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T&T U23 team selected; Warriors start qualifiers without warm-up match

The Trinidad and Tobago National Under-23 Team will head for the preliminary round of their 2016 Olympic qualifying campaign next week without a single warm-up match under their belts.

Head coach Zoran Vranes today selected a 20-man squad that includes capped senior team players Rundell Winchester, Kadeem Corbin, Shannon Gomez, Neveal Hackshaw and Jomal Williams.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago attacker Rundell Winchester (left) tussles with New Zealand captain and ex-West Ham defender Winston Reid during a senior international friendly at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in December 2013. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago attacker Rundell Winchester (left) tussles with New Zealand captain and ex-West Ham defender Winston Reid during a senior international friendly at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in December 2013.
(Courtesy Wired868)

Vranes is forced to do without winger Levi Garcia, who reported for pre-season training with Netherlands top flight club AZ, his namesake Akeem Garcia, who is injured, and playmaker Duane Muckette, who is on trial with North American Soccer League club New York Cosmos.

But the young “Soca Warriors” miss proper preparation more, as they spent the last two months playing against inactive Pro League and Super League clubs due to a lack of funds for international friendlies.

“Okay maybe our preparation was not the best because we did not have any international matches but this is the situation,” Vranes told the TTFA Media, “and we will try our best to overcome the other teams in Puerto Rico.

“It is going to be very tough because only one team comes out of the group.  The Association tried to give us what they could and now it has come down to this where we will go there and play to win all our matches.”

Photo: Former Central FC head coach Zoran Vranes is now in charge of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Team. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Former Central FC head coach Zoran Vranes is now in charge of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Team.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Last week, Under-23 manager David Muhammad told Wired868 that the Warriors were suffering due to a chronic lack of funding by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association and were largely ignored by the Ministry of Sport. They did not even have money for visas.

Muhammad said things have improved financially since then.

“The Ministry approved everything,” he said. “The problem is the amount of money is limited and I do appreciate to a certain extent what they said…

“Everyone in the entire football fraternity seems to read your articles and is up to date with what you write and that is a tremendous achievement.”

Apart from the lack of practice matches or live-in camps, there might be another potential drawback to the late funding as, according to news reports, the United States embassies have delayed visa appointments in the Caribbean until next week.

Potentially, it could cause major issues for the Under-23 squad who are supposed to travel to Puerto Rico on Sunday. However, Muhammad declined comment on possible complications.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago national team manager David Muhammad.
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago national team manager David Muhammad.

He did note though that, despite the problems facing local football, the public should be aware of the people sacrificing behind the scenes to keep the national programmes alive.

“William Wallace puts up with so much disrespect and fights hard and does a lot of the dirty work for the national teams,” said Muhammad. “I have to commend him for that. There are also people like Sharon O’ Brien, Hanifa Cox and DeLyse Mary who are really the backbone of our operations.

“And technical staff members like Ross Russell, Geoffrey Seales, Esmond O’ Brien and Michael Taylor, who take out of their personal finances to make sure the operation runs although they are already not being paid.

“There are a lot of gems in the football federation who get blamed when things go wrong but don’t get the credit when things go well.”

The final 20-man team did not include a single of the dozen or so players screened from United States universities including former national youth players like Xavier Rajpaul, Ricardo John, Brendon Creed and Leland Archer.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Jabari Mitchell plays the ball around a Curacao player during the 2014 Caribbean Cup. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Jabari Mitchell plays the ball around a Curacao player during the 2014 Caribbean Cup.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

There were no local schoolboys either like the Naparima College duo of Jabari Mitchell and Martieon Watson or St Anthony’s College playmaker Matthew Woo Ling as Vranes went with a fully professional squad.

The national youth coach suggested that there was a lot of natural talent in his ranks, which made squad selection difficult. But he warned that Trinidad and Tobago was not producing the calibre of players it did two decades ago when the local leagues included players like Nigel Pierre, Arnold Dwarika and Kerwin “Hardest” Jemmott.

He bemoaned the fact that the Under-23 squad was so poorly prepared although Olympic campaigns come along once every four years and the football body should not have been taken by surprise.

“We have to be very careful because we see smaller countries (like Curaçao) are getting stronger,” Vranes told Wired868. “The quality of football in Trinidad is down as opposed to when I came here 20 years ago. We need to work with (our young players) and give them opportunity to develop.

“And we need help from corporate Trinidad to do that in terms of better preparation and camps and international games. I am not calling any names but I am asking for the nation to help us.”

Photo: W Connection utility player Alvin Jones (right) evades SAP FC midfielder Okeem Challenger during 2015 Caribbean Club Championship action. (Courtesy Sinead Peters/Wired868)
Photo: W Connection utility player Alvin Jones (right) evades SAP FC midfielder Okeem Challenger during 2015 Caribbean Club Championship action.
(Courtesy Sinead Peters/Wired868)

Vranes vowed that his troops will do their best to advance from their group.

“We are trying very hard,” said the Serbia-born coach. “We have to be organized and not make too many costly mistakes…

“We have a lot (of quality) in attack and I think we will create chances and we will need to put them away.”

Trinidad and Tobago is scheduled to play Suriname (June 24)St Vincent and the Grenadines (June 26) and hosts Puerto Rico (June 28) with only the group winner advancing to the final Caribbean round in August.

The two top Caribbean teams will represent the region in the final CONCACAF Olympic qualifying phase in the United States.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago striker Kadeem Corbin celebrates his strike against Aruba in the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championships in Jamaica. He was booked for the gesture by Bahamian official Randolph Harris. (Courtesy CONCACAF)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago striker Kadeem Corbin celebrates his strike against Aruba in the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championships in Jamaica.
He was booked for the gesture by Bahamian official Randolph Harris.
(Courtesy CONCACAF)

(Trinidad and Tobago National Under-23 team)

Goalkeepers: Aaron Enil (San Juan Jabloteh), Javon Sample (Central FC), Montell Joseph (Unattached);

Defenders: Jibiri McDavid (Police FC), Alvin Jones, Maurice Ford (both W Connection), Dario Holmes (San Juan Jabloteh), Jesus Perez (North East Stars);

Midfielders: Shannon Gomez, Aikim Andrews, Triston Hodge, Jomal Williams (all W Connection), Neveal Hackshaw (North East Stars), Jelani Felix (Defence Force), Kadeem Corbin (St Ann’s Rangers), Nathaniel Garcia (Central FC);

Forwards: Dwight Quintero (Central FC), Neil Benjamin Jr (W Connection), Shackiel Henry (Point Fortin Civic) , Rundell Winchester (Portland Timbers 2—US).

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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36 comments

  1. Yh bro Mcroy Mcknight tnx bro sure will do

  2. Doing the same thing expecting different results is the definition of insanity could somebody please replace the entire TTFA or TTFF whatever they calling themselves Immediately

  3. Congrats meh brudda Dario Holmes share some pain out there

  4. A Waste of time,if somebody do not stage a boycott for change,and we keep playing at any course our football status would continue to diminish causing us to have very little quality opponents for friendly games thus putting us further down this hole for us to climb out.

  5. when players at theat all levels even the zone level get committed and dedicated and ambitious then our football would rise at the moment the players in d PRO league not even committed, dedicated or ambitious.

  6. I totally agree Brian Icecarnival Jordan ,there are many talented players in the super league even in the zones but 9 outta 10 Times thr reason they are there is because they not willing to train 5 or 6 times a week and the other commitments that PRO league players have to do.

  7. Who is your nephew Quianna David?

  8. De Ja Vu!! Same ole as Brent says. So don’t be surprised or act suprised when we get beat over and over and over and over and over. Fail to prepare! Prepare to fail!

  9. They could get a game in the WPL,that is a development program run by the Minister of Sport. As nobody really knew who was playing up to this morning and competition starts tomorrow.

  10. …nephew is on that team! Hoping for the best…le sigh…

  11. OK well I guess. But all these competitions are cyclical and yet still we are always scrambling for funds for international friendlies, for players. We not serious…

  12. Same song different tune. No prep no results man

  13. Well, Vranes does have a World Youth Cup qualification under his belt and he did well with Central FC this year. He earned his recall perhaps

  14. Haven’t we tried Zoran before? Wasn’t he sacked? Is it that we don’t have good coaches or the systems and support that is required for longterm success are never put in place by TTFF and their affiliates? I hear coach Hart complaining, Zoran complaining, former women’s coach Wladrum complaining and almost every coach before them all the way back to Gally (and I was a boy in 1989)

  15. The team has a nice balance, will give the Senior team a good run at this stage.

  16. Well done Dario Holmes hope you all do well

  17. Hope Muckette could make that Cosmos squad and pick up some tips from Raul.

  18. Vranes is good at getting the best out of young raw talent, but its a pity he was denied the scouting mission as that would have assisted his preparation given thd absence of warm-ups.

  19. This group will be tough. Suriname is much improved these days and Puerto Rico are never push overs. But I would be surprised if this team gets past the next Caribbean leg without proper preparation.

  20. Good luck to the team! Hopefully they can overcome the odds.

  21. Just pick a team.and it’s a recurring theme….

  22. If the Pro League players train more regularly and against better opposition, they will have an advantage over school players and super league players.
    Not that they are more talented necessarily. But they will be in better shape.

  23. So no warm up matches but we glad we getting to go on tour with tax payers $$$? If you fail to prepare then prepare to fail…trust me, it only have 1 result that could come out of this nonsense

  24. When the selection system/process gets revamped, I’d like to see more players from the Super League scouted and brought in to be considered. Not convinced we are getting that part right so far.

  25. We have to catch up in all levels of the sport. Regardless, all the best fellows.