Everywhere in Trinidad and Tobago we have been eagerly following the exciting events on the football field of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
It is amazing the range of emotions that the game inspires. It seems at times to be more than just football.
It is about national aspirations, a parade of of patriotic pride expressed in the display of national colours and flags and airing of national anthems, It is a wave of emotional support that gathers a global audience around an oval ground to witness sometimes even age old rivalries played out on a field.
It is a battle of immense historic proportions that brings a nation together and defines a national identity.
It is a battle of skill, stamina and strategy that can bring men, women and children to their knees in tears of joy or immense sorrow.
In Trinidad and Tobago, we know the passion the World Cup can bring to us for we have been there as the smallest nation ever to qualify. As I, along with hundreds of thousands of our citizens watched the events play out in the current World Cup in Brazil many vivid memories of our own time flooded back to that moment when Trinidad and Tobago’s Soca Warriors joined the world’s best in 2006, Germany. For eight months, from qualification in Bahrain in November 2005 to the end of the World Cup in June 2006 our nation soared with pride with the efforts of our team.
Who could forget the outpouring of joy and patriotism as we took to the streets that historic day when Trinidad and Tobago qualified?
It was a moment that unified us like never before… A group of young footballers representing this nation reminded us what it felt like to be united and proud.
They healed every national wound, bridged every divide, and brought us together across all boundaries, there were no political, social, religious or ethnic differences, we acclaimed ourselves and embraced each other in a celebration of genuine patriotic pride.
The sense of belonging and togetherness engendered must remain as a constant reminder to us of what is possible when we acknowledge ourselves and remember that at the end of the day we all share this special place called Trinidad and Tobago.
There is, however, but one unfortunate aspect of that time that still lingers today. And that is the legal battle of our football heroes for their due payment from the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation.
The judgement in the arbitration was that the players were entitled to 50 percent of the net profits TTFF derived from the Road to Germany 2006 campaign. That figure has now been settled as US 3 million dollars but to date the TTFF has only paid the players US 1.7 million dollars.
While the government is under no legal obligation to make any payment to the players we are not unmindful of the long and protracted legal battles waged by these football heroes of ours and the situation today is that the players are still owed and entitled to a payment from an entity in the TTFF that is unlikely to be in a position to pay.
I have consulted with members of my Cabinet, inclusive of the Honourable Attorney General and Honourable Minister of Finance and wish to announce that the government has agreed to pay our beloved Soca Warriors the balance of monies due and owing them in the sum of US 1.3 million dollars.
On the eve of the FIFA World Cup semi finals 2014 I think it is appropriate that we honour these players and settle their long outstanding battle for the payments due them. Let us move beyond the grievances and rekindle the spirit of togetherness and patriotism engendered by such a historic moment. As we gather to witness the excitement of the World Cup semi finals and finals starting tomorrow we can celebrate our own time knowing there are only pleasant memories and acknowledged heroes.