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.
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.
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.
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.”
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…
“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.
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.
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.