Wednesday 12th December, 2007

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Time to end the

football quarrel

Time is quickly slipping away for a resolution of the money dispute between the T&T Football Federation and the players association in the interest of the development and advancement of the game here.

Most importantly, if the impetus gained at the Germany World Cup in 2006 is to be kept up in South Africa in 2010, then the players of our most successful venture yet into the World Cup arena have to become available for the build-up.

As we understand the dispute, the players are claiming they were promised bonuses by special adviser to the TTFF, Austin Jack Warner. The Fifa vice president has not said much but seems to be sticking to a position that he made no such promise to the players.

Now the matter is awaiting arbitration in Britain with a newly formed players association hiring legal counsel to represent their interests, with the TTFF adviser doing the same. Hopefully there will be a speedy resolution to the dispute, but in the meantime those players who are making the claims, minus of course the likes of Yorke and Latapy who have announced their retirement from the international game, have not been selected to be the nucleus around which a squad will be developed for South Africa.

It would be a scandalous waste of resources if the experiences gained by these players at the World Cup in Germany were allowed to go to waste. In almost any field of endeavour, experience gained is to be built upon for advances to be made.

After this first venture at the World Cup finals—the hundreds of millions of dollars expended, the football skills learnt, the coaching techniques and the immeasurable emotional investment made by this country—it would be a waste in every sense if T&T is not in a position to select its best team.

Even before arbitration is arrived at, there should be a truce between the federation and the players to allow them to be selected and begin training with the younger players for the 2010 venture. While the dispute is between Mr Warner and the named players, the issues as articulated above are far higher than anything involved in that tussle.

What we are talking about here is representation of T&T on the international stage and the utilisation of all our resources to affect the best possible outcome.

In tying the return or non-return of the players to the national team, there is the danger that an outcome favourable to the federation could mean that the players will become disenchanted and refuse to return to the fold.

On the other hand, if the determination goes in favour of the players, would Mr Warner and the federation determine that these “money-grabbing” players no longer have a place in a T&T team?

The alternative is to have the players rightfully rejoin the team. Put another way, the dispute must be put in its correct perspective and should not be made to determine the future of the game in this country.

Already, countries with their eyes on the next World Cup have begun putting their teams in shape, organising friendly games one nation against the other and all else required. T&T is limping along without a schedule of friendly games and without a supporting structure in place.

Given the lift that the country received from its performances in Germany last year, it could be that the resolution of the rift between the senior footballers and Mr Warner should be a project for Gary Hunt, T&T’s new Minister of Sports.

Mr Hunt should be encouraged to use the good offices of the ministry to bring the parties together to begin an ego-free dialogue.

If not, T&T stands a good chance of following Jamaica as being a Caribbean country good enough to qualify for one World Cup but not good enough to develop the programmes and procedures that would allow us to qualify for the next one.


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