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|FULL PRAISE AT GALA CENTENNIAL DINNER|
|FIFA President Sepp Blatter placed the advancement of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) in perspective for his audience at the Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence on Friday evening. And he gave the brunt of the praise for that advancement on his vice-president, Austin Jack Warner.
Warner and Trinidad and Tobago were given the thumbs up by the FIFA boss who delivered the feature address at the TTFF's Centennial Dinner where 220 persons were given special awards for their contribution to the local game over the last century, the Express stated.
Among the awardees on the night were Jack Warner, recent T&T players Dwight York, Russell Latapy, Leroy De Leon and posthumous honourees Ellis "Puss" Achong, Conrad "Savannah" Brathwaite, Gerald "Gerry" Gomez, and Tyrone "Tank" De la Bastide, to name a few.
But even before Baltter came to the podium, TTFF president Oliver Camps had already given the audience a taste of things to come when he rolled back the clock through the hundred years of football in T&T.
In his view, the growth of science and technology since the industrial revolution has transformed the world and has fostered the growth and development of football in T&T with a continuous improvement in the quality of players and in the administration and organisation of the game locally and internationally.
In this regard, Camps pointed to Warner as the person who, as he put it: "Launched T&T football into the international ocean."
Camps added that Warner's contribution to T&T's football development over the last decade, which culminated with the country's first appearance at the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals, has demonstrated that "minnows can swim with the big fish" and that the gap between international teams is closing.
Â The UEFA president, and former French midfield maestro Michel Platini, also impressed on the audience the important role that Warner has played in raising the standard of football, not only in T&T but in the CONCACAF region. His sentiments were echoed by the England Football Association president Lord David Triesman.
Triesman pointed out that, "there are very few organisations that last for 100 years." He added: "No institution lasts for 100 years unless it does something wanted and needed by the masses and this has been done in Trinidad and Tobago.
"Football is the most remarkable ambassador of all," Triesman declared, explaining that it brings together everyone in the country through friendship within the football family.
It was on this note that Blatter took the stage and his first order of business was to congratulate the TTFF on reaching the century mark.
"100 years of football-reaching this benchmark is definitely a remarkable achievement," the FIFA boss declared.
"Football was already organised in this country before this country was an independent nation," Blatter noted, adding that T&T have been successful in the past, which is before 1962, however, he insisted that success in terms of football is being realised on a larger scale now.
Blatter pointed to T&T's successful hosting of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in 2001 as an historic milestone which, he announced will be followed by the hosting of the FIFA Girls Under-17 World Cup in 2010.
In this regard, Blatter took the opportunity to give the TTFF a special gift of US$400,000 towards the further development of football in the country.
"Football is now the most popular movement in the world," Blatter told the gathering. "Two-hundred-and-sixty-million people follow the sport and with their families, over one billion people are directly of indirectly touched by this game."
And Blatter concluded by saying: "This movement brings us hope in life, it brings us emotions, and football gives us the passion for life, so enjoy the game and enjoy life."