PRESIDENTIAL CHALLENGER DISMISSED AS OFFERING NO SUBSTANCE
The Barbados footballing fraternity has once again reposed its confidence in Barbados Football Association (BFA) president Randy Harris.
Yesterday at the Barbados Workers’ Union Headquarters, Harmony Hall, St Michael, Harris was returned to the helm of the BFA by 87 votes to the 46 gained by his challenger Fabian Wharton, during election of officers to serve over the next two and four years. And in an interview with Barbados TODAY after his victory, Harris said Wharton’s accusations of financial mismanagement and dictatorial leadership was nothing other than fluff.
“I think that a lot of fluff was spread about the financial statement but we were confident that it [financial report] would have been accepted because the money spent were on things pertaining to football that had to happen in order for football to go forward. And once we were sure in our mind that we weren’t spending the body’s money willy-nilly, we were quite confident that the clubs would keep faith in us,” Harris said.
Wharton, the Barbados senior team manager, last week also put the blame on Harris for the island fielding ineligible player Hadan Holligan in a World Cup qualifier against Aruba last year. Barbados were subsequently disqualified by FIFA from the competition. Harris said the BFA had put measures in place to ensure a situation like that never occurred in the future.
“I want you to know that situation [fielding an ineligible player for the World Cup qualifiers] arose because of the petty jealousies that we have in Barbados. We had one person who could not accept that the team was doing so well and caused problems,” he said without going into specifics.
However, Harris said he had been prepared to quit his position after the unfortunate incident last June.
“I was prepared to go because I had committed a lot of financing into the programmes and to go out like that was quite an unhappy time for me. And outside of that we had to pay a pretty high salary by Barbadian standard to the coaching staff because it was nothing compared to what they usually earn. It was very worrisome to me but my colleagues at CONCACAF and FIFA asked me not to resign and not to take the full responsibility for it.
“They wanted me here for football in Barbados at this time and the truth is, I play a role not only here in Barbados but the Caribbean on a whole. It is behind us and we have put things in place to prevent anything like that from ever happening again and I know that we will get up, dust off and move forward,” Harris said.
The top football administrator also pointed to the fact that if football clubs across all divisions were not satisfied with the work done by BFA, then there would be cause for concern. But he added that from where they stood most were happy and had given constructive criticism in an effort to improve the sport.
Before departing the island last night for Zurich on official FIFA business, Harris said at the top of their agenda this year was getting their Wildey, St Michael headquarters developed, working even more closely with women’s football and keeping a close eye on how the school league was being administered.
“What we have to do is get Wildey developed so we can have a home of our own, so we can stage games and really have a good pitch that our players can develop properly. So we are going to work towards that. Also we have been working with women [football] and FIFA has okayed a performance programme for women which includes camps, training, competition. The girls should he having a fine time this year and also our juniors.
“We have to look at the schools league and the way it’s being administered and keep a closer eye on things because the schools are very important. I don’t think the Ministry of Education and most of the head teachers at the various schools realize how many scholarships that they can have to help their young charges. The BFA is in a position to work with our people in America to see that the ones who qualify both in terms of skills and academics will be able to get it. We plan to take a more serious look at it because they are a lot of young talented youngsters coming to the fore that have excellent skills and this is an area we can’t neglect any longer,” Harris explained.
He noted that newly appointed FIFA president Gianni Infantino who visited the island some time ago is aware of the BFA’s problems and should lend some much needed assistance.
“I have no doubt that he will be back in Barbados but I don’t want it to look like I supported him to try and get something. He is very positive about the football, he knows our problems here in Barbados and obviously I know that we will get some assistance. Already from his old organization UEFA [Union of European Football Association] we have had an invitation to send a number of persons on some courses and that will start sometime later this month.
“So really and truly, yes, we look forward to working with him closely. But he is the president of FIFA and we just have to take it easy and wait until some of the things that we need here in Barbados comes through. FIFA is doing a great job with us. They have full confidence in the BFA and we are just waiting on some permission that should be coming through shortly in order to build up the facility at Wildey,” Harris said.