The Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team finally have a practice game, after five months and three international match windows of inactivity. The Soca Warriors travel to Bolivia to face the host nation from 5pm on 21 January at the Estadio Olimpico Patrio in Sucre.
Bolivia have two friendlies lined up against the Warriors and Nicaragua, which are warm-ups for their World Cup qualifiers against Venezuela and Chile on 28 January and 2 February respectively.
At present, Bolivia are eighth in South America’s 10-team standings. However, they are just two points shy of fourth-placed Colombia and an automatic berth for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
Trinidad and Tobago will play just once and, since the game falls outside the Fifa international window, coach Angus Eve cannot summon his best players.
As a result, Eve’s entire 28-man training pool comprises players who are in their off-season. And, as far as the 21 local-based players are concerned, their only competitive games in the last 22 months came during their short-lived Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign and the 2021 Gold Cup—a combined nine matches.
In contrast, Bolivia’s domestic top flight competition ended last month.
Eve admitted that his charges will not be at 100% but said they could not let the chance go, given their struggles they have been having to get international matches.
“It’s probably coming a little too early for us, because we haven’t been playing football,” Eve told the TTFA Media. “But it’s an opportunity we had to take to give the players a bit of experience, because as you know in the last three windows we were not able to play because of all the stuff going on behind the scenes.
“[…] They have gotten this game for us and we couldn’t say no. This is an opportunity to give the boys a much-needed run-out and have us playing again at an international level.”
Last November, the Robert Hadad-led Fifa-appointed normalisation committee filed for protection for the TTFA under the Bankruptcy Act. On Christmas Eve 2021, despite admitting that it has struggled with its mandate, Fifa gave the normalisation committee a one-year extension to run the affairs of the local association until 31 March 2023.
For the Warriors, the New Year at least starts with some activity.
Eve’s roster includes the teenaged duo of Molik Khan and Nathaniel James, along with several players from an under-served crop who suffered as a result of former TTFA president David John-Williams’ decision to withdraw the country from the previous Olympic qualifying cycle.
Midfield organiser Justin Sadoo, 24, utility player Micah Lansiquot, 24, and attacker Isaiah Hudson, 21, who were all named in Eve’s travelling party, are still awaiting their first national senior cap.
Eve said he is in no hurry to discard veteran players like Marvin Phillip, Radanfah Abu Bakr and Hashim Arcia, as he tries to blood the next generation, and cited the example of Portugal, who see the benefit of having 38-year-old defender Pepe in their ranks.
“You need the experienced players to help [the younger players] come along, to have that transition a little smoother,” he said.
Crucially, he hopes to get more games this year to boost the team’s preparation for the 2022 Concacaf Nations League, which starts in June.
At present, Trinidad and Tobago are in the second tier, after being relegated under former coach Dennis Lawrence. Eve pointed out that a spot in League A of the Nations League would spare the Warriors the hassle of having to fight through early qualifying rounds of Concacaf competitions and could allow them room to prepare better for such events.
“The FA has assured me,” said Eve, “that we will get games in every window this year.”
(Trinidad and Tobago training squad)
Goalkeepers: Aaron Enill (Defence Force), Adrian Foncette (Police FC), Marvin Phillip (unattached);
Defenders: Alvin Jones, Radanfah Abu Bakr, Keston George, Jamal Jack, Jameel Neptune (all unattached), Jesse Williams, Mekeil Williams (Pittsburgh Riverhounds—USA), Leland Archer (Charleston Battery—USA), Justin Garcia (Defence Force);
Midfielders: Neveal Hackshaw (Indy Eleven—USA), Kevon Goddard, Justin Sadoo, Aaron Lester, Hashim Arcia (all Defence Force), Jabari Mitchell (Police FC), Matthew Woo Ling (Miami United FC—USA), Molik Khan (Club Sando FC), Duane Muckette, Michel Poon-Angeron, Micah Lansiquot (all unattached);
Attackers: John-Paul Rochford, Nathaniel James, Isaiah Hudson (all unattached), Reon Moore, Brent Sam (Defence Force).