Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach Terry Fenwick has been generally lukewarm about the administrative support provided by the TTFA’s office staff, but, this evening, he would be overjoyed by the intervention of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC).
A week before their Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying series gets officially underway, the Soca Warriors were buoyed by news today they can carry a full strength team to Puerto Rico for their match on 28 March, due to a National Interest Exemption (NIE) waiver.
The waiver allows the Soca Warriors to sidestep a proclamation by United States president Joe Biden, which suspends access to their country by non-citizens who had been in Europe within 14 days of their travel.
The travel restriction is meant to safeguard American citizens from the Covid-19 virus. However, after TTOC president Brian Lewis lobbied the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee on the Warriors’ behalf, the US decided to make an exception for the sake of the World Cup qualifying match.
“The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) would like to express its sincere and heartfelt gratitude to the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC), and by extension, The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee,” stated a TTFA press statement, “for their assistance in facilitating the processing of the National Interest Exemption (NIE) waivers for the Trinidad and Tobago Senior Men’s National Football players for their Concacaf qualifiers for the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022.
“[…] Through the timely collaboration between the TTFA, the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee and the president of the TTOC, Mr Brian Lewis, the TTFA, is now able to have our European-based players cleared to travel to Puerto Rico to play Puerto Rico on the 28th March 2021.”
Lewis explained that the United States government recognises the value of Olympic and Paralympic sport and, as a result, created an exemption for ‘essential international staff, members, athletes, and their dependents participating in International Sports Federation events affiliated with the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee’.
It is a facility that can only be accessed through the Olympic movement.
“We were approached by [interim TTFA general secretary] Amiel Mohammed this week, after he received advice from Concacaf that it was an option,” Lewis told Wired868. “By the time they notified us, we reached out to the US Olympic Committee and we worked on it.”
Although the US travel ban was in place since 25 January, the TTFA did not realise its implication for the 28 March qualifier until days ago. Thankfully, it was not too late to find a solution.
Fenwick travelled with 16 players to Santo Domingo today, with the expectation that five from his 10 overseas-based call-ups—including assistant coach and goalkeeping coach Kelvin Jack—would be unable to travel on to Puerto Rico, due to the travel ban.
The TTOC’s successful intervention means that the Warriors’ travelling party, which comprises of four goalkeepers, nine defenders, six midfielders and seven attackers, is now over-subscribed. But Fenwick is likely to view that as a better problem than the reverse scenario.
The players who benefit from the NIE waivers are: goalkeeper Nicklas Frenderup, defender Sheldon Bateau, midfielders Andre Boucaud and Daniel Phillips, and winger Levi Garcia.
“At the end of the day, the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee will assist as best as it can in the interest of Trinidad and Tobago and Team Trinidad and Tobago (TTO),” said Lewis. “We wish the Trinidad and Tobago senior men’s team best wishes. It is important that the players granted the waiver make every effort to comply with the Covid-19 protocols and guidelines.”
The Soca Warriors, through a release from the TTFA media officer, promised to do just that.
“The TTFA is committed to ensuring that strict Covid-19 procedures and protocols are observed,” stated the local football body, “as well as maintaining the safety and security of all the players, staff and respective country.”
The full Trinidad and Tobago team (tabulated as Club; Age; Caps/Goals) includes:
Goalkeepers: Marvin Phillip (Unattached; 36; 80/0), Adrian Foncette (Police FC; 32; 16/0), Nicklas Frenderup (IL Stjørdals-Blink—Norway; 28; 2/0), Denzil Smith (W Connection; 21; 0/0);
Defenders: Noah Powder (Real Salt Lake—US; 1/0), Neveal Hackshaw (Indy Eleven—US; 15/0), Justin Garcia (Defence Force; 25; 2/0), Leland Archer (Charleston Battery—US; 25; 1/0), Sheldon Bateau (Mechelen—Belgium; 30; 42/3), Aubrey David (Deportivo Saprissa—Costa Rica; 30; 53/1), Radanfah Abu Bakr (Unattached; 34; 37/2), Robert Primus (FC Bengaluru Utd—India; 30; 7/0); Joevin Jones (InterMiami CF—USA; 29; 77/8);
Midfielders: Michel Poon-Angeron (Club Banfield—Argentina; 20; 1/0), Duane Muckette (Unattached; 25; 6/0), Andre Boucaud (Maidstone FC—England; 36; 47/2), Daniel Phillips (Watford FC—England; 20; 0/0), Judah Garcia (Neroca FC—India; 20; 4/0), Khaleem Hyland (Al Batin FC—Saudi Arabia; 31; 87/4),
Attackers: Marcus Joseph Jr (Unattached; 29; 20/6), Levi Garcia (AEK Athens FC—Greece; 23; 26/2), Ryan Telfer (Atletico Ottawa—Canada; 26; 7/3), Willis Plaza (TLH Rangers; 33; 29/7), Sean Bonval (Central FC; 24; 1/0), Jabari Mitchell (Police FC; 23; 1/0), Brent Sam (Defence Force; 24; 0/0).