The Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team will play their do-or-die World Cup qualifier against Honduras on 1 September at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva from 8pm.
It will be the first time in eight years that the Soca Warriors play a World Cup qualifying home match outside of the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain. On 6 June 2009, Trinidad and Tobago—under then rookie coach Russell Latapy—hosted Costa Rica at the Dwight Yorke Stadium in Bacolet.
The Warriors earned credit for their showing then although the result was a 3-2 defeat.
There is no margin for error for Trinidad and Tobago on 1 September and the Ato Boldon Stadium has not exactly been a lucky venue. The National Under-17 Team were eliminated in the group stage of the Caribbean Cup tournament at Couva last year while the Senior Team failed to impress there in January when they lost Gold Cup qualifiers against Suriname and Haiti .
Current Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence will hope to have more good fortune than Latapy and Tom Saintfiet respectively.
Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFA) president David John-Williams, during a call in to I95.5FM, said the decision to move the game was made after consultation with the Sport Company and Lawrence and several factors were taken into account.
Twice during the CONCACAF semifinal round, there were delays as the generator at the Hasely Crawford Stadium failed and the venue was plunged into darkness. John-Williams said the TTFA and Sportt felt more confident about the reliability of the Ato Boldon ground.
The TTFA president also noted the small crowds for the Warriors’ last home games against Panama and Mexico in Port-of-Spain in March, which attracted between 10,000 and 12,000 patrons respectively.
At these games, only 8,500 and 6,500 spectators, according to John-Williams, were paying patrons while the others benefitted from complimentary tickets.
The Ato Boldon Stadium holds just 10,000 persons compared to 23,000 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium. And John-Williams suggested that the football body preferred to be certain of a full ground, which could create a better atmosphere for the affair.
John-Williams noted too that the Couva facility is now the TTFA’s headquarters while the area also houses national venues for swimming, cycling and cricket. Central Trinidad, he suggested, is now the capital for sport in the two-island republic.
The local football president claimed that patrons will be allowed to park at the neighbouring sport venues, which should be able to accommodate another 700 vehicles. He also told Wired868 the TTFA will discuss with the PTSC the possibility of arranging a shuttle service to help fans get to a ground that is considered a nightmare for commuters.
There should be an early treat for football fans, though, as the TTFA is attempting to secure a home friendly against an African nation on Emancipation Day—1 August—as well as an 18 August outing against El Salvador.
Both outings should offer crucial match practice for the Warriors, who are the only team of the six in the Hex to miss out on the Gold Cup, currently in progress in the US. The Emancipation Day affair should be particularly useful as, coming five days after a friendly against Ecuador in Guayaquil, it allows Lawrence and his squad to mirror the September schedule of home and away matches within a five-day period.
John-Williams said the TTFA will ensure that the National Senior Team’s friendlies on the road, including Ecuador, continue to be broadcast on television at home.
After hosting Honduras, Trinidad and Tobago play Panama in Panama City on 5 September. Anything less than six points from the two upcoming qualifiers will extinguish any lingering hope of the National Senior Team advancing to the Russia 2018 World Cup.