Fri, Jul

Captain Jones calls for unity between TTFA and Sport Minister.

Get serious

SOCA WARRIORS captain Kenwyne Jones is urging the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) and current Sport Minister Brent Sancho to end hostilities in the interest of football.

Both parties have made accusations, while the TTFA has claimed victimisation. Minister Sancho has periodically withheld payment and team funding for various reasons. A week ago, Sancho declared the Sport Ministry would not entertain any further football funding requests unless the TTFA is transparent, and accounts for previous funds.

Prior to becoming Sport Minister recently, Sancho had a long-running fight with the football body, as a prominent member of the 2006 World Cup team which took the governing body to court over playing bonuses.

Jones hinted that once again the team is affected, with the players reported not to have been paid tournament match fees, while the TTFA awaits funding from the Ministry.

“Hopefully things will be sorted out,” Jones said. “It hasn't been sorted yet, but we will see what happens. We can't go forward like this into an entire World Cup campaign basically scraping the barrel.

We have to be well-prepared.”

Following Trinidad and Tobago's run to the quarter-finals of this year's CONCACAF Gold Cup, where they went out 6-5 on spot-kicks to Panama on Sunday, Jones said continued development required both parties to cooperate.

In four Gold Cup matches, T&T were bested by none of their opponents in open play. They beat Guatemala (3-1), Cuba (2-0) and drew with Mexico (4-4) and Panama (1-1). These are some of the same opponents the Soca Warriors will face when they enter the fourth (semi-final) round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in November.

Already through to the fourth round of World Cup qualifying are five 2015 Gold Cup quarter-finalists: Costa Rica, Mexico, United States, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago, along with Honduras. Caribbean champions Jamaica and other teams are still trying to make it to the 12-team semi-final round.

The draw for the fourth round will be held on July, 25, at the Konstantinovsky Palace in Strelna, St Petersburg, Russia. Teams will be drawn into three four-team, home-and-away round-robin groups with games taking place between November 2015 and September 2016.

“The prospect for this team can be good depending on which of the relative bodies decide to sort themselves out and help us with a good preparation,” Jones said. “Once the funding is right we will do okay.

“If that doesn't happen, we will just be trying to make miracles happen with the two loaves and the five fishes,” he added.

Captain defends players.

“These players, they didn't rob anybody, they just missed a penalty kick,” declared Trinidad and Tobago captain Kenwyne Jones, following Trinidad and Tobago's 6-5 penalty kicks defeat to Panama at the quarter-final stage of the 2015 CONCACAFGold Cup.

A hundred and twenty minutes earlier, the teams were deadlocked at 1-1 before Daneil Cyrus, Sheldon Bateau and Joevin Jones—all of whom will still only be just 24 years old in two weeks—missed from the spot. It took the Soca Warriors almost an hour after the Panamanians, to emerge from the dressing room following the defeat. Defender Sheldon Bateau had a particularly pained look on his face, long after his unfortunate miss.

“These are young players,” Jones continued, explaining that the country should not beat them up for their mistakes. “It's a lot of new players, so hopefully it will make them stronger in the future,” he said.

Jones, who scored from open play and spot kicks against Panama, also missed a penalty when the Soca Warriors lost the 2014 Caribbean Cup final 4-3 on spot kicks to Jamaica.

“It's ironic,” Jones added. “We lost the Caribbean Cup on penalties, and we also went out here on penalties."


Sancho hails coach Hart, Soca Warriors effort
By JOEL BAILEY (Newsday).

BRENT SANCHO, ex-Trinidad and Tobago football team defender and current Minister of Sport, is pleased with the efforts shown by the current national squad at the CONCACAF Gold Cup in the United States.

The Stephen Hart-coached team lost 6-5, via kicks from the penalty spot, against Panama on Sunday evening, in their quarter-final match at New Jersey, United States. The scoreline was 1-1 at the end of regulation and extra times, but the Panama team held their nerves in the shootout.

“It’s a heartbreaking loss for us,” said Sancho, during a telephone interview yesterday. “Once you get to that stage of the game, when you go to penalty kicks, it was a lottery.

“All in all, I think coach Hart and the players will be very proud of their performances. They’ve done extremely well in terms of the performances that they put forward.”

Commenting on the on-field display against Panama, as a former national player, the 37-year-old Sancho stated, “going into the game, I read comments that coach Hart was willing to possess the ball a little more, and we fell short in that department.

“Although we played very well in the early games, for some reason against Panama, we didn’t seem to possess the ball as well as we had before,” he continued. “I don’t think the midfielders played as well as they had during the tournament. Because of that, we found ourselves in a position where we were chasing the Panamanians around the pitch.

“Once it got to extra time, we looked a (less fitter) team. But, then again, we’ve put in so many remarkable performances during the course of the tournament, to have us slip up at that point was a bit unfortunate. It’s nothing for them to drop their heads for.”

Sancho added, “We’ve done exceedingly well and I think going forward, I’d love to see coach Hart have a discussion with the (Trinidad and Tobago) Football Association, where they do give him the type of practice games and the type of backing that he deserves, so he can prepare the team for the World Cup.”

The national team, known as the Soca Warriors, were blighted by funding issues before the Gold Cup, particularly payment to the members of the technical staff.

Sancho pointed out, “the undertaking that the Government has taken in terms of making sure that the staff was and has been paid, and also the players, has absolutely nothing to do with the Ministry at all. In fact, we’ve paid everything that we’ve supposed to pay.

“Whatever we haven’t paid is in the process of being paid,” he added. “So they were, up until November of last year, basically guaranteed a salary. So I believe we made them very comfortable, in terms of the monies used for making sure that their preparations for the Gold Cup were there. In terms of the actual preparations, I think that’s a matter for the Football Association to answer.”

The Sports Minister went on to say, “taking my Ministerial hat off for a second, I did think it was not necessarily a good idea spending a lot of the budgeted money, or the ‘sent money’ from Cabinet to go all the way to Jordan to play a game. I think it could have been better used. I’m not the one who decides who we play or who we don’t play.”

The national team will now turn their attention towards the start of the CONCACAF qualification stage, for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

But Sancho emphasised that the TTFA will have to be more serious in their dealings with the Ministry, in terms of accountability.

“I’ll make it abundantly clear whatever (issue) between myself and the president of the Football Association is between myself and him. It has nothing to do with the players,” he stressed. “We continue to pay the players’ salary. We still continue to pay directly to the players and directly to the coaching staff.

“What we’re asking for is transparency and accountability with the Football Association. I find it a bit confusing and even disrespectful to know that they can make a statement as such, knowing fully well that this Government and this Ministry has fully supported, financially, all of their endeavours."