The New Year in the world of Football in the Turks and Caicos Islands got off to a phenomenal start. Wednesday, January 17th, 2018 marks a momentous day in history for the Turks & Caicos Islands Football Association (TCIFA). Since its inception in 1996, and subsequently become a member of FIFA in 1998, the TCIFA never had a sitting or even a past president of Football’s World Governing body, FIFA, visited its shores. All this changed yesterday (January 17, 2018) when current President Gianni Infantino paid a courtesy visit on TCIFA,s President and FIFA Council Member Sonia Bien-Aime.
“This is definitely history in the making, not only for TCIFA but Turks & Caicos Islands on a whole” said TCIFA President, Sonia Bien-Aime “I am proud, and I am thankful for the support that President Infantino and FIFA has contributed to the TCIFA and our region. With all of the assistance they have provided, it makes all of our successes possible.” In commenting further President Bien-Aime reflected on the TCIFA’s growth since its formation. “The growth and development of football in the Turks and Caicos Islands has been rapid and constant in both the numbers and quality of the players. This landmark visit by President Infantino is a testament of the support of FIFA and its relationship with the TCIFA. It will go miles in continuing the support and in cementing that relationship”.
President Bien-Aime also commented on the Government’s malaise and apparent indifference to the sport of football in the Turks and Caicos Islands. “If we are to fully maximize the potential of President Infantino’s visit and what FIFA can contribute to the Turks and Caicos Islands, we need the partnership and support of the Government. The TCIFA sent an email to our esteemed Premier informing her of this historical event and requesting a meet and greet at her office as well as an opportunity to attend the event. With the attendant opportunity it offered to create long and meaningful relationships between the TCIFA and FIFA. While there were Ministers of Government present and we appreciate, and embrace their attendance, the TCIFA were denied the courtesy and decency of a response from the Premier to any of the emails sent to her. I view this conduct as clear indication of the lack of regard by the Premier firstly towards the President of FIFA and the office he holds, but also reflects how the Government views football and sports in general and the significant role it plays in nation building”
President Infantino, a former member of FIFA’s Reform Committee and UEFA General Secretary, was elected President of FIFA in February 2016 at the 66th FIFA Extraordinary Congress, with a mandate to reform football governance, and increase investment in football development. Under his leadership, FIFA has introduced new initiatives an upgraded a number of programs, (i.e. funding, educational, technical, etc.) to help support the development of their member associations. Additionally, President Infantino announced an array of new development projects in the works for associations like TCIFA, that will support player development from a very young age.
On President Infantino's arrival to Providenciales, he was greeted by the Governor, His Excellency Dr. John Freeman CMG. His Excellency was thereafter presented him with a FIFA Pennant by President Infantino. Thereafter President Infantino and his team proceeded to the TCIFA National Academy where he was further welcomed by the Deputy Governor - Her Excellency Hon. Anya Williams, Minister of Sports - Hon. Karen Malcolm, Minister of Tourism - Hon. Ralph Higgs, Hon. Josephine Connolly, as well as other significant public figures, and members of the Football Association. Amongst those highlighted was the introduction of Bengt Soderqvist and KH Capital, key partners involved in the donation of the parcel of land that is currently the home of the TCIFA.
President Infantino expressed his excitement to be present at the TCIFA in the midst of the busy midweek grassroots programme. “I am extremely pleased and happy to be here. Soon after being elected I promised Sonia I would come, and I came.” He continued, “what I see here is the essence of why we all love football. This is the reason why we invest a lot of our time and energy in the sport. Football is something that gives back. It teaches you how to win, teamwork, how to depend on others, but most importantly, how to have fun, and enjoy your passion.” Impressed by the support and success of TCIFA, he went on to commend the efforts of the TCIFA President, and Turks & Caicos Ambassador, Sonia Bein-Aime.
President Infantino’s stop over was topped off with a short scrimmage, starring himself, members of his travel delegation, members of the Provo Premier League (PPL), President of the PPL- Steve Kendrew, Technical Director- Daz Meehan, and Executive Committee Member responsible for refereeing - Patrice Senior. Referees officiating the game included Gianni Ascani and Dane Ritchie, who were both recently appointed to the FIFA Referee’s and Asst. Referee’s List 2017-2018, respectively.
This will be a moment in history that will always be remembered.