Following the recent arrests of several high-ranking members of FIFA's leadership, many soccer fans in Trinidad and Tobago have become extra observant about the goings-on in national football. Even as former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner (named on the US Justice Department's long list of world football governing body executives wanted for fraud, racketeering, and conspiracy) awaits his extradition hearing, the popular satirical website Wired868, which prides itself on intelligently covering sports and politics, had its eyes on a brewing dispute between the country's minister of sport, Brent Sancho, and the president of The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA), Raymond Tim Kee.
In an official statement, Minister Sancho noted that it was time to “correct the misinformation put into the press by Mr. Tim Kee”, who has previously called Sancho a bully and accused the Ministry of Sport of being unsupportive of local football. In his retort, Sancho quoted a 2011 statement by his beleaguered predecessor:
“The TTFF is the worst-run sporting organisation in Trinidad and Tobago, they flout all rules and procedures. They totally disregard all checks and balances that are here at the Ministry of Sport and the Sport Company. Checks and balances are very important for transparency, accountability and making sure we get value for money. This is taxpayers’ money we are dealing with.”
These are not my words, they’re the words of Minister of Sport Anil Roberts in 2011.
Yet here we are in 2015 and the same rings true.
Some may find it ironic that Sancho chose to quote Roberts on issues of transparency or good governance, considering that Roberts was forced to resign in the wake of a corruption controversy surrounding a ministry-funded programme for disadvantaged children. Sancho and Tim Kee also sit on opposite ends of the political divide, with the former holding a key position in the current coalition government led by the prime minister's United National Congress, and the latter holding the position of treasurer of the opposition People's National Movement. The country's upcoming general election, which is shaping up to be a close race, will take place on September 7. As voters grow weary of political maneuvering, many suspect that the tiff has more to do with electioneering than sport.
Mr Tim Kee was an important part of the TTFF administration which was controlled by Jack Warner, the master puppeteer. As a vice-president and, at one point, chairman of TTFF’s finance committee, it is impossible to believe that Mr Tim Kee’s curiosity would not have been aroused by huge transactions entering and departing TTFF accounts under the orders of Mr Warner.
From 2007 to 2009, over TT$17.7 million was paid to Warner controlled accounts from TTFF’s Long Circular Mall Republic Bank account alone, yet Mr Tim Kee, the current PNM Treasurer, was apparently completely oblivious.
And now I have to ask: Is Jack back? Is Mr Tim Kee the new reincarnation of Jack Warner?
The minister's statement went on to detail Tim Kee's alleged missteps, ending with a challenge for Tim Kee to “show us the books”.
Wired868 has been following the actions of Tim Kee as they relate to local football for years. Despite all the squabbling, however, Trinidad and Tobago's national football squad, the “Soca Warriors”, has just managed to secure a place in the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals for only the third time in the country’s history. The blog lamented that “with history beckoning, Trinidad and Tobago’s Gold Cup team was again distracted by off-field matters”:
Warriors manager William Wallace admitted that there was some anxiety in the camp since, unlike the 2013 Gold Cup, players are not receiving match fees after each game as they are still awaiting funding from the Sport Ministry.
And Wallace revealed that, for the first time in a Gold Cup tournament, the TTFA did not offer win bonuses or financial incentives for qualifying for the quarterfinal, semifinal or even winning the entire thing.
Wired868‘s Lasana Liburd noted that, while the sports ministry has said it will honour its commitments to the “Soca Warriors” and the National Senior Women’s Team, “the Sport Minister did not promise any assistance to the TTFA beyond that, which would include the Warriors’ Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign”.
There was a lively discussion about the squabble inWired868‘s comments section. Ronaldo Rollocks thought the whole debacle was “Politics and Football at its best!”:
I hope the players remain focus (sic) and give of their best!…Hats off to our dedicated sportsmen and women!
There was some anti-Sancho sentiment and many readers regarded the whole affair as “politicking”. Reader Pearce Robinson noted:
I’ve always thought that the PNM’s choice of TTFA President Raymond Tim Kee [as party treasurer] was misguided, simply because of his association to Jack Warner and being embroiled in the whole FIFA scandal involving the soca warriors.
Kirwin Weston responded:
This is pure politics and egos battling. Football is the unfortunate ancillary culprit!
Some readers felt that the situation was a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Ann-Marie Charles suggested that, if Sancho was accusing Tim Kee of being another Jack Warner, Sancho himself could be accused of being another Anil Roberts. Renaldo Smith added:
Brent who took money from the government when the people already give him $1 million dollars and talking about repaying the government when jack pay him. Since when the government is a lending agency? Brent Sancho. When you took that money you lost all credibility.
Lasana Liburd summed up the situation this way:
It looks like only the elections would calm things down. Either Gov't elections in September or TTFA elections in November.
But neither election would solve the underlying problem.
Last night, Trinidad and Tobago held Mexico to an exciting 4-4 draw that brought to a close the group stage of the 2015 Gold Cup, with the “Soca Warriors” sitting proudly at the top of Group C. Lasana Liburd wrote of the accomplishment:
For the first time, the Warriors went into a Gold Cup without a negotiated bonus scheme for wins or advancing past the group stage. And Sport Minister Brent Sancho, a former 2006 World Cup player, has not been in a particularly generous mood towards the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) of late.
There will be pressure on Sancho now to loosen the purse strings for the national players and staff at least.
The Mexico Football Federation’s annual budget is believed to be in the region of US$150. The Warriors make by with whatever former Sport Minister Anil Roberts left behind, which was roughly TT$5 million or US$0.8million.
Imagine what Warriors coach Stephen Hart could do with a properly functioning football body behind him?
Trinidad and Tobago's national football team will play Panama this Sunday at 4:30 p.m. in New Jersey.