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HEAD coach of the T&T men’s senior football team Terry Fenwick may have to field a team without many of its foreign-based senior players for the Concacaf 2022 World Cup qualifier against Guyana on March 25. FIFA allows clubs to prevent their players from travelling for national duty where quarantine is required for five days or more.

People entering T&T must quarantine between seven and 14 days. With the FIFA rule, special arrangements will have to be made for the T&T players trying to return home to represent the national team.

A FIFA release, on February 5, said, “In the context of the challenges that remain in place for both international and domestic football due to the covid19 pandemic, the Bureau of the FIFA Council has decided to provide additional flexibility regarding the release of players for national team duty and the registration of players with clubs in competitions that remain disrupted by the pandemic.”

The release added that the “Bureau has decided to extend the amendments to the regulations on the status and transfer of players governing the release of players for national team duty until the end of April 2021.

“The rules relating to the release of players to association teams apply as normal except where there is a mandatory period of quarantine or self-isolation of at least five days upon arrival in the location of the club which has an obligation to release the player to an association team or the location where a representative team match is scheduled to take place.”

On Thursday, during a covid19 media conference, Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh was asked if any exemption will be given for the T&T footballers when returning to Trinidad for the World Cup qualifier.

“The Chief Medical Officer (Dr Roshan Parasram) is in contact and in discussions with the football fraternity to deal with that issue,” Deyalsingh said.

He added that he does not want more cases of the new covid19 variant entering T&T. “We are very concerned about people coming into the country and not quarantining properly and possibly bringing in the new variants. Whether it is the South African variant, whether it is the UK variant or other variants. The decision will be made in the best interest of protecting the health and safety of our population.”

T&T suffered a 7-0 defeat against USA in an international friendly on January 31. T&T’s starting XI included a team mainly with inexperienced players based in the US and Canada, before opting to introduce locally-based players in the second half. T&T showed improvement in the second half after the changes were made as the US scored its last goal in the 62nd minute.

Fenwick said that the situation is not in his hands. “I speak to the normalisation committee and then they go ahead and speak to their people.”

Acting general secretary of the normalisation committee Amiel Mohammed told Newsday that “discussions (are) still ongoing” between the normalisation committee and Dr Parasram.

The 2021 Major League Soccer season kicks off on April 3, which will also spoil Fenwick’s plans in fielding the strongest possible team. MLS preseason starts on February 22 and teams may be unwilling to release their players for the March 25 Concacaf qualifiers. T&T footballers play in MLS including Kevin Molino, who recently left Minnesota United and joined Columbus Crew.

“MLS games start at the end of March (early April), same time (as the qualifier) so most of these players are in preseason from the end of this month, so with travel restrictions both ways (it is tough) and obviously it is not just playing the game it is quarantine pre and post-match. That will put clubs off (their training).”

Fenwick said that he may have to field mainly locally-based players. “If we have to then I am assuming that Guyana will have to as well (and) Puerto Rico following that.”

T&T will play Puerto Rico on March 28 in the second match of the World Cup qualifying campaign.