Showdown at the Ato Boldon Stadium; can T&T U-20 women outgun Haiti?

When Caribbean rivals Trinidad and Tobago and Haiti meet from 6.30pm today in a CONCACAF Under-20 Women’s encounter, there will be, coach Jamaal Shabazz promises, fireworks.

Addressing the media at yesterday’s press briefing at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva, Shabazz compared the match-up to what happens in the classic western, High Noon.

Photo: The Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Under-20 Team trains at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 9 January 2018.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

“For us in women’s football, I think it’s a gunslinger’s game,” he said. “We slug it out with them and they slug it out with us. We bring to the table what we bring and they bring to the table what they bring. [It’s] that kinda showdown-at-high-noon kinda attitude.”

On Tuesday, Shabazz had lauded the progress of Nathifa Hackshaw and Aaliyah Prince, the two youngest members of his 22-strong squad. But the coach made no reference to the events of two years ago when a Marlon Charles-coached team was outgunned 22-0 by the United States at the CONCACAF Under-15 Championships in Orlando. He made no mention of the possible after effects of that experience on the pair, who were members of that hapless Under-15 team.

Will they be gun shy? Shabazz reckons not. According to him, this “Young Women Warriors” squad are better equipped to deal with the rigours of international football. And he feels that they have what it takes to pass the stern test to which they are likely to be put by today’s opponents, who are under the guidance of Marc Collat, a former youth team coach in France.

“We have seen two games with [Haiti] on tape and we know they are very skillful,” Shabazz sought to reassure the media. “They have a couple players who we can consider outstanding. And technically and tactically they are at the same level as us.

Photo: Haiti captain and France-based attacker Nerilia Mondésir (left) in action against the United States.
(Copyright Zimbio)

“We were in the same tournament with them a couple years ago so it’s not like they will be strangers to us.”

Haiti are skippered by Nerilia Mondésir, who plays for French club Montpellier, and is, along with US-based midfielder Danielle Étienne, one of only two overseas-based players in the Haiti squad.

Shabazz and his staff were denied any new insights into the strengths and weaknesses of the current squad by the absence of Haiti’s liaison officer from yesterday’s news conference. The absentee was supposed to act as interpreter at the briefing where Collat and Mondésir spoke.

The visitors were warned by Shabazz that they were in for a torrid time and that their hosts were expecting to get as good as they gave.

“There are two approaches in football,” the coach said. “A coach can either try for his team to go and play the way they want to play. Or he can look at the opposing team and say this is how they play and we are going to play to suit.”

He suggested that both teams were likely to choose the first option in today’s game.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Under-20 coach Jamaal Shabazz (second from right) talks to fellow technical staff members (from left) Desiree Sarjaent, Marlon Charles and Saran Joseph during practice at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 9 January 2018.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

“Caribbean teams have the tendency to throw tactics out the door and go at each other. I think The Lord Maestro said, ‘Savage, they know we West Indian savage’ and I think this is what we will see a lot of in this game tomorrow (today) against Haiti.”

If Prince might prove to be more than a little firecracker up top as was the case both at Under-15 and Under-17 level and skipper Natisha John will take no prisoners at the back, ‘savage is certainly not a word one associates with Ranae Ward, who is a smooth operator in the middle of the park. But Shabazz is confident about how the girls will acquit themselves.

“The strength of our team going into the tournament is that these girls have played [at the] CONCACAF level before just like the other teams,” he explained. “They know what to expect and they are not naive as the Under-17s were. They have played CONCACAF at Under-15 and Under-17 level so they understand the level to play at and they understand that the margin for error is very slim.”

John certainly understands that she has “ecstatic and excited” bunch of players under her and she knows that her main leadership role will be to provide consistent motivation and a calming inside the dressing room and outside on the field.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Ranae Ward (left) and defender Natisha John challenge the ball during Women’s National Under-20 Team practice at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 9 January 2018.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

“We have to keep our heads on because we are on the verge of making history in Trinidad and Tobago,” John said. “[I have] to calm their minds and get them well rested and prepared for tomorrow […] The score cannot be predicted but we are confident and we want to make everybody proud.”

Whether the approach is savage or gentle, Shabazz made it clear that the most important thing is to come away from today’s game with maximum points. Particularly as he has already been put on notice that the Canadians, T&T’s opponents in the second round match-up on Saturday after taking on Costa Rica today, are not in the two-island republic on holiday.

Canadian skipper Gabrielle Carle, who won a bronze medal with her country’s senior team at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, was the one to deliver the warning.

“We are really excited as a team to be here but we are also here on business and we mean business. We definitely wanna qualify [for the World Cup].”

The Canadians were runners-up at the last CONCACAF Under-20 Championships and, although coach Beverly Priestman is expecting none of their opponents to clear a path for them, she is confident that her team can take the fight to any opposition.

Photo: Canada forward and prodigy Gabrielle Carle (centre) is the captain of the current National Under-20 Team.

“These games cannot be taken lightly,” Priestman said. “(…) there will be three different styles of play and we are comfortable that we understand what we need to do in all three games to win [the group].”

Seven of the Canadian players have already earned national senior team caps, and promising 16-year-old attacker Jordyn Huitema is expected to be a dangerous customer up top. On her senior team debut in June last year, Huitema bagged a brace in a 6-0 mauling of Costa Rica to become the second youngest goal-scorer in Canadian women’s team history.

“Los Ticos,” will be hoping that history doesn’t repeat itself today. But Priestman, despite taking nothing for granted, remains fairly confident about the likely outcome.

“Costa Rica are quite different to the other two games we have and we know Costa Ricans are technical players who bring a bit of flair and individual surprise,” she said. “But we do feel that we have enough to take the game to them.”

After this afternoon, John, Shabazz and the rest of the T&T contingent may be doing some brainstorming on the threats of Carle and Huitema. But for now, the focus of the Young Women Warriors is on the immediate Haitian obstacle.

Photo: Attacker Aaliyah Prince (left) attempts to dribble goalkeeper Klil Keshwar during Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Under-20 Team practice at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 9 January 2018.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

Shabazz has already pointed out that today’s challenge is not quite like the life-and-death situations he has faced but he knows how critical today’s three points are to his team’s future welfare.

“I think this is the most important game for us,” Shabazz said. “(In) this first game, it’s important for us to try and get our noses in front, to start off on a good note and put ourselves in a good position.

“Playing at home, there is no other option for us but to be confident and courageous and go for the result.”

“Each one teach one,” Shabazz’s young charges say. “All for one, one for all!”

Where they are enthusiastic, their coach is philosophical.

“The pens have been lifted and the inks have been dried. What has been written for us will come to pass,” he ended. “What we have in our hands is the ability to work hard and get the result that we desire and to give everything we can give to bring success to the team.”

But the time for talk is over. And six and a half hours past high noon today, T&T expects the young ladies to take the field at the Ato Boldon with all guns blazing.

More from Wired868
Canada confirm U-20 squad; six W/Cup players in team for Trinidad

Canada will travel to Trinidad on Friday for Concacaf Under-20 Championship qualifying action with six players who participated at the Read more

Soca Warriors play Canada for Copa America spot, after Jamaica stun N/Americans

The Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team will play Canada for a spot in the 2024 Copa America tournament. Read more

South Intercol finals to be held in POS, SSFL president explains move

The 2023 South Zone Intercol final will be held in Port of Spain. Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) president Merere Read more

Trinidad and Tobago stun Costa Rica 2-0 for first ever Concacaf U-15 win

Trinidad and Tobago managed their first ever scalp in a Concacaf Under-15 Championship match today, and it was a big Read more

“Outspoken and real”, “he kept us laughing”; Police FC and Caledonia remember Kemron Purcell

Police FC defender and community police officer Kemron Purcell died this morning in a vehicular accident, after his car slammed Read more

Eve defends TTPFL criticism, reveals friendly setbacks and hints at G/Cup selection criteria

With just about six weeks to go before the Trinidad and Tobago Senior Men’s Team faces off against Guadeloupe in Read more

About Roneil Walcott

Roneil Walcott is an avid sports fan and freelance reporter with a BA in Mass Communication from COSTAATT. Roneil is a former Harvard and St Mary's College cricketer who once had lofty aspirations of bringing joy to sport fans with the West Indies team. Now, his mission is to keep them on the edge of their seats with sharp commentary from off the playing field.

Check Also

Canada confirm U-20 squad; six W/Cup players in team for Trinidad

Canada will travel to Trinidad on Friday for Concacaf Under-20 Championship qualifying action with six …


  1. True dat Haiti is ah serious teamJamal yallyuh does host boi?

  2. Poor very poor does girls look like they need a coach.


  4. Savage is ah word to omit because women footballers of TNT don’t get the proper resources to know how to Savage LOL bet me when the score comes in

  5. The games are live on flow sports

  6. But my Prof Jamaal Shabazz ah like how you does be answering dem questions when asked eh the fella asked you about the USA preparartions playing against France and other real football countries eh compared to our preparation eh, Well I am still waiting on your reply eh because the one you gave didn’t make any sense at all. Them really good yes.

  7. Live.
    Looking at Canada vs Costa Rica now.
    I only realised this when i started to watch the youtube stream from concacaf and heard Terry Fenwick and Vidya Ramphal on commentary.

  8. Games apparently also being shown on Flow Sports.

  9. Are the games being streamed online?

  10. Is this the only International tournament to be hosted at 1 stadium?

    I have never before heard of this.

  11. hmmm…seems like at least ONE West Indian coach has already thrown tactics out the window…

  12. Lasana Liburd you have the schedule of games for next week?

    • CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship
      [All matches are carded for the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva]
      (Thursday 18 January)
      Costa Rica v Canada, Group A, 4pm;
      Trinidad and Tobago v Haiti, Group A, 6.30pm;
      (Saturday 20 January)
      Haiti v Costa Rica, Group A, 4pm;
      Trinidad and Tobago v Canada, Group A, 6.30pm;
      (Tuesday 22 January)
      Haiti v Canada, Group A, 4pm;
      Trinidad and Tobago v Costa Rica, Group A, 6.30pm.

      (Friday 19 January)
      Mexico v Jamaica, Group B, 4pm;
      United States v Nicaragua, Group B, 6.30pm;
      (Sunday 21 January)
      Nicaragua v Mexico, Group B, 4pm;
      United States v Jamaica, Group B, 6.30pm;
      (Tuesday 23 January)
      United States v Mexico, Group B, 4pm;
      Jamaica v Nicaragua, Group B, 6.30pm;

      (Friday 26 January)
      Group B winner v Group A runner-up, Semifinals, 4pm;
      Group A winner v Group B runner-up; Semifinals, 7pm;

      (Sunday 28 January)
      Third Place Play Off, 2pm;
      Under-20 Finals, 5pm.

    • Lasana Liburd thank you…. international games on 1 day rest…. wow…. brutal……

    • Very. They wouldn’t subject adults to this kinda thing. But CONCACAF has no issue having kids do it.

    • I wonder if this becomes a norm [tournament cost saver]; if a four or five subs may now be allowed

    • and all the games at 1 venue…… our grounds are notorious for getting cut up easily at the slightest hint of rain… far less if the rain actually fall… who’s genius idea was this…… oh never mind….

    • Ian… I wondered the same but was told it was requested by Concacaf since they were also scaling back. Can only assume it was.

    • CONCACAF requested the tourney play ALL games of an international tourney on 1 GRASS field? well ok….. Let the games begin….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.