The Trinidad and Tobago national football team looks set for a glamour international friendly with Argentina just two weeks before the heralded South American football nation kicks off its Brazil 2014 World Cup campaign against Bosnia and Herzegovina in Rio de Janeiro.
The Argentina FA revealed the fixture to international news agency, Reuters, today and the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA), which had hoped to unveil the news at a press conference, confirmed that the “Soca Warriors” might have a Messi June ahead.
“It is pretty much done and we only have to arrange a venue now,” TTFA general secretary Sheldon Phillips told Wired868. “This is part of our approach to get some games against teams who are playing in the (2014) World Cup… It is a fantastic opportunity for us.
“We had tried to get a game in Trinidad but most of the teams we spoke to, including Argentina, stated a preference for playing at (their) home.”
At present, Argentina is ranked third in the world while its team captain Lionel Messi has won the last four successive FIFA Player of the Year/Ballon dOr awards and is regarded as the best player of this generation and one of the greatest of all time.
In short, it will be the biggest friendly international game in Trinidad and Tobago’s football history and easily outshines the Warriors’ friendly against England in June 2008, which was played days before the English players went on holiday.
It is a major coup too for Phillips and TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee, who made good on their promise to get the Warriors regular games against notable opposition. Since Tim Kee took office a year ago, Trinidad and Tobago’s friendly opponents have been Peru (twice), Belize, Romania, Estonia, UAE, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand and Jamaica (twice).
Lining up high-profile fixtures is, arguably, Phillips’ strong suit. He ran the US-based Element Agency and Events sport company, which was involved in putting on the Tottenham/Liverpool exhibition match in Baltimore, Maryland last July. And he worked on various United States Soccer Federation (USSF) events before he replaced Richard Groden as TTFA general secretary.
Guillermo Tofoni, whose World Eleven agency organises all Argentina’s friendlies, told Reuters that Argentina will play Romania in Bucharest on March 5, Trinidad and Tobago at an unconfirmed venue on June 4 and Slovenia on June 7 at the River Plate stadium in Buenos Aires.
“The Slovenia (match) is confirmed and is good for the coach (Alejandro Sabella) because, like Bosnia, they’re a country from the former Yugoslavia,” said Tofoni. “Trinidad and Tobago is also already arranged, all that remains is to fix where it will be played but they’re a good sparring (partner) for Argentina.”
There is no certainty yet that Trinidad and Tobago captain and Stoke City forward Kenwyne Jones will lock horns with Barcelona legend, Messi. But Argentina will certainly be selecting from its 23-man World Cup squad, which should also include Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero, Napoli’s Gonzalo Higuain and Real Madrid’s Angel Di Maria.
“There is no guarantee that Messi will play,” said Phillips, “but we have every reason to believe he might.
“It will be the week before the World Cup so whoever plays will be guys who will be very well known.”
It should an amazing opportunity for upcoming Warriors like Lester Peltier (Slovan Bratislava), Khaleem Hyland (Racing Genk), Carlyle Mitchell (Vancouver Whitecaps), Robert Primus (Aktobe), Joevin Jones and Daneil Cyrus (both DIRECTV W Connection) to make a name for themselves and their country as well.
The Trinidad and Tobago and Argentina senior national teams met for the first time at the 1967 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada. Remarkably, Phillips’ father and local football legend, Lincoln “Tiger” Phillips, was in goal that day.
Phillips kept a clean sheet and Trinidad and Tobago won 1-0 for the nation’s most momentous victory up to that time.
Related story: Ataullah Guerra scored a superb opener as the Soca Warriors brought 2013 to a close with a 2-0 win over Jamaica. Click here to read the match report.