BRIAN LEWIS, president of the TT Olympic Committee (TTOC), said yesterday the decision of the TT Football Association (TTFA) to withdraw the national men’s Under-23 team from the Concacaf qualifiers goes against Government’s policy.
In a media release on Sunday night, the TTFA withdrew the TT men’s team from the qualifiers, claiming financial difficulties.
“The Concacaf Men’s U-23 Olympic Qualifiers has proven to be the most difficult competition to qualify for, as only a maximum of two countries from the region will qualify for 2020 Tokyo,” the media release said.
“Additionally, given the lack of resources and preparation of the team, the TTFA felt that it would be unfair to the (country) to send an unprepared team to participate in the tournament.”
Lewis, asked to comment via Whatsapp (he is currently abroad), said, “A number of countries consider Olympic football an essential aspect of their strategic development plan. The TTFA made their decision based on their strategic priorities.”
Lewis pointed out that any ramification for the men’s team withdrawal will have to be dealt with by Concacaf and/or FIFA.
The TTOC president referred to Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s 2019 budget presentation, saying “I recall the Minister saying that the Government is committed to Olympic qualification.”
Imbert, during the budget presentation, said, “all our national teams will be fully funded” and “our own expectation is for a significant medal haul at the 2020 Olympics”.
Ironically, Sports Minister Shamfa Cudjoe, commenting about a meeting with the TTFA last Friday, said on Monday, “that request was not made to us to provide funding because (the) TTFA would have taken that decision that the team was not ready.”
TTFA board member and Super League president Keith Look Loy and owner of local club Central FC and former Minister of Sport Brent Sancho, also weighed in on the matter, in separate telephone interviews yesterday.
According to Look Loy, “The TTFA should be ashamed to talk about the lack of preparation for the national teams because this is their fault. The teams (are) the responsibility and the property of the TTFA. If you’re not planning for national teams, then you cannot prepare your teams properly. You really need to have proper planning and implementation, particularly in a situation where you have limited resources. The TTFA has completely fallen down in this area.”
Look Loy, who is also the owner of FC Santa Rosa, said, “It is remarkable that the Board has not approved this prioritisation of tournaments. This is the work of the inner circle.”
A TTFA delegation comprising president David John-Williams, general secretary Camara David, board member Selby Browne and TT Women’s League president Sharon Warrick (who, according to Look Loy, was mandated to attend according to FIFA statutes), is in France for a FIFA congress today, two days before the start of the Women’s World Cup.
“These are the same men who abandoned our women’s team last year, when the players had to come out on social media and beg for help,” Look Loy said. “(They) have the gall to go and sit down in a conference. It’s a joke.
“The Minister of Sport said that the TTFA never asked for money to help with this Olympic qualifying. This is further evidence that the TTFA is playing games with TT football and the careers of our young footballers.”
Sancho, former TT central defender, commented, “It’s catastrophic that the young players cannot play. I’m involved in football because you want to see young people get the opportunity to advance in the sport and to move forward. One of the integral parts of the 2006 World Cup squad was being able to stay together from U-20 all the way through. I think that was a catalyst for us to qualify.
“I’m not (going to say) who’s wrong or right but I’m more concerned about the players,” he added. “It seems to me that despite whatever happens, I’m always concerned about the players and how it’ll affect (them). This scenario is not good for the players.”