Football's cocktail circuit perennially boasts of the competence of the Secretary of the T.F.A. He is claimed to be a man of rare energy, a financial genius. His praises are sung as the third vice president of CONCAFA. The gem of all is that he is irreplaceable. But, a mere cursory glance at the soccer reality exposes these as myths that veil tyrannical overcentralisation, obsessive office holding, if not sheer gangsterism.
After twenty five years of "competence" there is no official football arena, not a floodlit ground, no national league, far less a semi or full professional league. There are only minor league uprisings, (OCTOBER 1969) flouting of T.F.A. directives by both players and coaches, dismal soccer performances, walk-outs from General Council meetings, POSFL dominance of the T.F.A. and dominance of the POSFL by its Secretary. The TFA is nothing but a mafia operation bloodsoccing the finances of the game and impeding its development. The T.F.A. literally cannot keep a coach.
Cursory glances, however, are not enough and we must have clear insight into the operations of soccer's suckers. The experience of the EAFL over the last twelve years provides this opportunity perfectly. During the 1958 and 1959 seasons the administration of the EAFL was so defective that its members fired its entire executive and elected a new one with the famous Allan Joseph as Secretary and Bernard Warner as Secretary [sic, President]. The new executive attempted to stimulate enthusiasm, whip up morale and improve soccer facilities. In its earnest efforts it asserted an autonomy that was to offend the TFA tycoon who, afterwards, embarked on a programme of intimidation. The TFA claimed that correspondence from the Secretary of the EAFL questioned the integrity of the Secretary of TFA. In KGB style the TFA called a Council meeting excluding the EAFL. The Council illegally decided to suspend the EAFL until a Committee appointed by the TFA had thoroughly investigated the EAFL. Adding insult to injury the TFA directed the Committee not to convene until the EAFL recanted. The EAFL refused to recant. Dracula and Co. were not satisfied. They charged the new executive with the misdemeanours committed by the old executive, charges which revealed the integrity of the new executive. The vampires were still not appeased — they denied the EAFL the opportunity of refuting the charges at TFA Council level.
The members of the EAFL authorised their executive to protest suspension in any way possible. The EAFL retaliated by publishing their viewpoint unlike the TFA who vaguely uttered "correspondence." In its press release the EAFL articulated three irrefutable points which I quote directly:
In addition, two points arise:
In addition, two points arise:
With a strong case, the EAFL brought the matter to the High Court and after ten years the case is still pending. JUSTICE DELAYED IS JUSTICE DENIED.
Over the ensuing years two developments took place — one in 1966 and the other in 1968. The first in 1966 was initiated by the late Frank Worrell and the other was the founding of the Eddie Hart league in 1968.
The community project that Sir Frank started was not as well know as Eddie Hart's. But the significance of that movement has become increasingly important owing to the issue of the day which is the debate over conventional and unconventional politics.
When Sir Frank resided on the University campus he had an excellent opportunity to assess the talent in the East and the administrative problem that faced it. He decided to do something about it. He called together the players from the various clubs he had seen practising with the University students. Starting with a handful of players in coaching sessions, films of world cup matches and training techniques were organised.
The message spread like wildfire throughout the area and very soon, from a few, we were a massive force. From among the players the best men formed a touring team. Big name clubs were invited to the campus as well as players other than the stars participated. The result was that players from the East, for the first time, were facing top class competition.
It was thrilling to see players gaining in confidence for previously, "country" players reflected in their play that they were supposed to lose against "town" players. Our national teams reflect that negative quality of play on international encounters. However, that lack of self-confidence was rapidly being eroded.
Yet all was not well. There were the conventionalists who were advocating the formation of a club and league "affiliation" with the TFA. Confusions were further compounded when Eric James and a few other big-wigs were invited to a practice match we were playing with Fatima College. The general feeling was that Sir Frank was trying to acquire affiliation for a league in the East. What most failed to see was the moral attack on TFA attitudes which Sir FRANK was launching, attitudes which were hindering the development of football. Secondly, there was the infighting and community divisions. The players from the St. Augustine/Auzonville area saw the lower Tunapunaians as gladiators not footballers. The lower Tunapunaians in turn dispised the pomposity of the Augustinians. Afro Saxon vs Afro Creole.
Tragically, Sir Frank died and the conventionalists began to dominate. A club was founded, named after the great man himself and the Frank Worrell movement came sadly to an end. The community divisions were emphasized and opened the way for manipulators. The Augustinians who had the numerical advantage dominated the elections of officers to the logical displeasure of the lower Tunapunians who then returned to their soccer lairs. The following year they were to participate in the Eddie Hart League which played a pivotal role in the October demonstration of 1969.
The conventionalists scored another pseudo victory in successfully securing "affiliation" for a league called C.S.G.F.L. (Central St. George Football League). The C.S.G.F.L. like their E.A.F.L. predecessor attached too much importance to "affiliation", a term which in the colonial dictionary is divested of its genuine meaning — collaboration and brotherhood. The principle of the affiliation in its iniquitous application only serves to elevate the T.F.A. to father-giver status with the power to bully and ministerially interfere. What should have been uppermost in the minds of both leagues was to effect a decentralisation from Port-of-Spain and to evolve a system whereby the talent in various districts could meet each other systematically. In other words the provision of first class competition is more important than affiliation.
The formation of the C.S.G.F.L. led to the founding of the Eddie Hart League on the rebound, the league which spearheaded the uprisings of the "minor" leagues in October 1969. The details of that uprising are still fresh upon our minds and needn't be tabled here. But issues were raised that are significant not only for the T.F.A. but also for the society as a whole.
If we view the October demonstration against the background of the bus strike, the calypsonians' demonstration, the turmoil in the University, the February Revolution and the Fall of April, we plainly see that the hangover institutions of colonialism are discredited and, as such, the demonstration also expressed the frustrations of a people with paper independence because of the failure of the P.N.M. to decolonise the country internally.
In the final stages of the controversy when the T.F.A.'s backs were against the wall they bleated — "F.I.F.A." rules prevent players from "affiliate" leagues from playing in "minor" leagues. On its mission of repression the T.F.A. attempted to play upon the fears of the population and to disguise its draconian ways. That's an eight year old trick.
In the name of F.I.F.A., Queen and Holy Ghost, we must finish up with these phony notions that legitimacy must come from outside or on high. Legitimacy must come from the consensus of self-possessed people.
Soccer's necessity, therefore, is to develop a framework where the talent throughout the country can meet each other systematically. At present the over-centralisation in Port-of-Spain and the excessive weight which the P.O.S.F.L. has in the T.F.A. Council do not admit such a system.
THE T.F.A. which was originally the T.A.F.A> was in fact the P.O.S.F.L. It is not surprising that the organisers of a P.O.S.F.L. should name it Trinidad Amateur Football League. Within the T.A.F.A. a league committee comprising representatives of each club (fourteen at the time) organised the Port-of-Spain League, representatives who had voting power on the T.A.F.A. Council.
When the S.A.F.A., S.F.A., the E.A.F.L. and A.A.F.L. were subsequently affiliated to the T.A.F.A. the league Committee or P.O.S.F.L. retained their voting power. This enormous voting power of the P.O.S.F.L. has never been significantly eroded despite a sixty year old constitutional battle waged by P.O.S.F.L. affiliates. Furthermore, the P.O.S.F.L. is dominated by one man, the Secretary.
COUNTRY vs TOWN
The over-centralisation in Port-of-Spain left the other affiliates too weak to provide the amenities necessary for their districts and as has been pointed out this was the E.A.F.L.'s experience. Secondly, national teams were drawn almost exclusively from the P.O.S.F.L. Therefore, the footballer in say, East St. George was not a little attracted to Port-of-Spain.
There is more. There also exists the Country vs Town tension, an amplification of the Augustinians vs the lower Tunapunaians rivalry. The humiliation to which "country players" are subjected in Port-of-Spain has generated near uncontrollable conflicts between Town and Country, and passions which have made collaboration in other fields difficult. For example a pan tuner from Port-of-Spain is highly suspect to pan beaters in the country. The inference from all this is that decentralisation is a necessity not only in football but in most everything else.
In our proposals for reform we must abandon phony concepts of "major" and "minor" leagues. Throughout Trinidad and Tobago, these "bandit" leagues, so called, exist. Let us zone off the areas in the same way as TAPIA has proposed in its local government reform. Within these zones the existing "bandit" leagues and "major" leagues must provide the infrastructure from which a community team is chosen. From these we move to an inter-community league — to a genuine national league, and to a T.F.A. which would be a coalition of these community interests.