Mon, May

Trinidad and Tobago football fans during a game against Guyana on March 29th 2022 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

I am certain that many of you will agree that It’s great to see local football being played once again. Over the last two years, we had to be content watching the English Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, etc on our television sets and not knowing when T&T’s clubs could take the field again to compete was disconcerting.

When the Minister of Sport and Community Development announced the opening of contact and team sports, many sportsmen and women breathed a sigh of relief knowing that they could compete again and for some athletes, it presented a welcomed opportunity to refine their goals of perhaps one day playing on the international stage. Even though the Minister made the announcement, both the Pro League and the Super League did not seem ready to restart their competitions so it was left to the Ascension Football League to fill the void and put together a ten-team tournament comprising of clubs throughout the length and breadth of Trinidad to participate and how well they have done thus far.

The games are played on weekends starting on Fridays with a double-header at Phase 2 La Horquetta Recreation Ground then on Saturdays another double-header at the Arima Velodrome and lastly, on Sundays a game at the St James Police Barracks. The players have only been able to train for about 3 to 4 weeks but credit to them as the matches have been very competitive (perhaps surprisingly given the relatively short training period) and the players have been giving heart and soul to the football field. The crowds that have converged, especially at the La Horquetta ground on a Friday evening, have been phenomenal. The community has come out in their hundreds to support their local team - Terminix La Horquetta Rangers - and they have been richly rewarded by seeing them play hard competitive and constructive football.

It was easy to look at the players and realise that their fitness levels were not at 100%, also some players were not quite used to the style of play of the teams but one could not question the effort of all players thus far. I can see the teams improving and playing a better brand of football in the next couple of weeks when their fitness levels improve and when they understand exactly the style of play that is required by their respective coaches.

Indeed, it certainly has been a productive start to the resumption of football and I can see quite a few players knocking on the door of coach Angus Eve and basically saying, “hey coach, do you remember me?” which augurs extremely well for football in Trinidad and Tobago.

Another organisation that has held its hand up and is supporting football in Trinidad and also in the sister isle is Tiger Tanks. Their competition, Tiger Tanks Under-20 Men’s Invitational Football Tournament, kicked off last weekend in Tobago and the action continues this weekend with five matches in Trinidad and two in Tobago. As mentioned, our youngsters have not had competitive football for two years so it was good to see them back on the field of play. Yes, they will take a long while to adjust to the conditions and style of play of their teams, but many of these youngsters were about to break into their school’s first team in 2020 and so have missed 2 critical years of their development from 16 to 18 years of age. Most, if not all of them, have now left secondary school and would have had to slot into these Under-20 teams with a style of play that is new to many of them as they would have come from Under-16 school tournaments. Hopefully, parents, friends and club supporters would come out to support these youngsters as they are the future of Trinidad and Tobago’s football in 4 to 5 years’ time they should be pushing to be fixtures on the national team.

With reference to the national team, the Soca Warriors have won the three-team tournament played at the Hasely Crawford stadium against a very ordinary Barbados team and a tougher Guyana team. I must say the fans who came out for the first time in 2 years to witness the Warriors play live seemed disappointed that they did not execute a victory against the Golden Jaguars. There is no doubt on paper that the Warriors are a better unit so coach Angus Eve would have been equally disappointed that the chances created were not put away.

Despite the setback against Guyana, there is a lot to look forward to with the national team. They are involved in the Concacaf Nations League in League B / Group C alongside Nicaragua, St Vincent and the Grenadines and the Bahamas. It is imperative to do well in this tournament as winning the group will result in promotion to League A (along with Mexico, USA, etc.) and automatic qualification for the 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup. The incentives are there for the Soca Warriors and coach Eve, who now has in addition to the foreign-based players, local ones competing week in and week out to choose from so he should be able to pick his best squad barring injuries and/or club commitments.

Last but by no means least, the women Soca Warriors take on Turks and Caicos and Guyana on April 9th and April 12th respectively in the Concacaf World Cup Qualifiers. After victories in two previous qualifying games coach, Kenwyne Jones seems quietly confident that his team can pull off two more victories. He indicated that he has the majority of his squad which suggests to me that he has the squad he would have wanted to be able to be victorious. In fact, Jones has openly said he expects them to win both matches. Turks and Caicos should be a comfortable victory for them, especially when one considers the fact that they have conceded a whopping 26 goals thus far in their group matches; 7 against Guyana and 19 (yes, the result was 19-0) against Nicaragua. On the other hand, Guyana is unbeaten having won 4-0 and 7-0 against Dominica and Turks and Caicos respectively.

I must say, I have been impressed with the job Jones is doing. He seems focused on the job at hand, he is a no-nonsense individual, committed, serious and expects nothing but 100% from his charges. He has the playing experience from his professional days to turn things around when they are not going according to plan. However, he is still learning the trade as a national coach but like him, I believe the Women Soca Warriors will be victorious in the two World Cup Qualifying games. Good luck to them!

SOURCE: T&T Guardian