(Trinidad Express) As she got ready to fly off to Brazil yesterday with her grandson, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar pledged over US$1.3 million (TT$8.2 million) to the former Soca Warriors.
Although she said the Government is under no legal obligation to pay monies owed to the Soca Warriors, Persad-Bissessar announced that the money will be paid to the “football heroes” in honour of the patriotic history they created in qualifying for the World Cup back in 2006.
The members of the Soca Warriors team have been embroiled in legal battle with the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) for the past eight years for monies owned to them.
The Prime Minister noted that the judgment in the arbitration was that the players were entitled to 50 per cent of the net profits the TTFA derived from the Road to Germany 2006 campaign.
That figure was settled as US$3 million but to date the TTFA has only paid the players US$1.7 million.
Speaking at a news conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, Persad-Bissessar said she consulted her Cabinet, inclusive of the Attorney General, and agreed that the outstanding sums should be paid to the Soca Warriors.
“While the Government is under no legal obligation to make any payment to the players, we are not unmindful of the long and protracted legal battles waged by these football heroes of ours and the situation today is that the players are still owed and entitled to a payment from an entity in the TTFF (now Trinidad and Tobago Football Association) that is unlikely to be in a position to pay,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar said she felt it appropriate to honour these players on the eve of the FIFA World Cup semi- finals in Brazil.
“Let us move beyond the grievances and rekindle the spirit of togetherness and patriotism engendered by such a historic moment. As we gather to witness the excitement of the World Cup semi-finals and finals starting tomorrow (today), we can celebrate our own time knowing there are only pleasant memories and acknowledged heroes,” she said.
The Prime Minister spoke of the unity and emotions that the game of football stirs as she recalled the wave of patriotism that gripped this country in 2006 when the Soca Warriors qualified -making Trinidad and Tobago the smallest nation to do so.
“It was a moment that unified us like never before. A group of young footballers representing this nation reminded us what it felt like to be united and proud,” she said.
“They healed every national wound, bridged every divide, and brought us together across all boundaries, there were no political, social, religious or ethnic differences, we acclaimed ourselves and embraced each other in a celebration of genuine patriotic pride,” she added.
“As I, along with hundreds of thousands of our citizens, watched the events play out in the current World Cup in Brazil many vivid memories of our own time flooded back to that moment when Trinidad and Tobago’s Soca Warriors joined the world’s best in 2006, Germany,” said the Prime Minister.
She said further that for eight months, from qualification in Bahrain in November 2005 to the end of the World Cup in July 2006, this nation soared with pride with the efforts of our team.
“Who could forget the outpouring of joy and patriotism as we took to the streets that historic day when Trinidad and Tobago qualified?” she asked as members of Government present applauded.