Trinidad and Tobago defender Sheldon Bateau, who was stand-in captain on Saturday when the Soca Warriors drew goalless with The Bahamas, said that the team’s weekend result and subsequent elimination from the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying series affected the older players more than the younger ones.
The 30-year-old Bateau, who represented Trinidad and Tobago at the 2007 Under-17 and 2009 Under-20 World Cups, further suggested that some of the younger players in the squad did not sufficiently value the importance of the national shirt, as he reminisced over his time as a national youth player under then head coach Anton Corneal.
“We started training in a white tee-shirt and you had to earn a red tee-shirt,” Bateau told the TTFA Media. “I think part of the problem now is a lot of the players are coming into the team and just getting a red tee-shirt. And when it comes so easily, they don’t appreciate the fact that they’re playing for the senior national team.
“We are in a World Cup campaign and that sense of importance is not really there. It is as if it is just another game.”
“[…] My feeling is that [our elimination] affects the senior guys more than the other guys. Maybe because they have time to look to another campaign. Maybe I am wrong but that is the overall feeling I have…”
It was not a view that went uncontested. Twenty-three-year-old attacker Levi Garcia said, in a separate interview, that he was also distraught by the Bahamas result.
“All the guys are devastated at the moment—some try not to show it,” said Garcia, who plays professionally with AEK Athens in the Greek top flight. “[…] When you think about how old I will be [for the 2026 World Cup] then it is scary, because that could be coming to the end of my career.”
Bateau, who has 45 senior international caps with four goals, also hinted at issues off the field of play. But he said the players should have done better against a team ranked 201st from Fifa’s 210 member associations. (Trinidad and Tobago are ranked 103rd at present.)
“We had a lot of questions before the game, we have even more now after the game but firstly we need to accept some sort of responsibility for the result,” said Bateau, without elaborating on his questions. “Regardless of the circumstances, we are all professionals, and at the end of the day we had to do better but that is the way it goes. I think it is just a reflection of some of the things that have been happening over the past years, weeks, months.
“[…] It was really disappointing. We have no excuse really. I think nine out of ten times we would win against [the Bahamas] easily.”
The Belgium-based professional said Trinidad and Tobago players do not have easy time focusing on the game of football, due to the various distractions.
“For me, I always have to motivate myself when it comes to Trinidad football,” said Bateau. “To be honest there’s so many things against us as players, that mentally, physically, financially, playing for the national team takes a lot out of you. We miss family time, you name it. We sacrifice a lot.
“For me personally, I am still looking forward to the game tomorrow—it is all about pride. As to what the future holds, I don’t know. We have a lot to fix and I think if these things aren’t fixed it is difficult to continue under these circumstances.
“[…] There has to be a silver lining somewhere and we have to get to that point.”
For now, Bateau and Garcia said the goal is ‘to give a good showing’ against St Kitts and Nevis, which they hope can carry over to the team’s 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup playoffs next month. The Warriors travelled to the Dominican Republic in two groups on Sunday and face the ‘Sugar Boyz’ from 5pm tomorrow at the Estadio Felix Sanchez in Santo Domingo.
The Boyz are already guaranteed to finish top of the group.
“We have to have some sort of pride as players,” said Bateau. “We go into the game against St Kitts [and Nevis] to get three points and try to undo what we did last game in terms of the performance we gave.
“The result is not going to change anything, the damage is done but we have the Gold Cup playoffs to work towards and we already know the situation back home.”
(Trinidad and Tobago team listed with club name; age; caps/goals)
Goalkeepers: 22.Adrian Foncette (Police FC; 32; 17/0), 1.Denzil Smith (W Connection; 21; 0/0);
Defenders: 16.Shannon Gomez (Sacramento Republic—USA; 24; 3/0), 15.Neveal Hackshaw (Indy Eleven—US; 25; 18/0), 17.Justin Garcia (Defence Force; 25; 3/0), 4.Sheldon Bateau (Mechelen—Belgium; 30; 45/4), 22.Jesse Williams (Unattached; 18; 0/0), 2.Aubrey David (Deportivo Saprissa—Costa Rica; 30; 56/1), 6.Radanfah Abu Bakr (Unattached; 34; 37/2), 12.Robert Primus (FC Bengaluru Utd—India; 30; 9/0), 20.Noah Powder (Real Salt Lake—US; 22; 3/0), 13.Keston Julien (FC Sheriff Tiraspol—Moldova; 23; 3/0);
Midfielders: 18.Michel Poon-Angeron (Unattached; 20; 3/0), 10.Duane Muckette (Unattached; 25; 8/0), 19.Daniel Phillips (Watford FC—England; 20; 3/0), 8.Khaleem Hyland (Al Batin FC—Saudi Arabia; 31; 90/4), Hashim Arcia (Defence Force; 32; 13/1), 14.Andre Fortune II (Memphis 901—USA; 24; 4/0);
Attackers: 11.Levi Garcia (AEK Athens FC—Greece; 23; 29/3), 3.Joevin Jones (InterMiami CF—USA; 29; 80/9), 5.Judah Garcia (Unattached; 20; 6/0), Gary Griffith III (Unattached; 18; 0/0), Nickel Orr (Paeek FC—Cyprus; 20; 0/0), 7.Ryan Telfer (Atletico Ottawa—Canada; 27; 10/4), 9.Daniel Carr (FC Bengaluru—India; 26; 5/0).
Head coach: Terry Fenwick (England)
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