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Game off: CFU circus continues as T&T U23’s opener now postponed

Three days and as many decisions. God knows the trauma that Trinidad and Tobago’s National Under-23 football players have endured over the past week.

One thing now beyond dispute is that the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) has only made things worse.

Photo: CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb (left) congratulates freshly minted CFU President Gordon Derrick. Derrick was charged for his role in the Mohamed Bin Hammam bribery scandal while Webb is wanted by the FBI for racketeering.
Photo: CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb (left) congratulates freshly minted CFU President Gordon Derrick.
Derrick was charged by FIFA for his role in the Mohamed Bin Hammam bribery scandal while Webb is wanted by the FBI for racketeering.

Today, the “Soca Warriors” were advised that their 2016 Olympic qualifying fixture against Suriname will be postponed until Thursday June 25 in Puerto Rico while the group match days should play on Thursday, Saturday and Monday respectively.

Yesterday, the CFU ordered Trinidad and Tobago to face Suriname at 10.30 pm tonight while, on Monday, the game was declared as abandoned in favour of the Warriors with the Dutch-speaking nation ruled out of the competition.

And, Sunday and before, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago were expected to face each other at 5.30 pm today.

Caribbean football officials have been admonished, en masse, for corruption ever since the Mohamed Bin Hammam bribery scandal in 2011. While the FBI has already issued warrants for two past and present regional administrators, including Trinidad’s Jack Warner.

But incompetence is just as glaring an issue in the Caribbean, which, by virtue of its number of member associations, has the most political clout in CONCACAF.

Granted the ineptitude is, arguably, not restricted to the governing body in this case.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago right back Shannon Gomez (right) battles for possession against Cuba during the 2014 Under-20 Caribbean Cup. Gomez will miss the opening Olympic qualifying round due to his inability to secure travel documents. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago right back Shannon Gomez (right) battles for possession against Cuba during the 2014 Under-20 Caribbean Cup.
Gomez will miss the opening Olympic qualifying round due to his inability to secure travel documents.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

The four participating nations, host Puerto Rico and guests, Suriname, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago, knew the tournament location and fixtures since 21 April 2015. None of the travelling nations attempted to secure visas until nearly mid-June.

And, as it turned out, the United States Embassy began experiencing serious technical problems on May 26.

“The Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs is currently experiencing technical problems with our overseas passport and visa systems,” stated the US Embassy’s website. “This issue is not specific to any particular country, citizenship document, or visa category… Passport applications accepted overseas or after May 26, 2015 are affected by this delay.

“If you applied for a U.S. passport overseas during this time frame and have travel plans within the next 10 business days, please consider requesting an emergency passport…”

Warriors team manager David Muhammad is not alone in suggesting the CFU erred in putting a Caribbean competition on one of the few islands in the region that requires visas for entry.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Team manager David Muhammad.
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Team manager David Muhammad.

And Muhammad urged CFU officials to follow the example provided by Canada, who host the July Pan American Games and also insists on visas for travellers.

“What the (Trinidad and Tobago) Olympic Committee did was requested a roster along with photographs, which were submitted to the Canada embassy,” Muhammad told Wired868, “and, through the Canadian Embassy, we got temporary accreditation which will have the same weight as a visa for the duration of the tournament.

“If the CFU wants to hold a tournament in a country where a visa is required, they could at least explore the possibility of something of that nature.”

According to Muhammad, St Vincent and the Grenadines Under-23 players are stuck in Barbados awaiting visas for the past two days while their Surinamese counterparts are yet to land in Puerto Rico.

It created a farcical scenario in which Muhammad, who had a 12th Trinidad and Tobago player—former National Under-20 midfielder Keane McIvor—flown in today, claimed an administrative victory by virtue of getting to Puerto Rico at all.

Photo: Virginia Tech striker and former St Augustine Secondary student Ricardo John. John, a former National Under-20 player, was added to the Under-23 roster because he already had a visa.
Photo: Virginia Tech striker and former St Augustine Secondary student Ricardo John.
John, a former National Under-20 player, was added to the Under-23 roster because he already had a visa.

McIvor, according to Muhammad, was the best player who was ready and able to join the squad. Although he hardly helps the balance of the squad, which now has one goalkeeper, two defenders, six midfielders and three forwards.

“The impression given is that the Trinidad and Tobago team was behind everyone else,” said Muhammad, “but we are the only travelling team that is here and ready to play. So I am really proud of that.

“I want to express my gratitude too for the Ministry of National Security and Sport  for having our visa situation expedited. And also Peter Rampersad, William Wallace, Sheldon Phillips and Sharon O’Brien who really worked hard at this.

“Now looking at how the other teams have fallen by the wayside thus far, it was a really impressive group effort by all of those persons and the staff out here.”

It is left to be seen how much the Warriors’ improvisations help in the long run. After selecting a 20-man team two weeks ago, Under-23 coach Zoran Vranes was forced to cut half his players as he adjusted his roster on at least four occasions.

Photo: Teenaged W Connection defender Maurice Ford (right) wrestles with a Montego Bay United attacker during the 2015 Caribbean Club Championship semifinals at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva. Ford was selected but then left out of the Under-23 squad to let in players with visas. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Teenaged W Connection defender Maurice Ford (right) wrestles with a Montego Bay United attacker during the 2015 Caribbean Club Championship semifinals at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva.
Ford was selected but then left out of the Under-23 squad to let in players with visas.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

McIvor’s arrival, for instance, means that Trinidad and Tobago will have 21 players when the remaining nine Warriors land tomorrow. Tournament rules allow just 20-man squads.

“We will ask to play with 21,” said Muhammad.

Olympic competition rules also mandates that teams select three goalkeepers within that 20-man squad. The Warriors will have just two goalies, Montell Joseph and Aaron Enill, after Central FC custodian Javon Sample was denied a visa.

“We asked an official (about competition with two goalkeepers) and he said it is fine,” said Muhammad. “It is the kind of lenience that will be expected at this stage I guess.”

The alleged relaxing of the rules was delivered verbally as has been every CFU decision save the word that Suriname had withdrawn from the competition. Muhammed revealed that the stipulated match coordination between participating nations and tournament organisers are yet to take place.

“We have had no match coordination meetings at all since we were here,” he said.

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)

Wired868 tried to contact CFU general secretary Damien Hughes for word on the competition by phone and email. Up until the time of publication, there was no response.

At present, Trinidad and Tobago is set to play Suriname tomorrow evening in Puerto Rico. But who knows what tomorrow will bring.

(Trinidad and Tobago Under-23 Team in Puerto Rico)

Goalkeepers: Montell Joseph (Unattached);

Defenders: Leland Archer (College of Charleston—USA), Martieon Watson (W Connection);

Midfielders: Neveal Hackshaw (North East Stars), Jelani Felix (Defence Force), Duane Muckette (North East Stars), Jabari Mitchell (W Connection), Xavier Rajpaul (College of Charleston—USA), Keane McIvor (Lindsey Wilson College—USA);

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Neveal Hackshaw (left) tries to close down Guatemala star Mauro Portillo during the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championships in Jamaica. (Courtesy CONCACAF)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Neveal Hackshaw (left) tries to close down Guatemala star Mauro Portillo during the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championships in Jamaica.
(Courtesy CONCACAF)

Forwards: Rundell Winchester (Portland Timbers 2—USA), Ricardo John (Virginia Tech—USA), Adrian Welch (St John’s University—USA);

Staff: Zoran Vranes (coach), David Muhammad (manager), Gilbert Bateau (assistant coach/trainer), Michael Taylor (physio), Esmond O’ Brien (equipment manager).

 

(Remaining squad members due to arrive in Puerto Rico in Thursday)

Goalkeeper: Aaron Enill (San Juan Jabloteh);

Defenders: Alvin Jones (W Connection), Jesus Perez (North East Stars), Josiah Trimmingham (San Juan Jabloteh);

Photo: W Connection right back Alvin Jones (left) fires his shot past San Juan Jabloteh left back Calib Sturge during 2014 First Citizens Cup action. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: W Connection right back Alvin Jones (left) fires his shot past San Juan Jabloteh left back Calib Sturge during 2014 First Citizens Cup action.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Midfielders: Jomal Williams, Aikim Andrews (both W Connection), Kadeem Corbin (St Ann’s Rangers).

Staff: Nigel Neverson (goalkeeper coach).

 

(Players who failed to get travel documents and visas)

Goalkeeper: Javon Sample (Central FC);

Defender: Shannon Gomez (W Connection);

Forward: Dwight Quintero (Central FC);

Photo: Central FC forward Dwight Quintero (left) tries to slow down North East Stars defender Glenton Wolfe during Pro League action. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Central FC forward Dwight Quintero (left) tries to slow down North East Stars defender Glenton Wolfe during Pro League action.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

(Player who travelled with invalid visa)

Midfielder: Nathaniel Garcia (Central FC),

 

(Players who were omitted to let in others with visas)

Defenders: Jibiri McDavid (Police FC), Maurice Ford, Triston Hodge (both W Connection), Dario Holmes (San Juan Jabloteh);

Photo: W Connection attacker Neil Benjamin Jr (left) is taken out by Defence Force player Dave Long during a Pro League fixture. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: W Connection attacker Neil Benjamin Jr (left) is taken out by Defence Force player Dave Long during a Pro League fixture.
(Courtesy Wired868)

(Injured)

Forward: Neil Benjamin Jr.

Editor’s note: The following notice was released by the CFU at 8:15 PM on June 24: Official word has now been given from CFU. Suriname are officially out of the tournament. The fixtures are now as follows:-

Thursday 25th June
Puerto Rico vs St Vincent- 8:00PM
 
Saturday 27th June St. Vincent v Trinidad & Tobago -8:00PM
 
Monday 29th June – Puerto Rico vs Trinidad & Tobago- 8:00PM
 
The T&T Team returns home on Tuesday, June 30th

 

AboutLasana 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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16 comments

  1. Lol, yeah Jon. I have been the face for the deteriorating state of local football for a while now 🙁 Wired868 uses this pic occasionally.

    Seriously, I hope we can put things right.

  2. Kyle Difference Maker Grant yuh famous now!

  3. Next time host the tournament in a non US territory and problems minimized…

  4. Classic CFU…total joke of an organization

  5. Have a read for details though…

  6. It was on. Then Scrapped. Then rescheduled. And now postponed… Stay tuned for what they will say tomorrow!

  7. i am confused, it was on,off, on and off again?

  8. Well, TV6 is behind on this one. But then it isn’t easy to stay current with this absolute absurd competition!

  9. Hahaha… I feel that way Teflon Shawn! I was thinking about: “Allyuh please bear with me but…”

  10. Just trying to follow this story is making my head spin….

  11. TV6 has reported on 7:00pm sportscast that the game is on tonight at 10:30pm and T&T playing with a bare eleven. This is wrong on so many fronts. I cannot understand if you know about a tournament in advance why you cannot make visa arrangements. This will take some liaising with the Ministry of National Security and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Why is everything last minute? CFU playing the fool. How on one day you say that Suriname is not playing then the next day the game is on. At some point in time you have to say Thanks but no Thanks and face the consequences.

  12. All who vote that Lasana should henceforth, begin all his posts with: ‘I hate to be the bearer of bad news but…’ Say “aye”

  13. Where the list the other man put up of college players? Call them all up lol

  14. Steeuuppss Them really good yes.