Trinidad and Tobago Football Association officials led by President David John-Williams hosted a team of delegates from the United States Embassy at the Home of Football in Couva on Wednesday.
Consular Chief at the Embassy Tim Swanson said they had been talking with the TTFA for some time now to find ways on how to smoothly integrate the travel of the national teams with their visa processes as much as possible.
“Our visa processes have changed and I think there have been some personnel changes in the TTFA, and sometimes the knowledge of what we need in order to get the visas taken care off properly for the teams and the coaches are not always carried forward, so that’s part of the reason why we have come down here to meet with the football association,” Swanson said.
“One of the main points is to make sure that the TTFA leadership is aware of what our visa processes are and what are some of the parameters for applying for visas. Sometimes the time-frames that have been expected and assumed weren’t realistic, they were too short and this has been one of the issues that have come out over the past couple years. Other times it has gone quite smoothly,” he continued.
The embassy chief also said he was blown away by the quality of the facility, noting it’s a huge undertaking by the TTFA to build a good foundation for football here in T&T and possibly the Caribbean.
Swanson said he was looking forward to seeing the facility when it is in full operation, as he believes it could potentially be used by US teams for training in T&T. In the past, the football association, led by David John-Williams, has clashed with the embassy while trying to secure visas for players and staff members seeking to travel to or through the USA.
John-Williams said he was enthused by the discussions.
“He is very excited about the future. Very frank and open discussions about the process for applying for visas, and I think they have been very accommodating, particularly in the last couple months or so, where we haven’t experienced any major hiccups. The US embassy has a process and we have to respect that as well.”
The spanking new, state-of-the-art facility is equipped with a hotel, an entertainment centre and training pitches for indoor, outdoor, futsal and beach football.
“It is a very important facility, first and foremost for our local football. We spend millions of dollars every year to accommodate national teams for camps and so on. During World Cup qualifying, we spend millions of dollars in hotel accommodation for our teams and this facility will alleviate those costs,” John-Williams explained.
With the facility set to be completed in August, local fans and supporters will once again get the opportunity to see the more senior team matches at home. John-Williams has noted in the past that the cost of hosting foreign teams here has been prohibitive.
A gala opening ceremony is being planned for the opening of the facility but before that, a demonstration of how they intend to use the facility will be seen when the TTFA celebrates its 111th anniversary with an under-15 boys’ and girls’ tournament that will feature teams from Mexico, Panama, Venezuela, Curacao and T&T.
Photo at top shows David John-Williams with Susan L’Ecuyer, Visa Chief at the US Embassy and Tim Swanson, Consular Chief at the Embassy during the site visit at the Home of Football.