On fire: Trinidad and Tobago’s Janine Francois, left, shoots goalwards against St Kitts and Nevis in the opening match of the recent Women’s Caribbean Cup at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo which T&T won 10-0. —Photo: Stephen Doobay.

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TTFA still to earn back trust

By Fazeer Mohammed

When a relationship is defined by mistrust, don’t expect significant progress.

After emerging as Caribbean champions without conceding a goal and advancing to the final round of CONCACAF qualification for next year’s senior World Cup, the national women footballers barely had time to savour Tuesday’s 1-0 victory over Jamaica in the final at the Hasely Crawford Stadium before they were pleading for corporate Trinidad and Tobago to support their bid to make it to Canada in 2015.

That they actually finished top of the tree without having the sort of intended preparation—due to the inevitable financial constraints—says a lot for the talent, teamwork and determination of the squad led by Maylee Attin-Johnson and now coached by American Randy Waldrum.

Unfortunately, these players are merely the latest collateral damage in the credibility gap between the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association and any potential long-term financiers or short-term sponsors, whether in the public or private sector.

Raymond Tim Kee has given the undertaking that everything possible will be done to ensure the team is well prepared for next month’s final hurdle in the United States. However the TTFA president must appreciate that the organisation he heads suffers from a chronic lack of goodwill that goes across the board.

Yes, it must also be acknowledged that we are a nation of bandwagonnists, showing no real interest at the turnstiles or in sponsorship dollars until the team in question is almost on the verge of making history. Yet for all that, other sporting organisations are still able to attract financial support to varying degrees when their representative teams are taking the early steps on the road to qualification or are looking for funding to stage a training camp. It doesn’t take any deep analysis to work out just why there is such widespread reluctance to bankroll the various age-group and senior national team programmes of the TTFA, even when they have enjoyed a measure of success as they are doing now. One is a personality—Jack Warner. The other is an event— the 1989 World Cup qualifying campaign for Italia ’90.Both are intertwined, and only those who just come or are being deliberately disingenuous will suggest that Warner’s absence from football administration for three years now and the fact that the qualifying bid of the “Strike Squad” was all of 25 years ago mean that we should all be able to put that in the past and move forward now with full and complete confidence in the present administration of the game.

Look, Warner’s mercurial manner and tendency to attract controversy continue to impact negatively on broad perceptions of the football administration in this country. And it has to be said that Tim Kee’s haughty and dismissive tone in his interactions with the media have hardly been helpful. Whether he realises it or not, the TTFA boss comes across as someone who detests being questioned, who seems barely capable of retaining his composure when his perspective on some aspect of football is openly contradicted.

Maybe it’s a legacy of the Warner years, of which he was a part, but if the TTFA is really serious about making a meaningful transformation and being more accountable to the public, then that change has to begin with the man at the top. Of course, in this highly-charged political environment, it doesn’t help that Tim Kee is also an opposition politician.

In a society where political opponents are mature enough to put that to-ing and fro-ing aside when it comes to other issues, like the administration and financing of football, it really shouldn’t matter that he is not only a member of the People’s National Movement, but also the Mayor of Port of Spain. All that should be of concern from the point of view of the country’s most popular sport is whether or not he is doing a good job at the helm of the TTFA.

We have to be real though, and accept that almost everything is viewed through a political lens, and unless he wants to go down the “yesterday was yesterday, today is today” road of Warner, Tim Kee needs to step forward and show that he is capable of communicating honestly and sincerely, via the media, with the football fans and potential sponsors of Trinidad and Tobago.

There are many, many people who absolutely love the game and wish to be more supportive, financially and otherwise, if only they could believe an organisation that was happy to benefit from Warner’s influence yet at the same time pleaded innocence over controversies ranging from the “Road to Italy” campaign to the blacklisted members of the 2006 World Cup finals squad.

Our national women’s team needs the support. But first, the TTFA must show itself deserving of our trust.

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