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Vaccination cock-up, travel issues, unpaid match fees: T&T bedevilled by woes before crucial Honduras fixture

Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence will not have the services of six from the 11 starting players used in his final warm-up match against Ecuador, as the Soca Warriors appear set to pay the price for haphazard planning.

Tomorrow, the Soca Warriors face Honduras at the Olimpico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula from 9pm (TT time) with a win needed to guarantee a spot in the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup while a draw or loss means relegation to the second tier of the Concacaf Nations League. The game, according to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA), will be broadcast live on Flow Sports.

Photo: The Trinidad and Tobago team pose before kickoff against Anguilla in international friendly action at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 10 November 2019.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

But despite a record 15-0 over FIFA’s worst football nation, Anguilla, last Sunday, Trinidad and Tobago are again struggling with internal issues, which forced Lawrence to call up flanker Jerrel Britto just to have a full complement of substitutes.

After a 3-0 loss to Ecuador on Thursday, the Warriors attempted to board a flight to San Salvador, en route to San Pedro Sula, only to discover that five players did not meet the vaccination requirements to travel.

The players blocked from flying were starting centre forward Daniel Carr, goalkeeper Nicklas Frenderup, midfielders Andre Fortune and Duane Muckette and left back Keston Julien. Julien left his vaccination card in Slovakia, where he plays professionally with AS Trencin, while the other players apparently did not have the right shots.

Throw in injuries to captain and midfielder Khaleem Hyland and forward Rundell Winchester and suspensions to Alvin Jones and Mekeil Williams and Lawrence’s team had suddenly shrunk from 26 to 17.

Lawrence, of course, had already revealed that ace attacking midfielder Kevin Molino and flanker Joevin Jones ‘chose to make themselves unavailable for both matches [against Ecuador and Honduras] after being called up’.

The chaos led to a surprise call-up for forward Jerrel Britto, who plays for Honduras Progresso in Honduras.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevin Molino (left) is congratulated for his opening goal against Martinique by teammate Daniel Carr (centre) during Concacaf Nations League action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 9 September 2019.
Neither player is in Honduras at present.
(Copyright Sean Morrison/Wired868)

The vaccination issue was the most serious issue to hit the camp but not the only one. Representatives for two Warriors confirmed that players remain unpaid for their last five games before this tour, which includes all three Nations League outings against Martinique (twice) and Honduras along with friendlies against Mexico and Venezuela.

The players only received owed match fees from the June Gold Cup after threatening to strike before the Nations League match away to Martinique on 6 September. And the shortage of uniform has become so acute that players are forced to wear the same hotel wear—often a training jersey—for every meal during a tour, which can be as long as five days.

At halftime, some players have an extra uniform to change while others do not.

On this tour, the Warriors were bemused at their lodging at the Home of Football, which had neither Wi-Fi nor cable. One player posted a video on social media of what he felt to be the shortcomings of his room only to remove it after TTFA president David John-Williams allegedly ordered an internal investigation to discover the culprit. John-Williams did not respond to an enquiry from Wired868 on the matter.

Lawrence hinted, after the Ecuador match, that their travel arrangements were sub-par.

“It was difficult to get here,” he said. “The journey wasn’t easy, so I thought physically we struggled [against Ecuador].”

Photo: (From left to right) Trinidad and Tobago coaches Dennis Lawrence, Stuart Charles-Fevrier, Stern John and Ross Russell await kickoff before their Concacaf Nations League outing against Honduras in Port of Spain on 10 October 2019.
Trinidad and Tobago lost 2-0.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

However, the player’s representative explained that the Warriors travelled to Ecuador via Miami—with a six hour lay-over—and then ignored an airport close to the match venue and took a three and a half hour bus ride to get there instead.

Lawrence, arguably, did not help his own preparations when he played Alvin Jones and Mekeil Williams at right and left back respectively for the full 180 minutes against Anguilla and Ecuador, although neither is eligible to face Honduras due to suspension.

Then came word, as the team tried to board a fight to El Salvador, that they would have to proceed without five players due to a vaccination cock-up.

Lawrence tried to put a brave face on the unfolding events and promised to approach tomorrow’s game with a positive frame of mind.

“We know exactly what the task ahead is in terms of what we need to do,” Lawrence told the TTFA Media. “We are going to try and win the football match which will guarantee our qualification for the Gold Cup.

“We’ve had our challenges but the important thing is we are here as a group and the players maintain that desire to pull off what it takes to keep moving us forward.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago defender Daneil Cyrus (far left) leads the dissenters as they protest a second yellow card for winger Levi Garcia during Concacaf Nations League action against Honduras in Port of Spain on 10 October 2019.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

“The game will not be an easy one because […] Honduras are at home and they will want to end on a good [note]. But […] we have a task to take care of and we’ll approach it in the best possible manner to try and achieve what we need to.”

(Trinidad and Tobago team)

Goalkeepers: Marvin Phillip, Glenroy Samuel;

Defenders: Sheldon Bateau, Daneil Cyrus, Carlyle Mitchell, Aubrey David, Ross Russell Jr;

Midfielders: Kevon Goddard, Aaron Lester, Matthew Woo Ling;

Attacking midfielders: Aikim Andrews, Jomoul Francois, Ataulla Guerra, Nathan Lewis, Ryan Telfer, Jomal Williams;

Forwards: Marcus Joseph, Jerrel Britto.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago forward Marcus Joseph converts one of his five goals after Anguilla goalkeeper Ryan Liddie (left) fails to deal with a low cross during their international friendly at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 10 November 2019.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

(Absent)

Injured: Khaleem Hyland, Rundell Winchester, Neveal Hackshaw, Leston Paul, Kevan George;

Suspended: Alvin Jones, Mekeil Williams, Levi Garcia;

Vaccination issues: Daniel Carr, Andre Fortune, Nicklas Frenderup, Keston Julien, Duane Muckette;

Made themselves unavailable: Kevin Molino, Joevin Jones.

Staff: Dennis Lawrence (head coach), Stuart Charles-Fevrier (assistant coach), Stern John (assistant coach), Ross Russell (goalkeeper coach), Akash Dhanai (doctor), MacAllister Estrada (medic), Dexter Thomas (trainer), Sion Cain (massage therapist), Michael Williams (equipment manager), Wayne Cunningham (logistics manager), Shaun Fuentes (media officer), Richard Piper (team manager).

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and 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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