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Concacaf withdraws invitation to T&T U-15 Women; St Rose mum as “elite team” grounded

The efforts of the Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Under-15 Team players over the past year and a half ended on an anticlimactic note today, as Concacaf withdrew its invitation for the young Women Soca Warriors to participate at the confederation’s 2018 Women’s Under-15 Championship in Florida.

Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) technical director Anton Corneal confirmed that Concacaf gave the two island republic until noon today to sort out its travel issues. And it meant the end of that particular journey for the players.

Photo: The Trinidad and Tobago Women’s U-15 Team warm down after their 4-0 win over the Dominican Republic on 10 August 2016 in the CONCACAF Championships.
(Courtesy CONCACAF)

“Concacaf said that if we could not get anything by midday today, they will have to organise the groupings without us,” Corneal told Wired868. “There is nothing we could have done. We don’t have control over the situation at the [US] Embassy.”

Trinidad and Tobago were supposed to play Bermuda from 9am today at the IMG venue in Florida. However, despite knowing about the Concacaf tournament two years in advance, the TTFA failed to get visas in time for the trip.

Head coach Marlon Charles selected his final squad on Monday 30 July with Trinidad and Tobago’s first game carded for a week later on Monday 6 August. Manager Vernetta Flanders then had to get visas and plane tickets for the entire contingent within that time frame in the middle of the school vacation.

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Flanders did not get past step one, as the US Embassy gave the TTFA an appointment date of 28 August and refused to budge. The Concacaf Women’s Under-15 Championship ends on 13 August.

“As of this afternoon, the Embassy has declined our requests from all avenues we have tried to get an early visa appointment,” said TTFA general secretary Justin Latapy-George, “from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs all the way through to Concacaf… We did everything we could do but they have been unable to facilitate an earlier appointment.

“I am very disappointed but we are out.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago football fans react to action during their team’s goalless draw with the United States yesterday in 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Latapy-George suggested that the TTFA followed “normal procedure” in trying to get the women’s team to Florida but were thwarted by the heavy volume of work engaging the attention of the US Embassy staff at present.

“From the information before me, we have done nothing differently to what we always do, and our requests would usually be facilitated,” said Latapy-George. “My understanding is that they had a huge request for visas and we could not be facilitated. We have followed the same process we have [done] every single year.”

Visas were unlikely to have been the only problem for Charles’ team. The Trinidad and Tobago Boys Under-14 Team also ran into problems, as they tried to get to Curaçao for their own Caribbean Football Union (CFU) competition.

In the end, the TTFA was forced to charter a plane which got the team there with barely 12 hours to spare before their opening fixture, which they won 8-0 against Guyana.

If the US Embassy had facilitated the women’s team, the TTFA would still have had the challenge of getting them to Florida.

It meant for a chaotic start to international competition for Trinidad and Tobago’s first teams from the TTFA’s $10 million National Youth Elite Programme, which benefitted from a record TT$8 million sponsorship deal from the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB).

Photo: TTFA president David John-Williams (second from right) poses with then Women’s National Senior Team coaches (from left) Nicola Williams, Carolina Morace and Elisabetta Bavagnoli at a press conference in the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva on 1 February 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

At the launch of the Elite Programme on 14 October 2016, TTFA president David John-Williams said the boys and women’s teams would play “one friendly international game every two to three months.”

However, after a year and a half, the Boys Under-14 Team had their first international game on 4 August 2018 while the Women’s Under-15 Team just lost their first opportunity to wear national colours in battle.

“I think the [TTFA] president is better placed to speak to that [absence of international games],” said Latapy-George, who pointed out that he was hired in December 2016. “I think the coach and TD would be better placed to answer that.”

Gary St Rose, a former W Connection official, is the TTFA’s coordinator for the Elite Programme. However, he did not want to speak about the programme that he is paid to run either; and advised Wired868 to refer all questions to the local football body’s press officer.

Wired868 suggested that the Trinidad and Tobago’s forced withdrawal from a Concacaf tournament—an act that is often followed by sanctions—was beyond the remit of a press officer and asked St Rose to field questions on the matter.

St Rose did not respond. Wired868 was also unable to reach Charles or Flanders.

Photo: TTFA National Elite Youth Programme coordinator Gary St Rose.

Latapy-George said that, although Charles would have significant say on the topic, he suspects that the next move for the Under-15 Women would be to start preparing for the CONCACAF Under-17 competition in roughly two years’ time.

In the interim, the football body is likely to follow Corneal’s advice and seek an audience with the US Embassy, in an effort to avoid a repeat of this year’s catastrophe.

“We need to engage the US Embassy to find out the dynamics involved in getting a team there for competition,” said Latapy-George. “I am not trying to take away from their sovereign rights regarding visa selections; but, as you would appreciate, most coaches would not make that decision on which players are going to a tournament, more than one or two weeks before a tournament.

“So it is about engaging the US embassy to see what can be done in the future. Maybe this was a misnomer; I don’t know.

“[…] It is not a pleasurable situation for everybody [because] these young girls have been working very hard and these kinds of opportunities are needed to measure where they are.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Ranae Ward (centre) tries to wriggle free from a trio of Haiti opponents during CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 Championship action at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 18 January 2018.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

While Trinidad and Tobago’s young ladies missed out, Antigua, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Dominica, Haiti, St Lucia, Barbados and Jamaica were among the Caribbean islands who successfully got visas and flights to Florida to participate in the Concacaf tournament, which kicked off this morning.

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief 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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  1. worst football admin ever and throw out ah admin with winning or competitive teams on every front for what what…….again alyuh remind mih nah

  2. Trinidad & Tobago will be a better place once there are systems put in place along the line of sports , where the the youths can be able to channel their energies in such a positive direction , in a meaningful way. With the support from the business sectors contributions in a compulory way as a motivator towards the youths and future of this nation , rather than being selfish in personel gains by the millions and think not of nation building by contribute a Persentage towards Sports by way of the sports ministry for the youths developement and sport scularships and so on . In this way we will surly help curb crime.

  3. We like to do everything last minute and expect others to rush, the US Embassy is not obligated to assist us at such short notice. Is two years they were training, Marlon must know which 20 or 25 he going with early. Hope the learn from this.

  4. I am not the least bit surprised at this situation.