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Letter to Editor: The CFU’s ‘ridiculous rule change’ is what cost T&T a Gold Cup spot

“It is to be noted that if this regular system was used—as with all previous and present FIFA qualifying league tournaments, including the present World Cup qualifiers—our National Team would have won the [Caribbean Cup qualifying group] between themselves, Dominic Republic and Martinique.

“[In that competition, then coach Stephen Hart’s team acquired] four points along with Martinique but would have qualified automatically for the Gold Cup by having a superior goal difference.”

The following Letter to the Editor on the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) rule change, which means that all matches must be played until there is a winner, was sent to Wired868 by ex-National Security Minister Gary Griffith:

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Nathan Lewis (left) looks for support during 2017 Gold Cup playoff action against Suriname at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva on 4 January 2017. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Nathan Lewis (left) looks for support during 2017 Gold Cup playoff action against Suriname at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva on 4 January 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

The last thing that football supporters want to hear are perceived excuses for their team not qualifying or winning a tournament. But it must be brought to the attention of all, that the Caribbean Football Union must be taken to task for their ridiculous plan at the recent CFU Gold Cup qualifying tournament of the “every game must have result.”

This was in total contrast to all FIFA International tournaments whereby the winners are decided via most points accumulated per game, followed by goal difference, then goals for, and then the head to head result—if the other three factors are also tied.

It is to be noted that if this regular system was used—as with all previous and present FIFA qualifying league tournaments, including the present World Cup qualifiers—our National Team would have won the [Caribbean Cup qualifying group] between themselves, Dominic Republic and Martinique.

[In that competition, then coach Stephen Hart’s team acquired] four points along with Martinique but would have qualified automatically for the Gold Cup by having a superior goal difference.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Levi Garcia (left) tries to escape from Dominican Republic right back Carlos Martínez during 2017 Caribbean Cup qualifying action at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 5 October 2016. (Courtesy Nicholas Bhajan/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Levi Garcia (left) tries to escape from Dominican Republic right back Carlos Martínez during 2017 Caribbean Cup qualifying action at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 5 October 2016.
(Courtesy Nicholas Bhajan/Wired868)

But instead, the CFU decided to proceed with the most ridiculous plan of insisting that every game must have a winner, which was not only impractical for a league tournament but caused possible avenues for match fixing and teams even deliberately attempting to lose to then qualify.

Going into the last game of the Gold Cup play off against Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago needed to win by two clear goals to top the group. And, because of this new rule, the two goal win could have been in regular time or the added 30 minutes extra time—if the score was level at regulation time.

So, because of this ridiculous format established by the CFU and with the score tied at 2-2 with a minute to go, it benefited Trinidad and Tobago NOT to score, so they could go into extra time to get 30 minutes to score two goals.

This then meant that it would have been to an opposing team’s advantage—Haiti, in this case—to have their opponent score on them and they lose the game, so they would qualify.

Had the Haiti coach known this, he could then have easily directed his team to score an own goal with seconds left in the game and deliberately lose 2-3 in full time, to avoid having T&T acquire a full 30 minutes to score the two clear goals needed.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Tom Saintfiet (left) cheers on hattrick hero Shahdon Winchester during 2017 Gold Cup playoff action against Haiti at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 8 January 2017. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Tom Saintfiet (left) cheers on hattrick hero Shahdon Winchester during 2017 Gold Cup playoff action against Haiti at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 8 January 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Likewise, the T&T coach may well have told his team not to score with a few minutes to go, so he would get the 30 minutes extra time to score the two goals needed.

It shows that this format can be manipulated, can cause match fixing and open the windows for poor ethics to ensure qualifying, which cannot be good for the sport.

Our nation has not qualified for the Gold Cup because administrators in CFU decided to do their own thing—outside of FIFA’s usual League regulations—and their shortcoming should be exposed, which would  ensure that they do not repeat such blunders in the future.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Adrian Foncette (left) reaches for the ball while defenders Maurice Ford (centre) and Radanfah Abu Bakr look on during 2017 Gold Cup playoff action against Haiti at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Adrian Foncette (left) reaches for the ball while defenders Maurice Ford (centre) and Radanfah Abu Bakr look on during 2017 Gold Cup playoff action against Haiti at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Editor’s Note: FIFA has proposed using the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) format for deciding group matches in the 2026 World Cup, when the tournament will be expanded to 48 teams for the first time.

Trinidad and Tobago would have finished unbeaten in the Gold Cup playoffs under Tom Saintfiet without the CFU tournament rule change. However, they would still have failed to qualify with two points—while Haiti and Suriname would have finished with four points and one point respectively.

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27 comments

  1. It does not matter how shitty the rules are,,,
    the opposition played by the same rules ….

    we did not qualify because of our team’s shitty play …

    end of story

  2. Haha ha best joke dey bai PS we not good

  3. What cost us the Gold Cup is our team’s inability to get results.

  4. That pot bellied pig and his lap dogs…..beg Hart 2 come back. …unleash ball pest who’s much better than Molino, Jonathan Glenn, joevin jones, bakr and Bateau best centerback combination, Ricardo John should be looked at from long time. ..and also Darren Mitchell should be considered 4 right or left wingback. …last and certainly not least, try attaullah Guerra as a striker…

  5. Earl Best

    I never thought I would hear myself defending Gary Motor Mouth Griffith but I don’t think those who are criticising him here are being fair.

    My reading of it is that he was dealing with a principle (Competition rules should be so designed as to make the playing field level for all teams), which is beyond dispute. I don’t think the interpretation that Trinidad lost because of the shitty rules – and none can dispute that he leaves no doubt about just how shitty these rules were. is a fair interpretation of what he is saying.

    But you often need genius or something akin to it to understand precisely what GMMG is saying so…

  6. The rules are silly, but saying they are the reason we didn’t get a Gold Cup spot is a different conversation. Whatever the rules were or weren’t, we lost against Suriname – after that it was always going to be uphill with the other team being Haiti.

  7. I hear you but the fact is that T& T football is at a very low stage and that’s what we need to fix.

  8. In a CFU qualifying tournament held in Barbados in 1994, similar rules lead to the farce of Barbados scoring on Barbados (when playing against Grenada. The current President of the Grenada FA played in that game; he is now a Vice President with CFU.

  9. The rules applied to the same three teams …la la or not ….. and we came dead last …… the rules were la la just like our team …. 🙁

  10. Agree that the rules might be questionable, but to say after the fact it caused us to not qualify is pure foolishness.

  11. ..Nah. We didn’t deserve to qualify. But the rule is crap..

  12. Wait – I thought we didn’t qualified because we played pure shit. What kind ah dotish excuse is this? Lasana you give that man space to write that kind of crap? Smh

  13. Rule change or not….we should have beaten Martinique. No excuses.

  14. Allyuh just buttering it up. Is level shit. These people just messing up the beautiful game. Steups

  15. . FIFA hasn’t decided to use the CFU format Lasana. CFU was used a guinea pig for this nonsenical rule that will be applied in the new “wash yuh foot and jump een” World Cup of 2026. And CFU leaders praising this. Caribbean people to the slaughter..

  16. We didn’t qualify because we lost both games …simple….. absolute pile of lala!! Weren’t the other teams exposed to the same rules as well …..la la land!!

  17. The rules were definitely some jackass rules.