A NATIONAL football disaster.
This was former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner’s opinion of the fallout over the TT Football Association’s (TTFA) failure to secure US visas for the Under-15 girls team, for which association president David John-Williams blamed the US Embassy’s application process drawing sharp criticism from Charge d’ Affaires John McIntyre.
“TTFA today has given this country a national disaster and the quicker they relieve themselves from office, the better for football,” Warner said, weighing in on the issue.
In a rare statement on local affairs, McIntyre on Friday accused Williams of improper planning saying he had dropped the ball with a late attempt to apply on July 31, on the eve of the August 1 Emancipation Day holiday, for visas for the players to attend the Concacaf Under-15 girls championship which began in Florida last Monday. The tournament ends tomorrow.
McIntyre knocked Williams for suggesting the embassy delayed processing the applications, saying the public must not be misled by “folks with cocoa in the sun.”
Williams, in a Newsday interview on Friday, denied the diplomat’s claims, saying it was “a lie” and demanded an apology. He claimed the visas were paid for on July 26, but also said the coach only selected the players on July 30. The embassy, he further said, scheduled an appointment for August 28, a date after the end of the tournament.
However, the TTFA yesterday distanced itself from Williams’ comments and said it will be “seeking an audience” with the embassy through McIntyre, given the agenda for the girls team. The TTFA said it wanted to maintain “the cordial relationship” it had with the embassy for many years. “Therefore, following an opportunity to meet and treat with this matter directly, with a designated official(s) of the US Embassy, the TTFA will be better positioned to treat with visa-related affairs,” the TTFA said in a release posted on its website.
On Williams’ remarks to Newsday, although the TTFA said his comments were “taken out of context” it noted “more importantly” that his statement “was not sanctioned by the TTFA.”
US embassy spokesman AJ Jagelski, contacted yesterday for comment, told Sunday Newsday that “nothing will be added at this time to the Charge d’ Affaires statement.” Although he faces extradition on FIFA corruption-related charges, Warner, who admitted he and the US were not “the best of friends” agreed with McIntyre.
Warner said Concacaf tournaments are scheduled years in advance, “and, therefore, preparations are made months in advance.”
He said before training tournaments are held, visas are obtained months in advance.
“So, no amount of press release from Williams and the embassy, will correct what is now a national embarrasment,” Warner said.
Referring to his decades-long tenure at the helm of local football, Warner said the current TTFA “came into office like a knight in shinning armour to correct the ills of the Jack Warner regime.
“Today, it is ten times worse and to compound matters, Government is pouring money into football when it is at its lowest and in chaos. No amount of money will help football today.” Only recently, the Sport Company of TT gave the TTFA $4.8 million for the Pro League clubs, and funding had been delayed because teams were financially non-compliant.
Despite his legal woes, Warner said he was willing to once again help local football but in an advisory capacity.
“After 30 years in football, I will be willing to advise. Though, I have no special love for the US,” he said.
Sunday Newsday was told that TTFA’s officials were locked in a meeting yesterday and were not willing to speak further on the matter.
The TT Football Association wants to meet with US Embassy officials after its president David John-Williams accused Charge d'Affaires John McIntyre of lying in his criticism of how Williams handled applying for visas for an Under-15 girls team.
In a statement posted on its website today, the TTFA said it will "seek an audience" through McIntyre, adding it wants to maintain a "cordial relationship" with the embassy.
On Thursday, Williams said TTFA was unsuccessful in getting visas for the girls team to attend a development tournament in the US which began on Monday. He said the TTFA could not get a group appointment for the players.
McIntyre, in a statement on Friday, criticised Williams for dropping the ball, warning the public to not be misled by "folks with cocoa in the sun" and said team representatives approached the embassy after it was closed on July 31, noting the next day, August 1, was a public holiday for Emancipation Day.
Williams in a Newsday interview said the embassy release was "an outright lie", and demanded an apology. He said the TTFA paid for visas on July 26, and the embassy gave them an appointment date for August 28, long after the tournament. He said though the coach selected players for the tournament on July 30.
Williams had promised to issue a statement on Friday, but this was not done until the TTFA posted a release online.
See TTFA statement below:
The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) has taken note of the recent statement issued by the Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy, Mr. John McIntyre.
With utmost respect for the sovereign authority of the Chargé d’Affaires, and based on the already agreed plan of action decided by the TTFA given the matter surrounding visa applications for our Girls Under-15 Team, the TTFA will be seeking an audience with the U.S. Embassy through the Chargé d’Affaires.
Notably, it remains our desire to maintain the cordial relationship we have developed with the U.S. Embassy over these many years. A relationship that augurs well for the TTFA and all stakeholders of football.
Therefore, following an opportunity to meet and treat with this matter directly, with a designated official(s) of the U.S. Embassy, the TTFA will be better positioned to treat with visa related affairs.
Additionally, we wish to state that a recent report in a local daily news publication, ascribed to the President of the TTFA, was taken out of context, and more importantly, was not sanctioned by the TTFA.