Systemic reform of TT’s youth development programmes and professional league is the only solution to facilitate a smoother transition of younger players into world-class footballers.
Reinstated TT Football Association (TTFA) president William Wallace believes last-minute preparations ahead of major international tournaments and unsatisfactory financial incentives on the local pro circuit serve as major detractors to this nation’s potential footballers.
Wallace reassumed his role at the helm of local football on Tuesday after Justice Carol Gobin ruled FIFA’s March removal of the TTFA executive and installation of a normalisation committee null and void.
He has already begun formulating strategies to chart a way forward.
However, many of his plans rely on the outcome of TTFA’s extraordinary general meeting (EGM),on October 25, when the restored executive reconnects with the 47-delegate membership to discuss the future of TT football and its legal quandary with the sport’s global governing body, FIFA.
Looking ahead, Wallace said, “I would like to see that we do some introspection and soul-searching to reassess football in TT. We need to be honest and look at where our football has gotten to over the last four or five years. Then it means that whatever we had been doing over that duration, that we cannot continue doing that and expect to improve.”
Wallace insists more emphasis must be placed on the holistic development of youngsters as they search for avenues to elevate their playing careers. He admitted that participating in major youth (U13 – U21) international competitions is necessary for athlete growth.
But, he said. a lack of preparation ahead of tournaments of this calibre, backed by shoddy performances owing to these deficiencies, only serves as discouragement for a budding footballer.
“We cannot continue to halfway prepare teams just to enter competitions.
"The better thing might be to sit down and properly put some development programmes in place for our young people so that they can develop their game properly. This goes against running into competition at every minute.
"When this happens, the players emerge disillusioned. This is one way of disenfranchising youths. If the only thing that people could think that because we are suspended, that this is the only thing that can disenfranchise youths, then they are not being honest.”
Wallace was also critical of the TT Pro League, which he believes has been significantly non-progressive for the past five to six years. While he is aware the covid19 pandemic has had a negative impact on sport investment, both locally and internationally, the stipends paid to players by domestic clubs are minuscule.
These shortcomings, the former Secondary Schools Football League president said, are also a deterrent to potential players working towards securing pro contracts.
“We have a professional league in TT that has not really grown in any significant way. If our youths in TT are intent on going into pro football and all they can see is playing for $1,200 or $3,000 per month, that is not an incentive for young footballers.
“Our systems need to be realigned and reassessed. What is really the motivation for a young man who wants to develop his game to be asked to play professional football in TT? If he plans to do that, the money is insufficient. He cannot live on these stipends.
"These are the things that we have to be honest with. We’re talking about pro footballers.”
After being elected to run TT football in November 2019, Wallace and his three vice-presidents – Clynt Taylor, Joseph Sam Phillip and Susan Joseph-Warrick (resigned) – were removed from their post by FIFA on the grounds of financial mismanagement and massive debt.
A normalisation committee, led by businessman Robert Hadad, was set up by the governing body to run the FA’s daily affairs.
Wallace then contested FIFA’s decision to remove his executive and shift power to Hadad in the local court. Tuesday’s judgment by Gobin returned Wallace, Taylor and Phillip to the helm of TT football.
Although he is pleased to have won against the mighty FIFA, TT still remains indefinitely banned by the Gianni Infantino-led organisation, “for grave violations of the FIFA Statutes,, and still runs the risk of missing out on 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
On August 13, Gobin denied FIFA’s request to have the previous dispute remitted to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and ruled that the local officials were not bound by an arbitration clause with the CAS and could take the world governing body to court in TT.
One week later, FIFA appealed the decision to have the matter dealt with locally. FIFA’s hearing at the Court of Appeal is set for Monday. Additionally, after previously questioning the impartiality of the CAS, the TTFA returned to the Swiss court to fight FIFA’s August 24 decision to indefinitely suspend TT.
The pursuit of this matter in Zurich will be decided at the upcoming EGM, where members will decide whether to drop or continue the case. Depending on the outcome of this meeting, the Government may consider stepping in to assist the still-embattled Wallace-led TTFA unit.