Soca Warriors captain Khaleem Hyland hopes to help establish Trinidad and Tobago as a football force in the confederation once more, as the players look forward to a solid team performance at the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup.
“I hope we can put Trinidad and Tobago back on the map football-wise,” Hyland told the TTFA Media, “and I think doing well in the Gold Cup and striving to even win it, will do a lot for us. But we need our people to support us like other countries do and bring back the love in the country through sport, especially football.
“We have what it takes but we need everyone on board.”
The Gold Cup, which has expanded from 12 to 16 teams, kicks off on 15 June with a slightly rejigged hosting format, which sees games played across 15 different venues in the United States as well as one double header in San José, Costa Rica and an undetermined venue in the Caribbean.
The Concacaf executive vowed to announce ‘early this year’ the groupings for the tournament and the identity of the Caribbean nation which will have the honour of becoming the first host of the Gold Cup in its current format—albeit for just one double header.
Haiti twice held the Concacaf Championship—which was the Gold Cup’s forerunner—in 1957 and 1973 while the prestigious competition was staged in Trinidad and Tobago in 1971.
At present, the four seeds for the 2019 Gold Cup are already confirmed as Mexico (Group A), Costa Rica (Group B), Honduras (Group C) and the United States (Group D). One Caribbean team in Group C will host a double header at their national stadium on 17 June.
Hyland, who plays professionally in Saudi Arabia for Al-Faisaly after nine years in the Belgium top flight, said he hopes the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) gives players the best chance to succeed. The Warriors did not qualify for the 2017 Gold Cup—after consecutive quarterfinal finishes in 2013 and 2015—but advance automatically in 2019, due to a change in the qualifying process.
“I hope we can continue to get good games in 2019 as we did in 2018 and we can give our best for the upcoming Gold Cup,” said the combative 29 year old midfielder. “The Gold Cup is a great competition. We made it to the quarter finals consecutively in 2013 and 2015 and we all know this competition gives us the chance to come up against teams like Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and USA.
“Therefore it will be important for us to have good preparation with games and camps in order to be ready for the tournament.”
The Warriors have just one confirmed friendly international in 2019 at present, which is against Wales at Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground on 11 March.
Last month, four senior international players—who spoke on the condition of anonymity—vowed that the current squad would not take part if TTFA president David John-Williams did not make good on his promise to pay outstanding match fees for six matches. Some players also expressed disappointment with the current match fee of US$300, which is less than a third of the established US$1,000 fee for friendlies that existed for over a decade.
Over the past two weeks, the TTFA paid the players for four matches with just fees for their outings against USA (US$1,500) and Grenada (US$300) still outstanding.
Hyland insisted that the players remain committed to the national set-up and he complimented the TTFA for booking challenging fixtures in 2018, which included games against Iran, Panama and the United Arab Emirates.
“2018 was good [for me] with both country and club,” said Hyland. “I picked up a few more things in my career and developed more as a player both for Al Faisaly and the national team as captain.
“We—the ‘Warriors’—played a lot of good countries in 2018 and we took a lot on board from those games. Any player’s dream is to represent for their country and once we are called upon, we will do what it takes to be the best at it.”