DESPITE being suspended from all international competitions by the FIFA, Trinidad and Tobago will be included in the 2021 Gold Cup group stage draw. But head coach of the senior men's national team Terry Fenwick says he feels frustrated.
T&T are yet to reach a Gold Cup final. In 2015, they reached the quarter-finals under then-coach Stephen Hart, but their best performance was in 2000 when they made it to the semi-finals under Bertille St Clair.
In 2019, under coach Dennis Lawrence, they were eliminated in the first round after a 2-0 loss to Panama, a 6-0 beating by the US and a 1-1 draw against Guyana in Group D.
But this draw comes as a bittersweet moment for the TT Football Association (TTFA).
Last Thursday, FIFA suspended the TTFA indefinitely after it missed the deadline to withdraw its appeal in the local High Court by two minutes. The appeal was against FIFA's decision in March to appoint a normalisation committee to run the affairs of local football.
Concacaf then held an “emergency meeting,” where it was agreed T&T will be included in the draw, but if the suspension is not lifted by 5 pm on December 18, it will be replaced by Antigua and Barbuda who have never competed in a Gold Cup.
In its official announcement of the TTFA's suspension, FIFA said it may only be lifted if: "The TTFA complies with the terms and conditions of its membership of FIFA as set out under the FIFA statutes, including in particular article 59 of the FIFA statutes.
"The TTFA acknowledges and confirms FIFA's powers and authority to appoint a normalisation committee subject only to the right of the TTFA to appeal such a decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
"The TTFA statutes are amended to ensure that all types of disputes may only be submitted to the established dispute resolution forum at CAS."
But the ball remains in court.
The ousted executive has since withdrawn its initial withdrawal of the case, locally. And after previously questioning the impartiality of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland, they sought to return there to continue its fight against FIFA.
Several stakeholders, supporters and past players continue to call on the ousted executive to comply to increase the chances of the ban being lifted in time.
Speaking with Newsday on Monday afternoon, Fenwick said while it is "a rather good draw" to be included in, it's solely based on "what ifs.
"For me, the coaches, the players, the fans in general – football is down on the floor at the moment. We need to sort ourselves out so we can look forward to occasions like this with a bit of heart.
"We were already not training because of covid19, also no football is being played right now in T&T – and that's not necessarily because of covid19 but because of the lack of finance and the people that are behind it."
Asked if he is hopeful the respective parties comply to see the suspension lifted in time, he said, "Absolutely."
He added that being able to receive FIFA funding once again is crucial.
"The United TTFA haven't got any money, and in my opinion, I think it's just throwing the young generation of footballers under the bus."
T&T may face Montserrat in Gold Cup prelims
By Joel Bailey (Newsday).
Trinidad and Tobago may face Montserrat in the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup first stage preliminary round, scheduled for next July, following the official draw in Miami, Florida, US on Monday evening.
T&T were included in the draw, despite its suspension from FIFA, football's global governing body, on Thursday for violating FIFA statutes. However, T&T can participate in the Gold Cup prelims once their suspension is lifted by FIFA by 5 pm (TT time) on December 18. If the suspension is not lifted, then Antigua/Barbuda will replace T&T in the preliminary round.
Matches in the preliminary round will take place in the US. The other first stage preliminary round games are Haiti versus St Vincent/Grenadines, Bermuda versus Barbados, Guatemala versus Guyana, Guadeloupe versus Bahamas and Cuba versus French Guiana.
The second stage preliminary round games are – winners of the Haiti-St Vincent/Grenadines and Bermuda/Barbados ties; winners of the Guatemala/Guyana and Guadeloupe/Bahamas ties; and winners of the T&T or Antigua/Barbuda/Montserrat and Cuba/French Guiana ties.
The winners of the second stage will advance to the 16-team Gold Cup.