Newly appointed chairman of the FIFA-designated Normalisation Committee (NC), Robert Hadad, was surprised by the call to head the unit but expressed a genuine willingness to help put T&T football back on the right path. This after the William Wallace-led T&T Football Association (TTFA) was disbanded by FIFA on March 17 after it was elected on November 24, 2019.
Hadad, who was placed in charge of T&T’s football with immediate effect, spoke passionately on i95.5fm Isports' Saturday programme with host Andre Errol Baptiste on the road ahead.
“Football here in Trinidad and Tobago is huge, people love the game. It is a privilege to be involved in it, whatever the circumstances I am coming into," said Hadad, who is one of three Chief Executive Officers of the HADCO Group of Companies.
"I have watched the TTFA have many challenges over the years. I know fans and people love football, it brings out a sense of patriotism in everybody. We long for an association, a national team to be proud of, makes all of us feel good and I share that aim and that is why I agreed to help and that is what I want to achieve."
He is part of five-member NC appointed on Friday to take over the governance of T&T football along with retired international banker Nigel Romano, a Director and Partner at Moore T&T, who is also a former chairman of the JMMB Bank, as well as American-based Attorney and Environmental Law Specialist Judy Daniel. There are two members still to be named by FIFA in the coming days.
<Surprise call from FIFA>
According to Hadad, a couple of weeks ago he got a phone call and was bluntly asked if he was interested in being a part of the NC?
"It took me back a bit and I sat down and said wow!" said Hadad honestly. "I do not know where this came from, I am guessing that they asked around. When they contacted me, I was taken aback and surprised. A couple of friends of mines called me and said, some people are asking about you, I didn’t know who it was."
However, he didn't let the uncertainty deter him from taking up the challenge with current pandemic nudging him towards committing to the post.
"This Covid-19 shook me up and I said, I really should get involved and make a difference. I saw the patriotism and the dedication of many members in our government and people stepping up to the plate and making an effort and our health care workers," Hadad internalised, saying to himself: "You have a talent, you have an ability, why don’t you get involved in this and try to make a difference, and it drove me to the point, where I said 'Yes FIFA', I am interested.”
He was interviewed by about three to four people from FIFA about his life and career, his involvement in football and if any affiliations.
"I don’t know, how they picked me. A few people in FIFA contacted me, they are from the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) and CONCACAF, " said Hadad, who describes himself as a 'real family man'.
<Hadad worked with Brown, Camps>
“I have been in the family business (Hadco, Lighthouse, Peppercorn and Nova), for the last 30 years. We started our own business, my two brothers and I. Our father died at 49 and we had to decide to take care of our family.
"My degree is in accounting (University of the West Indies). I am a real Caribbean Boy. I love my country and I love everything about T&T, said Hadad, who worked in accounting at Peat Marwick, before the family business got going in 1992. However, it was while working at Peat Marwick in 1990 he got into the administrative side of the football.
"I worked with Ralph Brown and Ollie (Oliver) Camps at the end of the 'Road to Italy 1989'. I was an auditor and my assignment was actually working on the Road to World Cup Fund and doing the audit for them afterwards, so it's kind of funny, that 30-plus years afterwards, I am here now, trying to make an impact, back in football and maybe turn things around a bit.
“I love football, I love sport, I am a real sports fanatic it is a big source of problems with my wife and myself. When we sit at night all I want to look at is sports, she wants to look at a romantic comedy, every night it is the same story she falls asleep after five minutes," said Hadad said jokingly. he revealed that his youngest son piqued his interest in the sport locally. He is an aspiring goalkeeper with Queen's Park Cricket Club football team and he made it onto the national team.
<Meeting with football stakeholders>
Hadad, who is involved in a sponsorship mechanism with the Camboulay Foundation, has become the most popular individual in local football as former executive members have already reached out to him.
“My phone has been on fire. I spoke to Mr Wallace (William, the former president) and I got a Whatsapp message from Mr David John-Williams, telling me congratulations. I kind of know all the players here at stake, in the association. I have already spoken with Ramesh Ramdhan (TTFA general secretary).
"My objective is for people to recognise that I am not here favouring one side or the other. I don’t know why we are here, I know it is not the fault of any one particular administrative group. I am guessing that we are here because of many mistakes along the road. I am just here to try with the team that I am involved in to make things better. The best way we could put TTFA back on the right track,” said Hadad.
He explained that “We came together already, individually Nigel Romano and myself, Judy and myself, have spoken a few times. We are in touch with each other but at the end of the day, we need to decide, when those other two people come on, what are the assets of those two people the bottom line for us is that over the next two weeks we cannot do much, we are going to be strapped down like everybody else in our homes. "FIFA did what it had to do for whatever reasons. I am just seeing an opportunity to put T&T football back on the right track."
<NC now running TTFA day-to-day affairs>
Moving forward under FIFA, Hadad cited that the NC has a clear remit, to run the TTFA daily affairs, analyse the current financial situation with a quick debt repayment plan and decide exactly how they are getting there, where are they getting this money to cover each expense. "We will looking at the statutes and the regulations so that we can comply with the FIFA statues because that is very important and then we have to organise an election,” explained Hadad.
Hadad revealed he is not interested in any remuneration for this job: “I made it clear when I took this job that I am not interested in any payment. Outlined in the contract is a stipend for expenses and whatever, but to be quite frank with you, I am so happy in my life and my skin. I love where I am in my life and I am just ready to give back to my country and at this time of need.”
<Confidentiality is key in the process>
Hadad went on to touch on the importance of confidentiality, on the TTFA office, meeting with individuals that will aid in getting T&T back on the right path.
“Everybody has to respect that (confidentiality). We must keep the matters of FIFA between us and FIFA and what is to come out to the wider population will come out. But at the end of the day, we are not here to dig up any bones that have been buried over the years and go back and figure out, who did what and who did that. We are not interested in that, we are interested in taking a position of the day and making a better organisation for all of us to be proud of,” said Hadad.
<Seeking advice from Guyana's Urling>
He explained that the current situation at the moment with the offices of the TTFA will remain unchanged and that he plans to reach out to the former head of the NC in Guyana Clinton Urling to get some information, so I am planning to spend a lot of time on Skype or zoom but we are not going to the office because it is illegal and we have to respect that. So we in holding pattern for a couple of weeks,” said Hadad, who added that all contracts given by TTFA will be upheld.
“I am guessing we have to maintain the contracts with everybody, we cannot walk in there and cancel a contract of anybody but we will have to read the contracts. We will have to find out exactly how long these contracts are for and have to meet with the coaches. We're probably going to have to meet with everybody, the technical director and the rest of the members of the staff and decide what is the best way for football. But I am clear in my mind that we need to divide the business into the day-to-day running, cleaning up of the accounts payable, the technical side. All of that will be decided in the next couple of months.
Hadad said, "I am going to follow the guidelines of FIFA. I am not a 'yes man' so I will challenge FIFA. Me and my team we will challenge them because we know the dynamics of our country, we know what Trinbagonions want and we are going to try to do our very best.”