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SPORTT: Arena ignored safety warnings before Ato Boldon Stadium training session

The Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SPORTT) countered criticism of the state of the Ato Boldon Stadium venue today by claiming that United States head coach Bruce Arena ignored its advice to train elsewhere.

The stadium’s facility manager Jeffrey John, via a press release, explained that the running track around the field became waterlogged due to heavy rain this morning.

Photo: A USSF tweet shows players being given piggy-back rides to the Ato Boldon Stadium field on 9 October 2017.

By the time a decision was made about the suitability of the facility, though, the United States football team were already en route to the Couva venue for a one hour session, which began at 11am. And, according to John, Arena declined an invitation to train at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella instead—which is about 30 minutes drive away.

“FIFA Match Commissioner Hector Canchola Nunez conferred with ABS Facility Manager Jeffrey John,” stated the SPORTT release, “and they concluded that the training session should be shifted to the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium for the players’ comfort and safety.

“However, Team USA took the field despite warnings from Mr John about the unsuitability of the surface at the time and the impeding of preparation for Tuesday’s game. The session proceeded with the team coach accepting full responsibility for the players’ physical safety while at the venue.”

Trinidad and Tobago host the United States in Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying action at Couva from 8pm on 10 October. The Soca Warriors are the only team in the CONCACAF Hex with no chance of progressing to the World Cup finals.

For the United States, a win or draw would guarantee automatic qualification while a loss could mean that the “Stars and Stripes” are eliminated if Panama and Honduras both win at home to Costa Rica and Mexico respectively. If Trinidad and Tobago win along with either Panama or Honduras, USA would go to a FIFA Play-Off.

Photo: United States football coach Bruce Arena.

The Warriors lost 4-0 and 2-0 in their last two meetings with the United States but both games were played on foreign soil. When the USA last visited Trinidad on 17 November 2015, the match finished goalless—although the North American team were then coached by Jurgen Klinsmann while Stephen Hart ran Trinidad and Tobago’s technical area.

The previous clash in Trinidad was played at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain rather than the Couva venue, which is less than half the size of the former ground and prone to near crippling traffic issues.

Jeffrey said SPORTT is doing all it can to ensure that the venue is ready for tomorrow’s World Cup qualifier and said the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) are on standby in case of more downpours—although it is uncertain exactly what role the ODPM would play in helping put on a football match.

“SPORTT […] has requested the services of the Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation and Office of Disaster Preparedness & Management (ODPM) to be on standby in the event of further inclement weather,” stated the release, “[and] is working closely with the Match Commissioner as well as the TT Football Association to ensure the venue’s readiness for the important international match between the USA and Trinidad & Tobago.

Photo: Soca Warriors supporter Joey “Posh” Richardson (right) exchanges notes with some football fans during 2018 World Cup qualifying action against the United States on 17 November 2015.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

“[We] assures patrons that they should anticipate an exciting and memorable event come Tuesday evening.”

At present, SPORTT is without its CEO Adam Montserin, facility manager Anthony Blake and senior manager facilities maintenance Raj Ramtahal who were among eight executives suspended by the Office of the Attorney General in July.

Editor’s Note: The USSF has denied SPORTT’s version of the events at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva. Click HERE to read the response from the USA team. 

Click HERE to see ESPN’s counter-claim that the TTFA and SPORTT released “fake news” over state of the Ato Boldon Stadium ground. 

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