MINISTER of Sport Darryl Smith yesterday disclosed that local football officials are working to get FIFA to resume its funding of the TT Football Association (TTFA).

The Minister said he has been working closely with TTFA president David John-Williams on the question of ending the freeze on its annual subventions, which was imposed last year due to the lack of properly audited accounts by the local organisation.

Questioned yesterday at a Cabinet media briefing on the recent victory of the Trinidad and Tobago team, the Minister raised the issue of FIFA funding.

“We have one more point to get to go through to the final round (of World Cup qualifying) which, once you reach to that round, you get a certain level of funding from TV rights and so on from FIFA and CONCACAF,” Smith told reporters at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair. “So we know that one point is a very lucrative point for TTFA and for the programme moving forward.” Smith said once the TTFA regularises its accounts, it can get the ban lifted.

“We have been working very closely with the former president (Raymond Tim Kee) and now Mr Williams,” the Minister said. “He is doing a fantastic job. We talk almost every day.

And he is doing his best to get the accounts audited and sent to FIFA. Once those accounts are audited – he has told us – the ban, the freeze that FIFA has put on TTFA with regards to funding, will be lifted and again that will help the situation. So we are hoping that gets approved soon so that the boys and the team and all football could benefit from FIFA funding.” Under normal circumstances, FIFA provides subvention funding to the TTFA to the tune of US$250,000 or TT$1.6 million.

Of the team, the Minister added, “We are hoping that they continue with the success that they are getting.” On preparations for the Olympics, Smith said this remains a priority.

“From day one, the Cabinet has committed to the Olympic drive and the World Cup qualifying drive as our two top priorities,” the Minister said. “And so far we have been working very closely with both organisations, the TTFA and TTOC and the other organisations involved in the Olympics.

Just last week, I was able to give out $1.2 million in grant funding and the elite athletes as well which is two or four months earlier than they usually get. A couple of weeks before that as well we did the same. George Bovell and others got last week.” At yesterday’s briefing the Minister also announced that Sensei Barry Ishmael will be the chairman of a newly-constituted Boxing Board which will also include shot putter Cleopatra Borel and former Assistant Commissioner of Police Terry Young. The other members of the board include: Symon de Nobriga and Dr Rochelle Mohammed.

Ishmael, a 5th Dan black belt, has been studying for over 20 years and is an assistant to Professor Don Jacob at the Purple Dragon karate dojo. He is a foreign affairs officer by profession and a lawyer.