DEVASTATING for everyone associated with the team, and a sad day for Trinidad and Tobago football.

So declared Shawn Cooper, the Trinidad and Tobago national Under-15 football coach, following Thursday’s late pullout of the Trinidad and Tobago team  from the inaugural CONCACAF Under-15 Championship being played in the Cayman Islands.

On Thursday, the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) wrote CONCACAF General Secretary Enrique Sanz informing him that T&T were making a late withdrawal from the competition. 

“It is with tremendous disappointment we inform you that our Under-15 Boy’s national team will not be able to compete in the CONCACAF U-15 tournament currently underway in the Cayman Islands,” the TTFA said in a letter to Sanz.  “For the past two weeks, seats on flights coming out of Trinidad and Tobago for groups have been extremely challenging to secure. While our request for tickets was submitted several weeks ago to our main financial supporter, Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs, the Ministry only recently authorised our booking on August 12.”

The team was initially scheduled to depart on Monday but was delayed due to the unavailability of flights following the late release of funding from the Ministry of Sports.  The TTFA continued its efforts to secure air passage but was unsuccessful with all flights either through connections in the Caribbean or Panama City being fully booked until next week.  TTFA General Secretary Sheldon Phillips notified CONCACAF of T&T’s withdrawal on Thursday. 

Yesterday, Cooper could not hide his disappointment, not just for himself, but the parents who made huge sacrifices, and the young footballers who had trained hard and were looking forward to their first taste of international competition. 

“What you can do to change what these guys will think now when adults promise them something... because we promised them that they were going to a tournament,” coach Cooper said. “It’s a damaging thing. I don’t know how many of them will recover from this experience because at this point in I cannot recover.” 

Cooper added that the last week’s uncertainty was a torment for both parents and staff. Over a four-day period, team members were told several times they were leaving for the Caymans, and then not.

“Some people from the  Defence Force were getting calls. ‘You are still here (Trinidad), why are you not back on the job.’ It was devastating for everybody. Words cannot express the disappointment of everyone associated with the team. Cooper also questioned what demands could now be made of those parents if their children are again selected for national duty.

“Some parents took vacations. Some took loans. Some of these were single parents and they had to come out with some extra stuff required for international football,” Cooper said. “One of the players was going Barbados to meet his grandfather after several years and he gave up that to be on the team. Another one, Isaiah Hutson, was going with W Connection senior team to Colombia. He missed that trip.” 

Cooper said that although the T&T team had been together just a month, it was felt that there was enough talent around for a good run in the tournament.  The next step, Cooper said, is to sit with the technical director of football and plan the way forward. He also believes that some of the other CONCACAF teams will not be ahead of T&T after having played a minimum of five international matches at the tournament.

“We thought we had a very good chance to go into the second round,” Cooper said. “Our hopes were very high.”