“I will be blunt,” he added. “Mr Williams and the TTFA just flat out dropped the ball on the visa process. Our embassy for months noted that individuals and groups should plan well in advance for any trips to the USA. The TT Girls Under-15 representatives approached the embassy about visas after we were closed on Tuesday, July 31 to get their visas by Friday, August 3 with the Emancipation holiday in between.”
McIntyre said the TTFA provided no names or details for the visa applicants, and even after matches were rescheduled, there were only two working days to process the applications, which usually takes seven to ten days. “...not to mention that this is peak visa season when most people have to wait six weeks just for a visa interview.”
He said many groups had successfully travelled to the USA by being prepared and planning in advance. “In fact, if you look at our Facebook page from a few weeks ago you will see a youth team playing in the USA at a major football (soccer) tourney.
“Know, as you see in the news almost daily, we are committed to our relationship with the citizens of TT at all levels, including sports diplomacy. Don’t let folks with cocoa in the sun mislead you.”
I WANT AN APOLOGY
Reached for comment yesterday, John-Williams said the release from the US embassy was an “outright lie” and he will be demanding an apology. In a brief conversation, he said contrary to McIntyre’s claim that the TTFA approached the embassy after it closed on July 31, the visas were paid for on July 26.
Newsday reported that U-15 women’s team head coach Marlon Charles selected his squad for the tournament on July 30. The report noted that the embassy scheduled an appointment with U-15 team representatives for August 28, long after the tournament’s conclusion.
John-Williams said the TTFA will “take its time on this one” but will certainly issue a press release identifying the embassy’s inaccuracies. Up to press time the TTFA had not issued a release.
LOOK LOY: HE
TT Super League chief and TTFA board member Keith Look Loy is calling on John-Williams, along with vice-presidents Ewing Davis and Joanne Salazar, to resign after “international shame (was) brought upon our country by the attempt to blame the US embassy.”
Collectively, Look Loy said in a press release, “These three TTFA officials have presided over, indeed engineered, the calamitous deterioration of our football.”