FIFA President Gianni Infantino gave the Cayman Islands Football Association (CIFA) an endorsement Friday (9 August) confirming funding restrictions would be lifted following approval by the sport’s global compliance committee.
“It is not my decision, it’s the decision of the compliance committee that is gathering in the next few weeks,” said Mr. Infantino. “The situation is very positive. There is still some checks going on, but it is very positive. We’ve discussed projects that have been put in place for both boys and girls football. In particular, we will see girls playing in a tournament today, but this is part of a wider movement of much more regular games, more competitions, more players, more referees, to really make sure the entire Cayman Islands community is involved in football. These projects are very important.”
“We have looked at the financial situation, we don’t have to hide these topics,” he said. “We all know that CIFA was under restricted funding, and still is for the time being, but the news is very positive. We are looking at building with the new funds from the FIFA Forward programme. Infrastructure is needed to give more opportunities to play football for the whole community.”
Mr. Infantino said he was confident in CIFA President Alfredo Whittaker and Cayman’s football administration, and that charges laid Thursday (8 August) against former First Vice President Bruce Blake did not deter his opinion of the Association’s progress, both past, and present. Former CIFA treasurer Canover Watson was also charged with seven counts of corruption.
“I don’t know enough about what happened yesterday, or the charges, or the investigation,” said Mr. Infantino. “What I can say is we have full trust in the authorities when they do their work, and we thank them for their work. If anyone finds anything wrong with anything in football, then sanctions will be taken because we don’t want anything that happened in the past to happen again. Whatever comes out, we will take the necessary learning from it.”
“We are here for football, and the football community,” he said. “It’s not just for one or two people at the top. It’s about the people, and the kids playing. That’s why we are here, and we have confidence. The authorities can count on FIFA and CONCACAF for our support and our assistance.”
“It’s a very important time for me to be here,” said Mr. Infantino. “It comes at an important period for football in the Cayman Islands. We have witnessed the work that Alfredo has done since his election. We all know the situation as it was, and we are very encouraged with the situation as it is. Our trip is meant to be an encouragement to Alfredo, his team, to CIFA, and to the community.”
Mr. Whittaker added protocol was followed last year when Mr. Blake resumed his position as Vice President after a 2017 arrest.
“Mr. Blake presented his case to the Appeals Committee,” said Mr. Whittaker. “The Appeals Committee decided to rule in his favour, and as per our constitution, he was reinstated to our executive committee.”
CIFA has since suspended Mr. Blake indefinitely.
In 2017, Mr. Whittaker was elected CIFA President following the incumbent Lee Ramoon who took over after the fallout of former president Jeffrey Webb’s corruption charges. Mr. Whittaker says the meeting with FIFA’s delegation was ‘about the future of football’ and was happy with the outcome.
“I am happy that I am doing the right thing for my association,” he said. “Not only for my football association, but for the football family. I am happy we have people who believe in what we are doing.”
CIFA Treasurer Armando Ebanks reiterated the Association’s commitment to financial transparency, adding CIFA was encouraged by Friday’s visit.
“Great efforts are continually made to continue our current levels of financial transparency and accountability implemented since my taking office in August 2015,” said Mr. Ebanks. “Mr. Whittaker is a key supporter of these initiatives. Today’s visit by FIFA President Gianni Infantino and CONCACAF President Montagliani demonstrate their support of these initiatives and reiterate their confidence in our operations, our significant contributions to football in Cayman, and celebrate these successes and plans for continued development of football on these islands.”
In closing, Mr. Infantino said CIFA’s situation is one that runs parallel to the game itself.
“Football is more than a sport. It’s a school of life, education, fair play, respect. A lot of these values that got lost in some parts of the world in the past, that must be rebuilt. We must show to the people that we are rebuilding.”