FIFA President Gianni Infantino, alongside Concacaf President and FIFA Vice-President Victor Montagliani, initiated today a tour of Caribbean and Central American countries with a first stop in Trinidad and Tobago. The highlight of the visit was the inauguration of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association’s (TTFA) Home of Football.
The new Home of Football, which was funded through FIFA’s Forward Programme, features three full-size natural grass pitches and provides a modern infrastructure for the development of football on the islands. At the inauguration ceremony, President Infantino took to the stage alongside Prime Minister Keith Rowley, Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs Shamfa Cudjoe, and TTFA President David John-Williams.
“During my last visit in the country two and a half years ago all this did not exist, and I can only be thankful to the TTFA and to the government of Trinidad and Tobago for their work and support in making it possible. This state of the art Home of Football is a model for the region and a legacy for TTFA and for the youth in the country that is here to stay.”
The visit also included discussions with TTFA President David John-Williams and his team about the state of football on the islands and the strategic focus of the federation. President Infantino praised the TTFA leadership for making good use of FIFA’s Forward Programme to support development efforts locally. Besides the Home of Football, the TTFA has been investing in a new professional league and has benefited from dedicated travel funding for national teams, a cost which is particularly heavy for some islands of the Caribbean, FIFA.com stated.
Delivering the feature address in front a large crowd, Rowley, signalling that the time had come for the sport to become self-sufficient, said, “In our schools, we have boys and girls who are relying on the management of this sport and not on the Government.
“The Government has played its part and will continue to play its part, but what is missing is the management we used to have when people served for service sake and produced from it the talent that was waiting for that helping hand.”
The Prime Minister, who, along with FIFA president Gianni Infantino and CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani, was invited to officially open the facility, added, “Today ladies and gentlemen, if we are familiar with failure, it is in the area of the management of our sport. We featured prominently in many sports at the highest international levels, led by volunteers with far less resources than we have now.
“My friend Hasely Crawford is here, he won an Olympic Gold medal and we had no stadium and no track, but he won it. Today, we have these facilities and we now have absolutely no excuse if we behave ourselves and accept from the taxpayers the hundreds of millions of dollars and the land we have made available to those of you who manage football.”
He added, “So having partnered with you, having partnered with football to make this public asset land available to you, and money available to those involved in the management of the game, the taxpayers can expect no less but a dramatic improvement, and a full use of the facility in the vision in which it was presented and the way it was designed.”
The facility is expected to be a revenue-generating asset for the TTFA that will ease the sport’s dependency on government and corporate T&T funding.
FIFA boss Infantino, who also had a hand in convincing Rowley to hand over the land for the construction of the facility a few years ago, called on Government to name the Ato Boldon Stadium the new Ato Boldon National Stadium of T&T. Looking at Rowley, he also jokingly said that if the TTFA is given the stadium to run, the Government can still run the Commonwealth Games in 2021.
He thanked Rowley, Montagliani, John-Williams and all those who contributed to the Home of Football becoming a reality, noting that when he was campaigning to become FIFA president, he came to T&T not expecting to find someone who had the heart beating for football in T&T.
“I was not believing to find someone like this in T&T, I have to say the truth because T&T Football Association was more or less in the same state as FIFA. David was saying in shambles, and I said shambles was maybe a compliment.”
Also addressing the gathering, John-Williams said when they assumed office it confirmed to them that the organisation required restructuring and needed to be put on a sound financial path. He said while some may expect him to beat his chest for the construction of the facility he would do no such thing, as it was just one spoke in the strategic wheel that was quickly accelerating to put T&T football on a sustainable path.
Afterwards, Rowley, Infantino, Montagliani and a large crowd of dignitaries that included former French international Youri Djorkaeff were taken on a tour of the facility.