Football Centennial a milestone

Peter O'Connor
Date Published: 
Trinidad Newsday

OVER the Easter weekend, His Excellency President Maxwell Richards hosted a function to launch the Centennial Year of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation, originally named the Trinidad Amateur Football Association.

On the following Tuesday, the Federation, along with the Football Association of England, hosted a media conference to announce that Trinidad and Tobago would be hosting England in a Centennial Match here on Sunday June 1, 2008.

Because we are a country which has no time for our own history, the news of the England match created far more of a stir than the announcement of the Centennial Celebrations, which will encompass much more than the England match—no matter how important that fixture is to fans and players.

One hundred years is a significant milestone.

Only 28 countries, out of more than 200 FIFA members, have Football Associations which are older than ours!

But where did it all start? And why should we invite England here — indeed why should England bother to come — instead of some other country?

Although the Trinidad Amateur Football Association was formed in 1908, the game began here in 1897, with the founding of The Clydesdale Club.

The Clydesdale was founded in the year that Trinidad and Tobago was celebrating the 100th Anniversary of British Rule, at the height of the British Empire.

Its early members were mostly Scotsmen, here in the colony to manage businesses, banks, sugar plantations, or in the Colonial Service.

Following the Clydesdale, Shamrock Club was founded by the Irish immigrant population, and Casuals by the English ex-pats.

Queen’s Park Cricket Club, an institution older than Clydesdale, also put out a football team. These four were joined by Local Forces, the British Army present in Trinidad, and by Police, the officers of which were all British ex-pats.

Finally, St Mary’s College (CIC) and Queen’s Royal College (QRC), made up the original Trinidad and Tobago Amateur Football Association, which began its first League Competition in September 1908 at the Queen’s Park Savannah with a match between Clydesdale and Queen’s Park. We do not, as yet, have any information on any early Trinidad — or Trinidad and Tobago — representative matches, although we know that the Georgetown Football Club visited Trinidad in 1912, and drew goalless with Clydesdale. Interestingly, the Guyana Football Association was founded (as the British Guiana FA) in 1904, the same year as FIFA, and it is one on the 28 Associations predating the TTFF.

By 1916 there were several football clubs playing in San Fernando and surrounding.

However, the great oilfield clubs had not yet been founded, as the oil industry was still in early stages and the major companies were not yet established.

The TAFA applied, and was granted, an Associate status with the Football Association of England. The English FA then presented the TAFA in 1926 with a magnificent sterling silver trophy, which today remains the Premier Trophy of the Federation — The Football Association Trophy. It has always been the “Knock-Out” Trophy of the Federation.

With the advent of Leagues and Associations in other parts of the country, in San Fernando, the Oilfields, Arima, Central and Tobago, the TAFA became the Trinidad and Tobago Amateur Football Association, and the original TAFA members became the Port-of-Spain Football League.

The word “amateur” was dropped in the early seventies, and the name of the association was changed in the 1990s to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation. Following the country’s political Independence in 1962, the Association joined FIFA and CONCACAF, and the TTFA was a major force in the creation of the Caribbean Football Union.

Our first attempt at World Cup qualification was in 1964, seeking to get to England in 1966. However, local football has always felt that we are closely associated with the FA of England.

As far as we know, our “Associate” status has never been revoked, and the FA has, over the years, conducted many coaching, refereeing and administrative courses here.

It is to England that most of our top players head to play professional football.

We have hosted England representative teams here over the years.

In 1961 an England Under-23 squad played two matches against TT, one in the Savannah and one in Guaracara Park.

In early 1991, the England Under-20 squad came to test Dwight Yorke’s Under-20 squad before we departed for Portugal.

In 1999 the England Under-17 Team came to play our Under-17’s preparing for the FIFA U-17 Tournament here in 2001.

Our history and our current connections make England the natural choice for our Centennial Match. The “replay” of the World Cup encounter in Nuremberg in June 2006 is just icing on the cake.

Do you have information on the early days of TT Football? If so, please call the Centennial Secretariat, 625-0301.