'Unfair' if how national coach Terry Fenwick feels his team is being treated by government officials ahead of the country's opening World Cup qualifying against Guyana on March 25 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Mucurapo.
The Soca Warriors face the possibility of the match not coming off because of precaution being taken by government officials toward the spread of the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Both the government, through the Ministry of Health and its Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Roshan Parasram, and the FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee, which is being led by businessman Robert Hadad, have been locked in talks on whether the Guyanese team will be allowed to enter local shores for the match.
The NC is proposing a football bubble which is similar to what was done with the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) here in Trinidad and Tobago from August 18- September 10 at the Brian Lara Stadium in Tarouba, but it is unsure of what's the government's position, as the national team has had to wait not knowing what will happen.
On Friday, a frustrated Fenwick told Guardian Media Sports that: "We've got to be realistic, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. We've got the CPL which is a money-generating operation, nothing was said about it, they got on with it, players were happy. Why can't the national football team do the same? I'm not asking for anything bigger or better, no more expense, why can't we do the same thing?"
On July 8, 2020, Sports Minister Shamfa Cudjoe told the media at a news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister in Scarborough, Tobago that a contingent of over 251 people, including the players, staff and other officials attached to the six CPL teams—the Barbados Tridents, Guyana Amazon Warriors, Jamaica Tallawahs, St Kitts & Nevis Patriots, St Lucia Zouks and the Trinbago Knight Riders—will come into T&T for the series and will be quarantined at the Hilton Trinidad in Port-of-Spain and must adhere to strict COVID protocols
She continued: “They would be doing their quarantine period there and they would be tested before leaving home (countries) to ensure they are negative, tested when they get here to Trinidad and Tobago and going to quarantine, tested on their seventh day and tested again on their fourteenth day. This is the first time we are hosting this type of sporting activity under COVID regulations and this COVID situation."
She also said that the Government had reached an agreement with the CPL where they will host the tournament to the tune of US$1 million, broken down into US$500 in cash and US$500 in kind.
The country's borders have been closed since the deadly outbreak of the coronavirus in March last year, and since then the government has used a cautious approach in returning nationals who were caught abroad.
Yesterday Dr Parasram did not respond to a Whatsapp message that asked for an update on the matter, neither did he say whether a tri-nation bubble tournament among the national teams of T&T, St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Lucia will go on as planned later this month (February), due to the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for people entering the country.
According to Fenwick: "We're in the dark ourselves and we are waiting on normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad to find out what we can actually do. We've had CPL played in a bubble, placed in big hotels, travel to the Brian Lara Stadium, and because it was an income-generating competition, they've allowed it to happen, but they are now frustrating our national team in a World Cup qualifying game that should be at the Hasely Crawford Stadium. As well as the CPL, there are multiple businessmen/expatriates to arrive here in T&T and spend one day in quarantine. They spend one week wherever they're coming from, but when they arrive in T&T they do one day. So I am frustrated because I don't want to give anything away, that is a plus."
The English-born coach, whose team was hammered 7-0 by the United States in an international friendly encounter on January 31 in Orlando Florida, USA, lamented the horrible past four years that local football has had to endure, saying it had to face countless court matters with the world-governing body for the sport- FIFA, as well as other private citizens, to the administrations' inability to get structured football going.
He said he intends to reach to the powers that be to help them: "We're reaching out to the powers that be, the ministers and indeed the Prime Minister who loves his football. We cannot ignore these opportunities that came by. This first game is all-important and we have an opportunity to play it in Port-of-Spain, and we're ignoring that, we're not taking it on. We've got the CMO, the Health Ministry stopping this. We've been in quarantine for 14 days. We were in the United States for a week and we were tested every single day. since we've been back, we've had three tests and daily monitors to make sure we are okay."
Since returning from the USA on February 3, the local players and technical staff have been in isolation quarantine for seven days and are now under home quarantine for a further seven days until Tuesday.
Decision pending on reduced quarantine for footballers.
By Jonathan Ramnanansingh (T&T Newsday).
A decision has not yet been made on whether foreign-based national footballers would be allowed a reduced quarantine period, upon arrival in T&T, for the March 25 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Guyana.
This comes after FIFA has allowed clubs to prevent their players from traveling for national duty where quarantine is required for five days or more. Persons entering T&T must spend between seven to 14 days quarantine before they are allowed to re-enter the public domain.
This means that several of T&T’s talented foreign-based players are not mandated to be released by their respective clubs for the Concacaf World Cup qualifiers. Therefore, if the seven to 14-day quarantine guidelines remain enforced, T&T may have to field a totally home-grown squad for the March 25 clash.
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.
Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh and Minister of Sport Shamfa Cudjoe, on Saturday, confirmed discussions were still under way between the TT Football Association (TTFA) normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad and Sport Company of TT chairman Douglas Camacho.
Both ministers, however, believe the final decision lies in the hands of chief medical officer Dr Roshan Parasram.
“I think the ultimate decision is being made by the CMO and the Ministry of Health because first and foremost our priority is to keep, not just the players, but our nationals, safe,” said the sports minister.
Cudjoe noted they are exploring several options to facilitate these foreign-based athletes and are even considering playing the match in a regional territory.
“Up to yesterday (Friday) that conversation was still taking place. I know there was the option of having the players play in Curaçao but up to last night, while I was in Parliament, the conversation was still taking place as to protocols and exploring the different options,” she added.
Meanwhile the health minister has been in communication with the associated parties and awaits their final decision to chart a way forward. He also passed the buck to the CMO and local football fraternity.
“The CMO has been in contact with the normalisation committee of the TTFA and I have been in contact with the Minister of Sport. I leave the final decision to the Minister of Sport and the TTFA,” he said on Saturday.
Newsday reached out to Hadad for a response on these developments via WhatsApp. Hadad’s response was merely “Working on it”.
On Thursday, Deyalsingh reiterated that he did not want more cases of the new covid19 variant entering T&T and expressed concern about people entering the country and not quarantining properly and possibly bringing in the new variants.
Additionally, national senior team coach Terry Fenwick is hoping he can get the go-ahead to fast-track their quarantine so T&T would have a better chance of coming up trumps against the South American team.
In their last international friendly, on January 31, - T&T’s first official match in over a year owing to the pandemic – Fenwick’s unit was drubbed 7-0 by Concacaf giants USA.
The availability to more foreign-based players for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers and Gold Cup, in June, plays an integral in Fenwick’s setup going forward.
T&T will play Puerto Rico on March 28 in the second match of the World Cup qualifying campaign.