The financially beleaguered Trinidad and Tobago Football Association is considering withdrawing both their male and female teams from the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games Qualifiers.
The Men’s National Under-23 Team were drawn in Group B of the qualifying series alongside Cuba, US Virgin Islands and Barbados, which is due to be held from 17-27 July 2019. However TTFA Board member Richard Quan Chan revealed that it looks increasingly likely that the local football body will opt out the tournament due to a lack of funding.
The TTFA has set itself until the first week of June to make a final decision on their Olympic participation, with the Female National Senior team also on the chopping block.
“Our present position in relation to the Olympic Games is not a pleasant one,” said Quan Chan, at a press conference today. “We are not financially sound and it is difficult at this time to make a commitment to play in the Olympic Qualifiers.
“It will cost the Association approximately 165,000 US dollars to prepare a team for the preliminary phase. Our secretariat has been making efforts to get corporate Trinidad on board as to support our efforts to expose our young players.
“We are in financial problems and we have been trying to get sponsors and support on board is ongoing and it is not an easy process at this time.”
In April, Wired868 reported that Club Sando and Naparima College head coach Angus Eve and Police FC Head Coach Richard Hood were being considered for the head and assistant Olympic coaching posts respectively. However, the football body’s financial health has deteriorated further since then.
The local football body has been criticised for sending the Women’s Senior Team and Men’s National Under-20 Team and Under-17 teams into action with less than two months preparation time for their respective tournaments, over the past two years.
In each case, the tournament they are trying to get to would be known to all football fans years in advance. However, Quan Chan suggested that CONCACAF should bear the brunt of the blame for not providing qualifying fixtures earlier.
“We have complained that sometimes the release of dates from CONCACAF is not in keeping with good planning,” said Quan Chan. “One of the problems we are having is with CONCACAF and one we have raised with them on a few occasions—the timing that they release dates. You might know it might be coming but there isn’t clear cut dates.
“It would be more economical and a better financial decision at this time to focus on the other tournaments that are coming up than try and prepare an Olympic team in six weeks.”
The Men’s National Senior Team are in no such danger although head coach Dennis Lawrence will not have the services of overseas-based central defender Sheldon Bateau and maverick attacking midfielder Ataulla Guerra for the 2019 Gold Cup.
The Soca Warriors start their Gold Cup campaign on 18 June against Panama at the Allianz Field in St Paul, Minnesota while they are also grouped with Guyana and the United States.
“Sheldon Bateau will not be available for selection for the Gold Cup for personal reasons in regards to commitments he had with his club,” said Lawrence. “We had long discussions about it and in the end we had to make a decision because we couldn’t leave anyone hanging.”
Bateau, who recently joined Norway’s Sarpsborg in February 2019, also issued a press statement on his decision.
“I’ve been looking forward to the Gold Cup like everyone else and I’ve been in constant contact with coach Dennis over the past few months and weeks about my current situation at Sarpsborg,” stated Bateau. “As much as I want to be side by side with the boys battling for my country, it saddens me to opt out of this year’s Gold Cup Campaign.
“As it stands, the Gold Cup dates are clashing with my club schedule. While, I have a great desire to battle for my country now, as I’ve done in the Gold Cup 2015 campaign, I am very aware of the effects not playing at club level can have on my ability to effectively represent my country in future tournaments and campaigns such as the World Cup 2022 Qualifying campaign.
“My decision will allow me to satisfy contractual obligations but also secure the possibility of honoring my commitment to the national team in the future.”
On the other end of the pitch, Guerra misses out due to ongoing visa issues, which leave him stranded in Trinidad while his employers, Charleston Battery, are well into their season in the US second tier.
There may be more absences in the offings too as Aubrey David (Deportivo Saprissa—Costa Rica), Joevin Jones (Seattle Sounders—USA), Willis Plaza (Churchill Brothers—India), Marcus Joseph (W Connection) and therapist Dave Isaac are still without visas at present. Lawrence pointed out that pacy forward Rundell Winchester (Plastense FC—Guatemala) is also unavailable at present, after requesting time off to deal with a family-related matter.
Winchester (R) was not named in Lawrence’s 40-man shortlist.
Lawrence has until 3 June to submit his final squad and hopes to have much of his Gold Cup squad at hand when the Warriors travel to Japan for a friendly international on 5 June, although Jones and Joseph have already been ruled out of the trip.
Soca Warriors Gold Cup shortlist
Goalkeepers: Marvin Phillip (Central FC), Gregory Ranjitsingh (Orlando City—USA), Nicklas Frenderup (HB Koge—Denmark), Adrian Foncette (Police FC), Jan-Michael Williams (FC Halifax Town—Canada);
Defenders: Aubrey David (Deportivo Saprissa—Costa Rica), Alvin Jones (OKC Energy FC—USA), Daneil Cyrus (Al Orobah—Saudi Arabia), Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Leland Archer (Charleston Battery—USA), Carlyle Mitchell (La Horquetta Rangers), Kareem Moses (FC Edmonton—Canada), Justin Garcia (Unattached), Triston Hodge (Memphis 901 FC—USA), Mekeil Williams (Oklahoma City Energy FC—USA), Keston Julien (AS Trencin—Slovakia), Ross Russell Jr (La Horquetta Rangers);
Midfielders: Kevan George (Charlotte Independence—USA), Neveal Hackshaw (Indy Eleven—USA), Leston Paul (Memphis 901 FC—USA), Akeem Humphrey (Club Sando), Khaleem Hyland (Al Faisaly FC—Saudi Arabia), Judah Garcia (Defence Force), Duane Muckette (Memphis 901 FC—USA);
Attacking midfielders: Cordell Cato (Oklahoma City Energy FC—USA), Reon Moore (Defence Force), Nathan Lewis (Lansing Ignite—USA), Lester Peltier (Al Orobah—Saudi Arabia), Kathon St Hillaire (SKF Iclinic Sered—Slovakia), Kevin Molino (Minnesota United—USA), Levi Garcia (Kiryat Shmona—Israel), Jomal Williams (W Connection), Joevin Jones (Seattle Sounders—USA);
Forwards: Willis Plaza (Churchill Brothers—India), Shahdon Winchester (W Connection), Marcus Joseph (W Connection), Dylon King (Defence Force), Akeem Roach (Mosta FC—Malta).