FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland. AP

T&T can return to international football.

On Thursday, Robert Hadad, chairperson of the Normalisation Committee appointed by FIFA in March, confirmed that T&T suspension was lifted by the sport’s World governing body with immediate effect.

“The Normalisation Committee recently held fruitful discussions with FIFA and we are pleased to deliver the good news that the T&T Football Association’s suspension will be lifted and its membership rights in FIFA will be reinstated in time for T&T to compete in the 2021 Gold Cup and the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers,” he said. “This could not happen without the decisive contributions by numerous T&T stakeholders in signalling their desire for a new chapter for football in our country.”

The lifting of the suspension was confirmed by a letter to the TTFA from FIFA general secretary, Fatma Samoura, on Thursday. The recent decision of the T&T Court of Appeal to reverse the ruling of High Court judge Carol Gobin against FIFA, and the recognition of the FIFA-appointed normalisation committee by members of the TTFA, led to the decision to reinstate T&T according to Samoura.

“Under these circumstances, the Bureau decided on November 19 (Thursday) to lift the suspension of the TTFA with immediate effect. This means that all of the TTFA’s membership rights have been reinstated, as defined in Article 13 of the FIFA Statutes, with immediate effect.

“Consequently, TTFA’s representative and club teams are again entitled to take part in international competitions. This also means that the TTFA may benefit from development programmes, courses and training provided by FIFA or the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), or both.”

Though breathing a sigh of relief after the 57-day suspension, Hadad is aware of the challenge he and his committee faces saying: “However, we have a long way to go and there is a lot of work to be done to ensure that this return to competitive action, in all age categories, is sustainable. The Normalisation Committee is committed to that undertaking.

The TTFA was suspended by FIFA on September 24, after William Wallace-led executive which included vice-presidents Clynt Taylor, Joseph Sam Phillip and Susan Joseph-Warrick, took the World governing body to court over its decision to remove the TTFA elected executive and appoint a normalisation committee on March 17, headed by business executive Hadad, to temporarily manage the sport.

FIFA claimed the TTFA, under Wallace’s leadership, “had engaged in various acts of serious mismanagement”.

The World governing body said it “found that extremely low overall financial management methods, combined with a massive debt, have resulted in the TTFA facing a very real risk of insolvency and illiquidity”.

At the time, FIFA said “such a situation is putting at risk the organisation and development of football in the country and corrective measures need to be applied urgently”.

The suspension had put in jeopardy the Soca Warriors’ participation in qualifying competitions for the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup and 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Samoura said the members of the TTFA normalisation committee, who were installed by a decision of the Bureau of the FIFA Council, can now proceed with their duties.

“The two members yet to be appointed will be required to undergo an eligibility check carried out by the FIFA Review Committee in accordance with the FIFA Governance Regulations,” she said. “Their confirmation will be contingent upon the outcome of the eligibility check.

“Furthermore…the FIFA administration, in consultation with CONCACAF, reserves the right to revoke the mandate of any of the members of the TTFA normalisation committee or to appoint further members at any time, or both.”

Samoura said FIFA regretted the stances and actions taken by the members of the TTFA executive committee, which was removed, adding that this negatively impacted all aspects of T&T football and hindered the work of the normalisation committee.

She said in the letter: “FIFA is, however, confident that the normalisation committee will now be able to focus on the execution of its assigned tasks.”

The Committee was appointed to run the TTFA’s daily affairs; establish a debt repayment plan that is implementable by the TTFA administration; review and amend the TTFA Statutes (and other regulations where necessary) and ensure their compliance with the FIFA Statutes and requirements before duly submitting them for approval to the TTFA Congress, and organise and conduct elections of a new TTFA Executive Committee for a four-year mandate.

Hadad said: “We have already made some positive headway over the last few months through dialogue with the players and coaches and are committed to strengthening these relationships. This is one of our first priorities.

“The financial and governance issues of the TTFA are looming large, but we believe that together, we can put T&T football where it needs to be on and off the field. We look forward to meeting with the various constituencies to work towards a structure that ensures that we begin winning again. It is even more imperative now that we work together.

“Football is a family, a community. We must heal together. T&T football needs the help of all of its stakeholders working together shoulder to shoulder – the players, coaches, administrators, corporate supporters and our loyal fans. We look forward to your continuous support in exchange for our commitment to deliver growth and success in ‘Trinbago’ football.”