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Humiliation! T&T U-23s eliminated after just one Olympic qualifying match

The Trinidad and Tobago National Under-23 Team set a new low point for local football last night as the “Soca Warriors” were eliminated from their 2016 Olympic qualifying campaign after just one match.

Technically, it took just 45 minutes to end any realistic hope of success for coach Zoran Vranes and his troops as they trailed St Vincent and the Grenadines 4-0 by the halftime interval in Puerto Rico.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Aikim Andrews (right) forces his way past Haiti defender Stephane Lambese during the 2014 Under-20 Caribbean Cup. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Aikim Andrews (right) forces his way past Haiti defender Stephane Lambese during the 2014 Under-20 Caribbean Cup.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

By the final whistle, the Warriors halved the deficit—the final score read: St Vincent and the Grenadines 5, Trinidad and Tobago 3—but it was not nearly enough to avoid a humiliating exit from the Olympic Games at the first competitive rung.

Trinidad and Tobago now face Puerto Rico from 8 pm on Monday with no chance of advancing. The host nation, who drew 2-2 with “Vincey Heat” on Thursday night, will aim to whip the Warriors by a larger margin to snatch the sole qualification berth at stake.

It is a humbling indictment on the state of the local game at present.

The young Warriors would bear the stigma of this defeat. And five squad members—Alvin Jones, Jomal Williams, Xavier Rajpaul, Duane Muckette and Shackiel Henry—were on the National Under-20 Team that was also eliminated in the Caribbean preliminary round, three years ago.

However, Trinidad and Tobago’s Olympic qualifying campaign was always a disaster in the making, although probably more spectacularly than most may have envisaged.

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)

On the day Vranes was unveiled as Under-23 coach, on 21 April 2015, he admitted he only learned of the team’s fixtures that very morning and was very unimpressed.

“If I knew (earlier) our qualifiers started in June, I would not have accepted,” Vranes told Wired868. “I had information that it was in August. I have a month to prepare the team but I will not say that we have no chance…

“We made plans for August and tomorrow is the first day of training. But I was told today that (the Olympic qualifiers will start in) June. Now, I have to sit down to make new plans.”

Vranes requested five different practice games against international opposition, including Panama. Every one was turned down for financial reasons.

Two weeks ago, the Warriors did snag a closed doors contest with Nicaragua at the Ato Boldon Stadium, which they lost 1-0. But by then the team was in disarray, as their failure to secure visas for an astonishing 15 members of their 20-man squad forced Vranes to recall players he had already let go.

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

Trinidad and Tobago only got 12 players to Puerto Rico in time for their first scheduled match against Suriname and just four of that number were in Vranes’ initial squad.

Suriname failed to show and was withdrawn from the competition. And Warriors manager David Muhammad cooed about the depth of his squad and the administrative effort of the support staff.

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

“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.”

St Vincent had not arrived in Puerto Rico at the time. But they had little trouble in exposing the flaws in a Trinidad and Tobago team, which included players that Vranes deemed were not up to scratch over three weeks ago.

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

Within a 25-minute spell yesterday, the Vincentians scored four times in the first half. United States-based strikers Rundell Winchester pulled back one and Defence Force winger Akeem Roach grabbed a double. But it was not enough for the Warriors.

And Trinidad and Tobago was out.

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

Goalkeepers: Aaron Enill (San Juan Jabloteh), Montell Joseph (Unattached);

Defenders: Jesus Perez (North East Stars), Josiah Trimmingham (San Juan Jabloteh), Leland Archer (College of Charleston—USA), Alvin Jones, Martieon Watson (both W Connection);

Midfielders: Duane Muckette, Neveal Hackshaw (both North East Stars), Jelani Felix (Defence Force), Xavier Rajpaul (College of Charleston—USA), Jabari Mitchell, Jomal Williams, Aikim Andrews (both W Connection), Kadeem Corbin (St Ann’s Rangers), Akeem Roach (Defence Force);

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Neveal Hackshaw goes for goal while Aruba player Gregorio Van Der Biezen looks on during the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championships. (Courtesy CONCACAF)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Neveal Hackshaw goes for goal while Aruba player Gregorio Van Der Biezen looks on during the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championships.
(Courtesy CONCACAF)

Forwards: Rundell Winchester (Portland Timbers 2—USA), Ricardo John (Virginia Tech—USA), Adrian Welch (St John’s University—USA), Shackiel Henry (Point Fortin Civic).

Ineligible: Keane McIvor (Lindsey Wilson College—USA).

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

 

2016 Olympic qualifying results

(Thu Jun 25)

Puerto Rico 2, St Vincent and the Grenadines 2

(Sat Jun 27)

St Vincent and the Grenadines 5, Trinidad and Tobago 3 (Akeem Roach 2, Rundell Winchester)

(Mon Jun 29)

Puerto Rico v Trinidad and Tobago, 8 pm.

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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69 comments

  1. No systems in place…..that must happen

  2. …never even got a chance to play…smh…

  3. Maybe we need to look over our selection program targeting the selectors and ensure that they know how to select. Examine every aspect of the selection of this team, review each and everyone profile including the selectors, brainstorm it and see where we went wrong, because we did go wrong. Be transparent and publish your records whether good or bad. For those who overlooked key issues let it be known, this while may be personal it will help us to recognize that we want to be winners not just to comply with request. My views.

  4. bad prep, bad coaching and selection and terrible admin… get rid of all of them… they did a disservice to the nation and players

  5. The athletes themselves have to take equal or even more blame for this. Do your thing, strive to be even better. Don’t wait for hand outs!

  6. My take on it is this….Whenever we are on top and win a medal,we tend to parade the athletes throughout the country,after that what are the POWERS THAT BE doing to support or assist them in the necessary training???..Does a National Award or a home in some affluent neighbourhood or even a Street,School or whatever assist hem to go forward in their sporting career, or is it for political mileage???/….Just asking

  7. Will we see a report from the Manager and Technical Director? After all taxpayers money involved.

  8. now we reach the bottom…no need to cry but start to work,stop recycle coaches,stop politics,stop hate and jealousy.Serious programme,National football center,PROFESSIONAL COACHES,if i think about the budget for legends in Tobago i want to cry,i can get top coaches to start a job with that money.Politician do not suppose to run football

  9. Che Adams the under 23 teams in other real football nations are their national teams steeuuppss Them really yes

  10. Well Lasana.. It’s hardly surprising.. As I said to you the other day things can change but only if certain things are done..

  11. The real “sadness” and worry here is that this U23 Team is supposed to represent the feeder to our senior Team for 2018 Qualifiers…

  12. But if we can’t even beat these small island teams then that says something about the players and management.

  13. well maybe just one thing could be finding a way to bridge the gap between under 17 and under 23……..in terms of what is in place to sustain any development that may or may not be occuring ..starting from the junior levels……….maybe we assuming the players are mentally prepared …and maybe they are not….I think you can teach people to be technical minded…..

  14. I have always maintained that you cannot improve by playing teams below your standard. We have been doing that forever. The only team in the Caribbean that we should play (outside of compulsory competition that is), is Jamaica, When we looking for friendlies in the region, look to Central america (Costa Rica), South America, USA and Mexico. Only way to improve is to play a better team. Imagine Curacao and St. Vincent beating us? Who’s next? Montserrat?

  15. yes Gavin..they do…but watching the match….they have to take ‘some” blame…this is not U15 or 17…serious.

  16. i think the fellas who represented deserve a big up for their efforts and must have been proud to represent….we need really to make up our minds really and do a total re-invention form all angles including admin..but that aside….there is a lot of talented (not to be confused with disciplined) players that seem to be still over looked…we can and will do better once we move away from the same ole same ole mentality