Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach Terry Fenwick threw down an early challenge to his players today, as the local football body announced Canada as the first international test of its flagship team.
The Soca Warriors face Canada on 27 and 31 March at Westhills Stadium in Langford, British Columbia with the second game due to be played behind closed doors. And Fenwick, a former England World Cup player and San Juan Jabloteh and Central FC head coach, advised his charges: Come prepared to fight for the flag—or don’t come at all!
“I’m not starting with an easy throw away game,” he told the TTFA Media. “I want somebody who we can get our teeth into because I’ll be expecting big things. I’m not going to make it easy.
“[As for] my players, if they haven’t got Trinidad and Tobago at heart—don’t come. I want to see passion, commitment, doing it for your country. I think if we can instil [that] and bring back a bit of passion and pride I think we have got the sufficient talent to turn over results.”
Canada are ranked 73rd in the world by Fifa and seventh in Concacaf at present. The North American nation, whose former president Victor Montagliani now sits at the helm of the confederation, have not qualified for a Fifa Men’s World Cup since 1986 or featured in the Concacaf Hex since 1998.
However, they have enjoyed a resurgence of late. Last year, the Canadian Premier League was launched, which employs several Trinidad and Tobago expats such as former Soca Warriors coach Stephen Hart, midfielder Jesse Rampersad and Akeem ‘Froggy’ Garcia.
Canada were quarterfinalists at the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup while their marquee player, 19 year old Alphonse Davies, plays professionally for Bayern Munich. Coach John Herdman said his players are trying to move up the Fifa rankings, so as to earn a place in the Concacaf Hex for Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying series.
“We are still in the hunt for the Concacaf Hex and we have cut the points gap in half through Concacaf Nations League,” Herdman told the Canadian media on Friday. “We are focused on doing our best to pick up points and close the gap on that sixth spot in Concacaf. These are important games for Canada and we wanted to play them at home to give the team the best conditions possible to perform with the people of Vancouver Island providing us with that 12th man atmosphere.
“There’s something special about a small stadium when it is jammed packed and sharing these moments with fans young and old from football communities that don’t often get to see their national team heroes in the flesh.”
Financial constraints have forced the Warriors to play the majority of their friendly matches abroad for much of the past decade. Still, the contest offers Fenwick the chance to stamp his identity into a team that has plummeted under former head coach Dennis Lawrence.
The Soca Warriors’ only win in their last 17 games came against Fifa’s lowest ranked nation, Anguilla. At present, Trinidad and Tobago are ranked 104th by Fifa and are 11th in Concacaf.
Fenwick’s troops face either Barbados or Guyana in a two-legged 2021 Gold Cup play-offs this June. At present, Barbados are coached by local football icon Russell ‘Little Magician’ Latapy.
“It’s great that we are getting this game,” said Fenwick. “Obviously I’d like to bring some new faces into that first squad and mix it up and give everybody a shot in the arm. The existing squad that we got, they have not won for so long and it’s a difficult time for them—but that is football.
“We have now got to generate a bit of energy. We have got to get that passion going and I’ve got to see them guys out there wearing that badge.
“[…] Canada have had three years now where they’ve been working very hard in the background on their development process. They have got three top players that are playing in the Bundesliga at this time and they are good players.”
The Fifa match window allows teams to play two international games, although the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) announced just one match. It is uncertain whether they would arrange a second fixture against a Canadian club team.