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21
Sat, Sep

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"We have noth­ing to lose," T&T's Un­der-20 foot­ball coach Rus­sell Lat­apy has said ahead of the World Cup Qual­i­fiers in Flori­da USA in two week's time.

A pro­vi­sion­al squad of 34 play­ers were cho­sen for the team's first train­ing ses­sion this morn­ing at 9 am at the Man­nie Ramjohn Sta­di­um in Mara­bel­la, since the team's re­turn from a tour­na­ment in Colom­bia, Ju­ly 31.

Team man­ag­er Alexan­dria Procupe is ex­pect­ed to sub­mit a fi­nal list of 20 play­ers to the CON­CA­CAF tonight, af­ter just one ses­sion. Lat­apy who has agreed to coach the team be­cause of his close re­la­tion­ship with the young play­ers, said as the team has not been train­ing reg­u­lar­ly, he ex­pects that there will be re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions from them.

His re­quest for a prop­er train­ing pro­gramme, which in­clud­ed at least 12 in­ter­na­tion­al match­es six months ago, was not met by the gov­ern­ing T&T Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion, de­spite con­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Lat­apy, known af­fec­tion­ate­ly as "The Lit­tle Ma­gi­cian" in lo­cal foot­ball, promised that he and his lads will do their best at the qual­i­fiers, which will in­clude St Vin­cent and the Grenadines (SVG), Puer­to Ri­co, Unit­ed States, Suri­name and the US Vir­gin Is­lands in Group 'A'.

T&T opens against SVG on No­vem­ber 1, be­fore fac­ing Puer­to Ri­co No­vem­ber 3, USA No­vem­ber 5, Suri­name No­vem­ber 7 and the USVI on No­vem­ber 9. On­ly the top team will ad­vance. Lat­apy be­lieves his troops, in spite of their lit­tle to no prepa­ra­tion, should be able to hold their own against all the teams in the group ex­cept the home team.

"My main con­cern is the USA, the tour­na­ment's de­fend­ing cham­pi­on team. The prob­lem is that with just one team go­ing through, our play­ers need to be more than just com­pet­i­tive to beat the US. The US has played about 18 in­ter­na­tion­al match­es and has been re­ceiv­ing all the sup­port they need," Lat­apy said.

"We know the sit­u­a­tion with the T&TFA, which is un­for­tu­nate. This lack of sup­port for the boys has re­al­ly frus­trat­ed me, but we are go­ing to do our best and hope that it can take us through. The good thing is that play­ing in this tour­na­ment can be a life-chang­ing op­por­tu­ni­ty for the play­ers and we want to give them that op­por­tu­ni­ty," Lat­apy ex­plained.

Lat­apy con­clud­ed by say­ing he felt re­al­ly sor­ry for the young play­ers as they are such a tal­ent­ed bunch.

This year's qual­i­fy­ing tour­na­ment has tak­en on a new for­mat, with the re­moval of the re­gion­al Cen­tral Amer­i­can and Caribbean qual­i­fiers and guar­an­tee­ing each en­trant a min­i­mum of four com­pet­i­tive games.

The com­pe­ti­tion will de­ter­mine the four CON­CA­CAF rep­re­sen­ta­tives at the 2019 FI­FA U-20 World Cup in Poland. It will al­so de­ter­mine the CON­CA­CAF teams play­ing at the 2019 Pan Amer­i­can Games men’s foot­ball tour­na­ment in Li­ma.

Mean­while, a num­ber of Pre­mier Di­vi­sion teams in the Sec­ondary Schools Foot­ball League (SS­FL) have come out against the se­lec­tion of their play­ers with­out their knowl­edge. One coach from an east school said while he has no prob­lem with play­ers on na­tion­al du­ty, he was con­cerned by the man­ner in which his play­ers were tak­en with­out in­form­ing his school, ahead of to­day's key round of match­es.

How­ev­er, Shawn Coop­er, the Pre­sen­ta­tion Col­lege coach said he is not con­cerned by his play­ers be­ing called to na­tion­al du­ty, as they were ex­pect­ing this all along.