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Cooper: “At No Time Did I Make Any Individual Decision To Withdraw”

The Saint Lucia Football Association (SLFA) Inc. is still in disarray following last week’s revelation that Saint Lucia will not take part in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.

Past and present players, along with members of the general public are calling for the resignation of the Association’s President, Lyndon Cooper.

Image of SLFA President, Lyndon Cooper. (Photo: Anthony De Beauville)
SLFA President, Lyndon Cooper. (Photo: Anthony De Beauville)

But Cooper is unperturbed saying that at no time did he decide to withdraw Saint Lucia from the qualifiers or forfeit.

“You can only withdraw if you consent. At no time did we convey any impression to anybody that Saint Lucia was going to play,” he said.

According to Cooper he wrote a letter to football’s governing body explaining why Saint Lucia could not participate in the qualifiers, however, when questioned about that letter he declined to comment on its contents.

“I am waiting on FIFA for a response. I have to show a level of respect as the SLFA President to FIFA,” Cooper said referring to his decision not to reveal the letter’s contents.

“So if anybody believe I should have done it, I am sorry, accept my sincere apologies,” Cooper added.

According to the SLFA Chief, FIFA and CONCACAF were in contact as far back as December with the office of the General Secretary, Victor Reid. He said that FIFA indicated that no games could be held in a country which has a quarantine regime for more than five days.

“Therefore as a result we did not have a home venue and we were sourcing somewhere in the Caribbean during the quarantine period,” Cooper said, adding that “all the countries Saint Lucia was placed in had a home venue except Saint Lucia and none of those teams were prepared to forego their venue to accommodate us”.

“When the issue of the bubble came up, Saint Lucia had already informed FIFA/CONCACAF in February that it was having challengers with its venue and movements of its international players and training protocols, and we would not be able to consent to the qualifiers,” Cooper said.

Cooper said that in January, through a series of meetings, Technical Director, Ces Podd engaged all the players on a one and one basis explaining to them the possibility of their none participation in the qualifiers due “to the logistical nightmare that the SLFA is having with a venue, finance, training, travel and finding players.”

The SLFA President took issue with a comment made by the Government of Saint Lucia which expressed disappointment with Saint Lucia’s none participation in the World Cup Qualifiers.

The statement from the Office of the Prime Minister stated that the SLFA took the decision without first consulting with the Ministry for Youth Development and Sport. Further, government had made special provisions for national athletes reflected in COVID-19 legislation. The government also said that it facilitated Platinum FC from Vieux Fort South due to travel in April for a tournament in Curacao

“Why would the Government of Saint Lucia believe that we did not ask them for permission to play when the SLFA had never indicated to anybody it had asked the government to train as a team? And secondly on that issue, the permission for Platinum FC from Vieux Fort South to train was a request made by the SLFA, two weeks after it had returned to FIFA/CONCACAF indicating its challenges. The SLFA has already put its position to FIFA/ CONCACAF when we wrote on behalf of Platinum FC, but the results of approval came out last week.

According to Cooper, the issue of not having a home venue is nothing new as Saint Lucia in the last four years played most of its international matches outside.

Responding to a question about sanctions from FIFA should that body decide to take action against the SLFA for Saint Lucia’s none participation in the qualifiers, Cooper said that if any sanctions come through, Saint Lucia will formally appeal the decision and will put together one of the best legal teams ever assembled to present the SLFA case.

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