Was it worth it? Club Sando fume at bill, after five days stranded in St Kitts

EPL Infrafred Sauna

A week since their Concacaf Caribbean Club Shield elimination and five days since their last outing in the third-place playoff, Tiger Tanks Club Sando players and officials finally got home from Saint Kitts and Nevis yesterday evening.

A Club Sando official confirmed that the TT Premier Football League (TTPFL) outfit had to arrange a chartered plane to return to Trinidad, after serious difficulties in booking a flight.

Club Sando flanker Kevon Williams (left) tries to hold off a SV Dakota opponent during 2023 Concacaf Caribbean Club Shield action in Basseterre, Saint Kitts.
(via Club Sando)

Since their 6-1 win over Puerto Rican team Metropolitan FA last Sunday, Club Sando only managed to get six members of their 25-member travelling party home in the following 96 hours—before St Maarten Airways came to their rescue.

St Maarten Airways is headed by a Trinidad and Tobago expat, Jeff Oliver.

“The [Sando players and officials] were frustrated, not knowing what was happening,” said the team official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They all wanted to come back home and we just kept reassuring them that we were working on it and we were trying everything.

“Caribbean airlines said they couldn’t do it, Liat Air couldn’t do it, Executive Air from Barbados said no. In the end, we have to say that St Maarten Airways came to our rescue.”

Yesterday, it took two flights to get the remaining 16 Sando players and officials to the Piarco International Airport at 5pm and 9pm at a cost of US$28,700.

Club Sando players pose before kickoff against SV Dakota in Caribbean Club Shield action at the SKNFA Technical Centre in Basseterre, Saint Kitts.
Photo: Club Sando

The TTPFL outfit were the first Trinidad and Tobago club to participate in a regional tournament since 2019. However, their excitement—Sando never played competitively off the island before—was soured by the expense of their Caribbean excursion.

In the end, Sando failed to get one of two qualifying spots for the Concacaf Caribbean Cup, which offers three places to the Concacaf Champions Cup.

And, a week later, they are still uncertain as to whether their third-place finish comes with a cash prize.

Club Sando attacker Real Gill (left) tries to get past a Solidarité-Scolaire defender during Concacaf Caribbean Club Shield action at Warner Park, Basseterre, St Kitts & Nevis on 4 August 2023.
Photo: Bjorn Hype/ Straffon Images/ Concacaf

“Does it make sense to play in a Concacaf tournament if you have to go through all of this?” asked the official.

Wired868 reached out to Concacaf official Gonzalo Mengotti for comment on Sando’s difficulties and the support offered by the confederation. However, he did not respond up to the time of publication.

Sando qualified for the 2023 Club Shield by finishing third in the inaugural TTPFL competition.

Club Sando attacker Nathaniel James (centre) knocks the stuffing out of the AC Port of Spain defence during their TTPFL clash at the Larry Gomes Stadium on 19 March 2023.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

Their qualification came with a US$30,000 (TT$203,524) purse from Concacaf. The confederation also covered the cost of accommodation and meals from 2 – 14 August, while teams were responsible for their own airfare.

The group stage of the competition runs from 4 – 8 August, while the knockout phase finished on 14 August.

“They told us to come in on the second of August,” said the Sando official, “but there were no flights. So, we went in on 31 July.”

Club Sando flanker Isaiah Thompson (right) tries to hold off an opponent during 2023 Concacaf Caribbean Club Shield action in Basseterre, Saint Kitts.
(via Club Sando)

It cost Club Sando TT$46,200 to fly 25 players and officials to Saint Kitts, plus US$3,300 (TT$22,386) for accommodation and meals for the two additional days.

Their results were largely positive. From three group matches, Sando scored 16 goals without reply as they sailed into the knockout stage. However, with a Caribbean Cup spot on the line, Sando fell 2-1 to Martinique club, Golden Lion.

“Golden Lion played better than us,” the official conceded. “They did their homework. They were first to the ball and more aggressive.”

Golden Lion players congratulate goal scorer Kevin Parsemain (centre) during their 2023 Concacaf Caribbean Club Shield clash with Club Sando in Basseterre, Saint Kitts and Nevis on 11 August 2023.
Photo: Victor Straffon/ Straffon Images/ Concacaf

Off the field, trouble was already brewing. Club Sando booked return tickets for their squad departing immediately after the group stage.

Now, they wanted new flights for the completion of the knockout phase—but there were none available.

The official said it cost Club Sando roughly TT$10,000 a day since then for accommodation and meals.

Club Sando players huddle after training in Saint Kitts, during the 2023 Concacaf Caribbean Club Shield tournament.
Photo: Club Sando

Concacaf, he said, offered US$5,000 (TT$33,695) for the ticket changes but could not help them get home. He put the total cost of their Caribbean participation at roughly TT$380,000—some TT$144,000 more than they got from the confederation.

“I just hope corporate Trinidad and Tobago can help us pay the bills now,” said the Sando official. “But people just don’t invest in sport in Trinidad and Tobago.”

TTPFL champions Defence Force and runners-up AC Port of Spain are next, as they represent the country in the Concacaf Caribbean Cup and hunt a Concacaf Champions Cup berth.

Defence Force midfielder Justin Sadoo (second from left) orchestrates an attack for his team during TTPFL action against AC Port of Spain at the Arima Velodrome on 24 June 2023.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

They would do well to learn from Club Sando’s expensive lessons.

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About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief 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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