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Belizean bacchanal: Frustrated Warriors force venue change

Financial wrangling, distrust, an airline booking hiccup, lost baggage, an inadequate playing surface, an abrupt re-scheduling; you name it.

At this rate, the Trinidad and Tobago national football team will be mentally drained before it takes the field for a friendly international fixture against Belize from 10 pm (8 pm Belize time) at the FFB Stadium in Belmopan on Saturday evening.

The venue for the friendly contest, the FFB Stadium is the only FIFA-approved venue in the Central American country and was constructed with $8.3 million (US$1.3 million) from the FIFA Goal programme. But local radio station LOVE FM will hosting its annual Bandfest there tomorrow; so the likes of Stoke City forward Kenwyne Jones and North East Stars striker Cornell Glen were initially ordered to play at the MCC instead.

Photo: Can Trinidad and Tobago and Stoke City forward Kenwyne Jones use your FFB Stadium, Belize? (Courtesy Allan V. Crane/ Wired868)
Photo: Can Trinidad and Tobago and Stoke City forward Kenwyne Jones use your FFB Stadium, Belize?
(Courtesy Allan V. Crane/ Wired868)

The MCC ground was so inadequate that the “Soca Warriors” refused to complete a training session on it and walked off after 40 minutes this afternoon.

Two Trinidad and Tobago players, who spoke to Wired868 from Belize this evening, said the players were considering boycotting the match if the Football Federation of Belize (FFB) did not change the venue.

The FFB retorted that it would water the ground and its president, Ruperto Vicente, was defiant in public as he claimed the federation stood to raise more money by playing the Warriors in Belize City.

“Before we discussed the international match with Trinidad, we had engaged the stadium to the organizers of the Band Fest,” the FFB president told Channel 7 Belize news, on Tuesday. “…When we got the game with Trinidad, we were saying that we decided that the best venue for this game would have been Belize City. It is about looking to raise more funds (…) to maintain our national team.”

But tonight, after the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) backed its players’ stance, Wired868 was informed that the FFB relented and confirmed the venue switch. The two events are expected to share the venue now.

Nothing has come easy for the Warriors of late and the players have been in constant crisis mode over the past three days as a series of mishaps have frustrated their two-game tour, which should feature warm-up matches against Belize on March 22 and Peru on March 26.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago full back Sheldon Bateau (centre) is surrounded by four Peru players in a recent friendly. The "Soca Warriors" have certainly felt isolated over the past year. (Courtesy Allan V. Crane/ Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago full back Sheldon Bateau (centre) is surrounded by four Peru players in a recent friendly.
The “Soca Warriors” have certainly felt isolated over the past year.
(Courtesy Allan V. Crane/ Wired868)

The Warriors would be relieved by the TTFF’s support but the relationship between players and staff allegedly remains strained.

The players were incensed on Monday when their team management informed them that they would only receive match fees and per diems when they returned to Trinidad after the overseas games.

Twenty Warriors, including nine players on this tour, are already owed roughly $7,000 each for their part in the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) qualifying series last October and are fed up of broken promises. The squad refused to budge without a guarantee that players would be paid during the tour.

A late compromise between the TTFF and the Sport Ministry persuaded the players to leave for Belize on Tuesday. But, once in Belize City, the Warriors were allegedly informed yesterday that the Trinidad and Tobago government did not provide enough money to cover all match fees.

An offer was supposedly made to pay the foreign-based players immediately while the home-based players would receive their fees on their return to Trinidad. Predictably, that news did not go down well with the squad and some Warriors accused the technical staff of dishonesty.

There were other issues that added to the feeling of unease.

Both players who spoke to Wired868 claimed that there was no booking for the Warriors when they got to Miami and it took a last ditch intervention from TTFF president Raymond Tim Kee to get a connecting flight.

Three players, Port Vale midfielder Chris Birchall, FC Edmonton defender Carlyle Mitchell and DIRECTV W Connection defender Daneil Cyrus, then arrived in Belize without their luggage due to an airline error.

It took several hours before the trio had the comfort of clean underwear and their football boots for training.

Training, of course, did not last long for aforementioned reasons.

“We thought things would get better after we qualified for the Gold Cup,” said one Warrior, who asked to remain anonymous. “But it feels as if things are getting worse.”

Last year, in-fighting between the TTFF and Sport Minister Anil Roberts meant a barrage of financial problems for the Warriors who had to scrap practise matches and even pooled their own money for laundry and extra meals during the preliminary qualifying round. The players were marooned too by Tropical Storm Rafael in St Kitts.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago defender Daneil Cyrus (right) gets a grip on Cuban attacker Marcel Hernandez during the 2012 Caribbean Cup final. (Courtesy Allan V. Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago defender Daneil Cyrus (right) gets a grip on Cuban attacker Marcel Hernandez during the 2012 Caribbean Cup final.
(Courtesy Allan V. Crane/Wired868)

2013 has not started much better with the latest bout of bacchanal in Belize and the likes of Jones, Birchall, Glen and Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA midfielder Densill Theobald might be reminiscing on how far Trinidad and Tobago has fallen since their historic appearance at the Germany World Cup, seven years ago.

These days, the Warriors have to fight tooth and nail to get a proper field, their own luggage and match fees that are less than a quarter of the rate it was when Dwight Yorke was national captain.

Joint head coaches Hutson “Barber” Charles and Jamaal Shabazz will hope the players have enough mental fortitude in reserve to see off their Belizean opponents in less than 48 hours.

T&T 19-man squad

Goalkeepers: Marvin Phillip (Central FC), Cleon John (North East Stars);

Defenders: Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Daneil Cyrus (DIRECTV W Connection), Carlyle Mitchell (FC Edmonton—Canada), Kareem Moses (North East Stars), Aubrey David (Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA);

Midfielders: Chris Birchall (Port Vale—England), Densill Theobald, Keyon Edwards (both Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA), Keon Daniel (Philadelphia Union—US), Joevin Jones (DIRECTV W Connection);

Wingers: Kevon Carter (Defence Force), Darren Mitchell, Jason Marcano (both Central FC), Marcus Joseph (Point Fortin Civic Centre);

Forwards: Kenwyne Jones (Stoke City—England), Devorn Jorsling (Defence Force), Cornell Glen (North East Stars).

 

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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2 comments

  1. When would we learn? The players have responsibilities just like anyone else, why do we continue to treat with them as slaves or 3rd class citizens? No amount of dedication and love for country can motivate you to win games while you’re worrying about if you will be paid. You go to a foreign country and you can’t even use part of your stipend to buy a souvenir because your federation haven’t paid you. How can the Sport ministry allow citizens to go abroad and represent and not provide the required funds?

  2. Here we go again!!! Preparing for a major competition with an amateur attitude. If you want players to perform at a high level, you have to prepare them at a high level. The non payment of a simple stipend is unacceptable.