The Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) has had to overcome numerous difficulties in recent years, but its newly-appointed president, Raymond Tim Kee is determined to steer the ship back into calmer waters. A long-time supporter of football in his homeland, the experienced businessman, who took office in November last year, was invited to the home of FIFA on 15 January 2013 to meet FIFA president, Joseph S. Blatter.
"Our association faces a number of challenges," Tim Kee told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview afterwards. "I'm very pleased to have had the chance to meet the FIFA president and tell him about these challenges. I hope that, with his support, we can get a grip on our problems.
"The TTFF needs to be overhauled. We're in the process of reorganising our internal structures. Football needs to be put back into the community, where it belongs. There's a huge passion for football in Trinidad and Tobago. It's still the most popular sport in our country and it brings everyone together, young and old. This passion becomes especially clear whenever we take part in a tournament. However, the problems we've had recently have meant it's waned somewhat. It's an unpleasant feeling and that's why it's my goal to reignite that passion."
Trinidad and Tobago's greatest success to date came almost seven years ago when the senior national side qualified for the FIFA World Cupô for the first and so far only time in their history, exiting at the group stage but still impressing many with their performances. The country's 1.3 million population will have to wait beyond Brazil 2014 for their chance to compete at another FIFA World Cup, having bowed out in the early stages of the current qualification campaign.
"Disagreements and organisational difficulties led to uncertainty and had a negative influence on the players," Tim Kee explained.
In order to get a football-mad nation back on track, Tim Kee is hoping to improve youth development so that more youngsters can follow in the footsteps of stars like Kenwyne Jones and Dwight Yorke. "These players are considered an inspiration and an example to young talents," said Tim Kee. "They came from modest backgrounds and completely dedicated themselves to the sport they love. Their example gives young players hope because they think: 'I can do that too'."
Hope is one of the key ingredients in Tim Kee's ambitious plan for the TTFF.
"That's what it's all about. If you can implement well-organised and reliable strategies and systems for development, the likelihood is that you'll get the desired results. Players like Jones and Yorke are perfect examples of this. They both started young and played at all levels in a structured system before going on to become full internationals."
Another factor which plays a fundamental role in the development of football in the Caribbean nation is the help of FIFA's various aid projects. For example, an artificial pitch and a futsal hall have been built in recent years as part of the Goal Project, much to the delight of Tim Kee.
"It's a great thing. I see this project more as a process, because project sounds too short-term and temporary. We're thinking long-term. FIFA president Blatter has emphasised in the past how important it is to support all areas of football, so we brought futsal to Trinidad and Tobago, won the Caribbean Championship and were only stopped in qualifying for the World Cup by Mexico. As part of my initiative we've also taken up FIFA's offer to help with futsal coaching in order to train our coaches properly. They've done some very good work."
Improvements, said Tim Kee, are being made across all areas.
"FIFA have also supported us with referees. Furthermore, we've got a special beach soccer facility which is very popular. Our women's national team have also been very successful. They're full of enthusiasm and enjoy our continued support. We recently restructured our committee for women's football to become even more successful."
The road to success may be a long one, but the first signs of progress are apparent. Trinidad and Tobago jumped 11 places to 68th in the December edition of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings, thanks in no small part to Tim Kee.
"I had some good discussions with our national players and the coaching staff. I told them they have a responsibility. It's not just about results. They're playing for their country and they have to make sure that our football is worthy of respect. It encourages the population and brings the people joy and happiness."
It is with this kind of courage and determination that Tim Kee is hoping to tackle his greatest challenge of all.
"We need to separate sport from politics. We want to reorganise our federation so we can concentrate on sporting success."