Mon | Jun 26, 2017

FIFA boss: New home will transform football in T&T

Published:Saturday | April 15, 2017 | 4:00 AM
FIFA President Gianni Infantino

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC):

FIFA President Gianni Infantino believes the establishment of the Ato Boldon Stadium as the country's new national development centre could have a profound impact on Trinidad and Tobago football.

The Italian, who took over the helm of football's controversial world governing body last February, announced during his visit there earlier this week that the Couva venue would now become the Football Association's home.

Construction is expected to begin shortly on the building that will house the FA's new offices.

Located in central Trinidad - about 45 minutes outside of the capital of Port-of-Spain - and named after one of the country's most heralded Olympic sprinters, the stadium was opened in 2001 and hosted games in the FIFA Under-17 World Cup that year.

The facility will now also serve as the main venue for national team training and international games, though the Hasely Crawford Stadium will remain an active venue.

"This will change Trinidad and Tobago football but also Trinidad and Tobago society," Infantino said.

"Football is a great game in which players, both boys and girls, are taught not only how to play football and how to be sports persons, but how to be human beings with values and respect. And this project will of course boost the whole football movement in Trinidad and Tobago.

"If you work around this talent, you will have great results and it will send a strong message in the country and also in the whole CONCACAF, Caribbean and Americas on what can be achieved if you work seriously."

Infantino's visit to the island was his first since assuming office, replacing the long-serving Sepp Blatter who was forced to step down amid corruption allegations.

He was welcomed on arrival by TTFA president David John Williams and Sports Minister Darryl Smith, and later met with Trinidad and Tobago President Anthony Carmona and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.

 

IMPORTANCE OF PARTNERSHIPS

 

Infantino was quick to underscore the importance of the FA forming partnerships in order to develop the sport.

"Obviously, a collective effort is needed," he stressed.

"One person or organisation alone cannot do anything, but I am sure that with the help of the Government, who is very committed, and also a little bit of FIFA and CONCACAF, I am sure the results will be there."

Infantino, a former general secretary of UEFA, also praised the work of John Williams, whose administration has come in for criticism in recent times, especially for its bungling of the appointment of a national men's coach to replace the long-serving Stephen Hart.

"I have been able to witness really a new Trinidad and Tobago Football Association with a new spirit, with my friend, David, who with his passion, brings everyone with him," Infantino said.

"I have witnessed the government, who is fully behind the football association. I have been witnessing the population in Trinidad and Tobago, who is absolutely passionate for football."

He added: "[John Williams] is one of these persons who can really make things happen with his energy, his passion, and his way of working. This is certainly inspiring, and this is why I am really happy to be one of his friends."