When Trinidad and Tobago qualified for the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany, it looked like there would be no turning back for football in this country. A bright future seemed certain.
That memorable moment when the Soca Warriors beat Bahrain 2-1 on aggregate to book a spot in the finals came after two heartbreaking experiences when this nation came tantalisingly close to going to the finals in 1974 and 1990.
Sadly, those glory days are now well behind us. T&T football is in shambles, mired in debt, tumbling down the world rankings and facing imminent danger of sanctions from world governing body FIFA.
The precipitous decline in a sport that has a large and dedicated following in this country adds another shameful chapter to the story of debt, corruption and mismanagement linked for decades to the administration of T&T’s football.
Now, to make the situation even worse comes revelations in the groundbreaking documentary, TTFA’s Secret Panama Trail, which aired on CNC3 on Thursday night.
Questions have now been raised about the tenure of former TTFA president David John-Williams—questions he repeatedly failed to answer when confronted by Mark Bassant, Guardian Media’s Investigative Lead Editor.
These questions arise over suspicious financial transactions in relation to the TTFA’s Home of Football project in Couva.
Mr John-Williams, who had touted the project as key to turning around local football’s fortunes, owes an explanation to the nation over how it plunged the association into further debt.
These disturbing facts have surfaced at a critical time. The TTFA was disbanded by FIFA in mid-March and a Normalisation Committee has been installed to restructure the affairs of local football and work out a debt repayment plan for the TTFA.
A legal challenge to FIFA’s action by ousted TTFA president William Wallace and his team may draw sanctions and even more negative repercussions for local football.
This is the biggest crisis in the TTFA since Jack Warner, a former TTFA and CONCACAF president, was banned for life from taking part in any kind of football-related activity at national and international level. This followed the football-related corruption charges laid against him by United States authorities for which he continues to fight extradition to that country.
It is distressing to see how far T&T football has fallen and with it the dreams of all of those talented young players who aspire to follow in the footsteps of Everald “Gally” Cummings, Russell Latapy, Shaka Hislop, Dwight Yorke and all our other homegrown stars.
So from once being part of a World Cup, T&T is now ranked at an abysmal 105th and poised to drop further.
This is a far cry from as recently as 2016, when, under coach Stephen Hart, T&T was ranked 54th. A year after that, the team slid 11 places to 65th and has been on a downward trajectory since then.
This is a sad state of affairs for which many former TTFA administrators must be made to account.