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Warriors lose Hodge for China trip; TTFA appeared to flout FIFA rule on travel

The “Soca Warriors” landed in Qin Huang Dao yesterday for the controversial third outing of their international tour in China without defender Triston Hodge and technical committee vice-chairman Dr Alvin Henderson, who were both ruled out through injury.

Photo: W Connection defender Triston Hodge (foreground) holds off North East Stars forward Keron Cummings during 2015 Toyota Classic quarterfinal action. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: W Connection defender Triston Hodge (foreground) holds off North East Stars forward Keron Cummings during 2015 Toyota Classic quarterfinal action.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Hodge suffered a head injury during Trinidad and Tobago’s 3-1 loss to Uruguay in Montevideo on Friday May 27 while Henderson, a former Trinidad and Tobago international, was injured while “rushing to lend assistance to the medical team” as they treated the stricken defender.

Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) vice-president Ewing Davis replaced Henderson as “head of delegation” although no replacement has been sought for Hodge, despite a string of injury concerns and absences for the tour.

TTFA board of directors member Wayne Cunningham, who joined the squad in Uruguay as media officer, is also in China.

The China trip appears to contravene a FIFA law which came into effect in August 2014 and was meant to safeguard the health of players.

FIFA insists that teams should not play two friendly matches in separate confederation within a nine day window, except in the case of an inter-continental play off.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago striker Willis Plaza (left) tries to keep the ball from Peru defender Alberto Rodriguez during international friendly action at the National stadium in Lima on 23 May 2016. (Copyright Ernesto Benavides/AFP 2016/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago striker Willis Plaza (left) tries to keep the ball from Peru defender Alberto Rodriguez during international friendly action at the National stadium in Lima on 23 May 2016.
(Copyright Ernesto Benavides/AFP 2016/Wired868)

If one match is a FIFA or confederation tournament, a team is allowed to play a friendly in a separate confederation, once the travel between the venues does not exceed five hours.

“Representative teams shall play the two matches within an international window on the territory of the same confederation, with the only exception of inter-continental play-off matches,” states FIFA. “If at least one of the two matches is a friendly, they can be played in two different confederations only if the distance between the venues does not exceed a total of five flight hours, according to the official schedule of the airline, and two time-zones.”

In Trinidad and Tobago’s case, all their tour matches are friendlies and the team flew for 24 hours from Montevideo to Qin Huang Dao.

Remarkably, TTFA president David John-Williams tried to arrange a fourth match in a third confederation—against Equatorial Guinea in Port of Spain—but was rebuffed by his head coach Stephen Hart and allegedly tried and failed to get the Warriors to overrule their coach on the matter.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart (left) and Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams enjoy each other's company during a press conference at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Port of Spain on 19 May 2016. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart (left) and Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams enjoy each other’s company during a press conference at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Port of Spain on 19 May 2016.
(Courtesy Wired868)

Hart told the TTFA Media yesterday that he was happy with the schedule so far.

“Administratively the association has gotten us three good games which, the way they are spread out because of the travel, I think they are enough,” Hart told the TTFA Media. “I am very thankful for that because two of those games were top quality and we will see what is the quality of this game.”

The Warriors were brushed aside in Lima on May 23, where they lost 4-0 to Peru, but were credited with an improved performance after a 3-1 loss to Uruguay, four days later in Montevideo.

Hart hopes for the best showing of their tour in China, although he stressed that the benefit of the matches are in building squad depth rather than results.

“These games have no real significant meaning,” said Hart. “Of course you always play the game to get a good result. But more important for me is to continue building on performances. We didn’t have a good performance against Peru, we did better against Uruguay and hopefully we can do even better against China…

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Jomal Williams (left) takes the ball past Uruguay defender Alvaro Pereira during friendly international action at the Centenario Stadium in Montevideo on 27 May 2016. Uruguay won 3-1. (Copyright Miguel Rojo/AFP 2016)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Jomal Williams (left) takes the ball past Uruguay defender Alvaro Pereira during friendly international action at the Centenario Stadium in Montevideo on 27 May 2016.
Uruguay won 3-1.
(Copyright Miguel Rojo/AFP 2016)

“I am using this game to look at individuals and build team depth. I think I have already seen what I want to see out of this tour and this game is just another opportunity…

“So I am seeing which players are adapting, which players are having a bit of a moan about it and which players are mentally prepared for these sort of rigours.”

The Warriors have not had an accredited physiotherapist on their technical staff for almost a decade and they struggled with injuries on the tour. Central defender Yohance Marshall missed both games in South America with a hamstring injury while winger Nathan Lewis (hamstring) and midfielder Hughtun Hector (heel contusion) missed one outing each and full back Daneil Cyrus was substituted against Peru with a groin strain.

Trinidad and Tobago are already without midfielder Khaleem Hyland and winger Levi Garcia, who both left the tour due to club commitments, while Republic of Korea-based defender Carlyle Mitchell was also withdrawn by his employers.

Photo: Uruguay attacker Diego Rolan (left) tries to keep the ball from Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Khaleem Hyland during friendly international action at the Centenario Stadium in Montevideo on 27 May 2016. (Copyright Miguel Rojo/AFP 2016/Wired868)
Photo: Uruguay attacker Diego Rolan (left) tries to keep the ball from Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Khaleem Hyland during friendly international action at the Centenario Stadium in Montevideo on 27 May 2016.
(Copyright Miguel Rojo/AFP 2016/Wired868)

However, Hart said his medical staff vowed to have all 20 current squad members—17 outfield players and three goalkeepers—available for full training tomorrow.

The Warriors coach says he already has a squad in mind for Trinidad and Tobago’s next Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying assignments against Guatemala and the United States on September 2 and 6 respectively.

“Yes, I know what players I am looking for but what I will say to all those players is they better be playing consistently for their clubs,” said Hart. “Those (whose) leagues will be now starting up, I expect them to be in top physical condition.

“Having discussions with the President, we hope to have one game in August before we play Guatemala. So it would mean that all players coming in will have to be at very good physical levels.”

Warriors captain Kenwyne Jones will hope to have a new employer by then, after ending his loan spell with Abu Dhabi-based club, Al Jazira, by lifting the President’s Cup on Sunday.

Photo: Al Jazira and Trinidad and Tobago forward Kenwyne Jones celebrates his goal against Al Saad with a trademark somersault during AFC Champions League play off action on 9 February 2016. (Courtesy KJ Media)
Photo: Al Jazira and Trinidad and Tobago forward Kenwyne Jones celebrates his goal against Al Saad with a trademark somersault during AFC Champions League play off action on 9 February 2016.
(Courtesy KJ Media)

Jones came off the bench to help Al Jazira lift the President’s Cup via a penalty shoot out, although the former England Premier League forward did not take a penalty himself.

Jones had a mixed time with Al Jazira as he helped the Arab team qualify for the Asian Champions League, via a play off. However, they were eliminated in the group stage and are seventh in the Arab Gulf League.

The former Sunderland, Stoke City and Cardiff City forward scored three times in 11 outings for Al Jazira, which was short of his initial target of nine goals.

However, Jones has enjoyed good scoring form in red, black and white strip, as he has two goals from four 2018 World Cup qualifiers—one each against Guatemala and St Vincent and the Grenadines—while he plundered 16 goals from 29 caps since Hart took over in mid-2013.

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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8 comments

  1. Hahahahaha meh friend Dr Henderson got injured while running out on the field to assist eh, so the president didn’t know that his other officials should also pass the fitness test eh I don’t know why these pensioners don’t leave the football to the younger folks nah. Them really good yes

  2. You know a team has a hectic schedule when officials are getting injured… ?
    But on a serious note…
    How does the pro league season affect the ability of pro league players to be fit for this squad?
    When do pro league teams start pre-season training and is it sufficient time to get the players ready for matches at the beginning of September?

    • The Pro League season starts in September. Roughly. Schedules are never ready early with teams trying to get money together and threatening to pull out or trying to come in or whatever.
      So usually late September. And that’s a problem for the national team.
      The Concacaf champions league starts in August. So Connection and Central will be in action. But those games are meant to fit in between your regular league fixtures.
      That means something like one game every other week or two games and then a one month break before the next one.

    • Ok. Don’t really understand who the pro league schedule is supposed to benefit but ok.
      And is there some sort of disciplinary action for the TTFA is they did in fact flout this rule? Is FIFA monitoring this sort of stuff or does somebody have to complain?

    • The Pro League is supposed to allow clubs to send players to pre-season trials with European clubs–whose leagues start in August–and then possibly get them back in time for your league to start. Waste of time. Players are not moving to Europe anyway and it won’t be more than one or two players at the most from any single club.
      I think someone would have to complain to FIFA. The clubs who were bothered simply refused to send their players, which might be why Khaleem Hyland and Levi Garcia were refused permission to go there.
      The other clubs might leverage this so as to pull players at some time in the future when they are supposed to hand them over.
      The group most likely to complain is the players union because the law was set with input from the global players body. But T&T doesn’t have a functional players union anyway.

  3. I look forward to the TTFA explaining breaking the rule…..I am sure they will come up with some bullshit

  4. SMH…. I am at a loss for comments, just do not know where to start… I wish the team well in their game against China, that is all I can say at the moment…