FIFA executive Warner slams regional governments

Steve Ninvalle
Date Published: 
Stabroek News

CONCACAF and Caribbean Football Union president Trinidadian Austin 'Jack' Warner recently took a swipe at CARICOM governments for not playing a more meaningful role in the development of football in the region.

Speaking on the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU) television show Talk Caribbean recently, Warner said that apart from four Caribbean countries the rest have remained delinquent toward the development of football in the region.

"There is no consistent, sustained development programme by governments. Sometimes you feel it is tokenism. I fail to accept or understand that the governments are not aware of what benefit can be acquired from football," Warner said on the show which was hosted by Barbadian journalist Julian Rogers.

The CONCACAF boss disclosed that apart from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, St Kitts/Nevis and Grenada the other Caribbean governments have remained neglectful.

"Apart from those countries that I have called I think that the governments involvement in sport is sadly lacking. For me this is a tragedy of immense propotions.

"The government role is absent except for in a few countries. "in Guyana, a place where you have almost the most space in the Caribbean, the government to this day has not given the football authorities a piece of land for a stadium. They haven't given them a piece of land for an office and Guyana is still struggling to get land for its development programme. We can't be serious," Warner stated.

According to Warner, a Trinidadian, the building of sports facilities is not the responsibility of the association but that of the government.

"In my humble view facilities and the building of same is a government responsibility not the sports bodies. Our Caricom governments should put their heads together and come up with unified programmes," the FIFA vice president said.

"Trinidad is hosting the 2001 Youth World Cup. It's the first of its kind to be ever hosted by a country that size. After six or seven months I'm still struggling to get the governments to release officials full time to work with the team."

"I feel terribly hurt that governments are not doing more than they are doing at the moment for football," complained Warner whose club Joe Public plays in the semi-professional league in Trinidad.

Warner opined that what football has done for Jamaica, in terms of currency, image and tourism, not even its carnival can match. "I wish I had a (P.J.) Patterson in every country in the Caribbean. If Jamaica can show it can be done with football other countries should follow."

This year Jamaica through sustained and resolute support from its government and business community, became the first English speaking country from the Caribbean to play in a World Cup.

"The money from FIFA is not a substitute for grants from Governments or sponsors, Warner said referring to the US 1 million dollar gifts FIFA will release to football associations around the world beginning next year.

Last year Guyana government allocated 200 acres for the building of a national stadium. A committee was identified to raise funds to make the stadium a reality but since then nothing has been heard.

Efforts for a comment from Minister of Sport Gail Texeira proved futile.