The Trinidad and Tobago national football team is expected to kick off in front of a large, partisan crowd from 7.15 pm tomorrow as the “Soca Warriors” face Oceania’s top outfit, New Zealand, at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.
Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) general secretary Sheldon Phillips told Wired868 that the 3,500 odd tickets distributed to various outlets nationwide have already sold out and fans interested in attending the game must pay at the gate tomorrow. The local football body is expecting between 12,000 and 15,000 spectators at the 22,000-seater venue.
By popular demand, the TTFA has added a special price for secondary school students who will pay $50 provided they walk with school IDS or uniforms. Children under the age of 12 are free.
Warriors captain and Stoke City forward Kenwyne Jones cannot wait.
“We’ve been longing for the opportunity to play before a decent crowd at home,” said Jones, “and especially after the way the team has been playing and showing improvement, we’ve been wanting to run out before the Trinidad and Tobago public.
“Of course the game is special because of what took place with Akeem Adams and the people want to play their part and will hopefully show up in their numbers to extend that support to Akeem and the national team.”
There will be a special commemorative section for Akeem Adams in the uncovered stands tomorrow and the price of admittance is $125. Fifty dollars from each ticket sold for that area will be donated to the former two-time World Youth Cup player, who is fighting for his life in Hungary after suffering a massive heart attack three weeks ago.
Otherwise, adult tickets cost $75 for uncovered and $100 for covered.
Phillips believes many fans will come out to show support and solidarity with the stricken Soca Warrior. And he thinks the emotions at play due to Adams’ struggle in Budapest and the fact that the Warriors have not played at home since February have already lifted energy levels in both camps.
“We had the opportunity to play this game in Los Angeles but we felt eight months away was a long enough time,” Phillips told Wired868. “Now it is time for the public to show its support and, based on the signs, it seems they have done so in a significant manner.
“We think the cause of Akeem Adams has played a big part and we are happy with the response from the public in supporting Akeem. In talking to the players and coaches from both teams, they are aware that this game carries special significance.
“Based on the energy and buzz around the squads, I have a feeling that the people who come out will be in for a treat. Stephen (Hart) is going to have a hard time to pick that starting 11.”
At the Larry Gomes Stadium in Malabar, the Warriors’ final training session was a sharp, intense affair as the 22 players executed shadow drills and then played a scrimmage among themselves.
Jones, Andre Boucaud and Radanfah Abu Bakr stood out for their generally sound decision-making but there was no shortage of enthusiasm and application. Newcomers Cordell Cato, Hughtun Hector and Rundell Winchester seemed to fit in well while the likes of Ataullah Guerra, Kevin Molino, Sheldon Bateau and Jan-Michael Williams looked in good spirits.
Hart said the competition for places has been so fierce that he is still two players short of his final starting team.
“I am juggling with two positions in my head,” said Hart, who refused to name the spots at stake. “In both cases, the choices can give something different and offer good quality.”
Bateau, who plays in central defence for KV Mechelen in the Belgium top flight, is likely to play at left back against New Zealand. He will be the fourth player that Hart uses at the left side of his defence after just seven games in charge; and only one of that quartet, Caledonia’s Aubrey David, plays the role regularly for his club.
The Trinidad and Tobago coach admitted that the 22-year-old Adams’ sudden and traumatic medical plight is more than just a humanitarian concern for the Warriors. It also robs local football of a potentially important player.
Hart had almost taken Adams to Saudi Arabia last month for the OSN Cup but opted to give him more time to settle in to his new life with Ferencvarosi. Almost certainly, the former Presentation College (San Fernando) would have been on the training ground in Malabar this evening but for cruel fate.
“We spoke about potentially taking Akeem to Saudi Arabia,” said Hart. “But I decided that he only just got there (in Hungary) and I would let him settle in with his club first.
“It is so sad what happened next.”
Tomorrow, Hart’s focus will be on getting his players to concentrate better and to improve their fluency and speed of play.
“Too many of the goals we conceded were just errors on our part and a lack of concentration,” said Hart, “and that is a theme we have been working on. Of course a national team does not spend much time together so there can be a lack of cohesion but we are all continuing to understand each other better…
“Tomorrow, we will be trying as much as possible to work on dictating the tempo of the game and how we manage the game. That is our main concern.”
A light drizzle wet the surface of the Larry Gomes Stadium this evening and Hart suggested that its impact on the pace and intensity of the team’s session should not be underestimated.
“One of the key problems with CONCACAF and in the Pro League is the state of the grounds,” he said. “We play on too many dry pitches and it slows down our game as the ball cannot be moved about as quickly… It is something that should be addressed.”
Tomorrow night, the Warriors have another target in mind.
New Zealand is 180 minutes away from the Brazil 2014 World Cup as the “All Whites” are preparing for a two-legged play-off against CONCACAF’s fourth placed team, which now looks likely to be Mexico.
It is a mark of the Warriors’ rapid improvement that they are unlikely to exhibit any inferiority complex tomorrow when they share the field with the only nation that was unbeaten at the 2010 World Cup after three successive draws in the group phase.
There is likely to be a large crowd cheering them on from the sidelines in Port of Spain while simultaneously offering prayers for an ailing Warrior in Budapest.
Trinidad and Tobago: Jan-Michael Williams, Marvin Phillips (goalkeepers); Carlyle Mitchell, Justin Hoyte, Aubrey David, Curtis Gonzales, Sheldon Bateau, Mekeil Williams, Radanfah Abu Bakr (defenders); Kevan George, Andre Boucaud, Densill Theobald, Hughtun Hector, Khaleem Hyland, Kevin Molino, Marcus Joseph, Cordell Cato, Lester Peltier, Ataullah Guerra (midfielders); Willis Plaza, Kenwyne Jones (captain), Rundell Winchester (forwards)
New Zealand: Glen Moss, Tamati Williams, Glen Moss (goalkeepers); Andrew Durante, Tony Lochhead, Winston Reid (captain), Tommy Smith, Aaron Scott, Bill Tuiloma, Ivan Vicelich (defenders); Leo Bertos, Jake Butler, Aaron Clapham, Jeremy Christie, Craig Henderson, Cam Howieson, Dan Keat, Michael McGlicnchey, Cole Peverley (midfielders); Kosta Barbarouses, Kris Bright, Jeremy Brokie, Rory Fallon (forwards)
Editor’s Note: Tickets for Trinidad and Tobago’s international friendly against New Zealand on October 15 at Hasely Crawford Stadium cost $50 (student), $75 (uncovered stands), $100 (covered stands) and $125 (Akeem Adams section).
Children under-12 are free while secondary school students are asked to walk with student IDs.
Wired868 will also carry live updates of the game on this website. Stay tuned.