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Photo - T&T's striker Neil Benjamin vs Guyana.
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T&T's FIFA World Cup Qualifying match against Guyana will not be played here in T&T, a source close to the situation confirmed to Guardian Media Sports on Friday.

It will now, most-likely be played in Curacao, where an all-expense-covered opportunity will be presented to the teams, being a CONCACAF venue.

It is understood that the FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee is attempting to negotiate with countries that are willing to help them financially and otherwise, since negotiations with Guyana broke down, due to a request by the Guyana Football Federation for T&T to pay for hotel and accommodation.

Should the match be played outside of T&T, the Terry Fenwick-coached team will miss out on the advantage of playing in front of a home crowd.

According to the source, who spoke to Guardian MediaSports on the condition of anonymity, said it is disappointing, an uncaring and unprofessional government has blocked the idea of a football bubble where the match could have been played, as is being done in many countries around the world.

Guardian Media Sports was told that a decision on the match was taken to the Cabinet, where 12 to 15 ministers supported the match being played in T&T, but it appeared not to have gotten the approval of the Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh, under the advice of Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Roshan Parasram.

Parasram when contacted on Thursday, said Minister Deyalsingh had already spoken about the match and did not want to add to his comments.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe could not be reached for comment. Guardian Media Sports sent questions to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley about the match via WhatsApp on Tuesday but received no response up to press time yesterday.

The normalisation committee was expected to submit a response to CONCACAF by Thursday (February 18th), but chairman Hadad admitted they had received an extension to this date.

It is still unclear as to the reasons why the match was blanked, the source explained, coming at a time when the country and government are accessible to more information than last year when approval for the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) was granted.

"It is confusing because the government and the Ministry of Health could have sourced more info about staging bubble events from the many countries staging them now," the source said.

They added: "So are they saying that countries like Guyana, Jamaica and all these countries are capable of holding bubble events and we can't in T&T?"

Early yesterday Robert Hadad, chairman of the FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee called on the public to rally around the government, believing it was well within its rights to take the necessary steps to prevent the new variants of the COVID19 virus from reaching our shores.

"We will do our very best to keep this thing in a hot bubble. I understand, and the committee understands the position of the government, concerning COVID19. They have done a damn good job here, so we need to work with them and trust them," Hadad said.

He noted further: "At the time of the CPL, COVID19 was in a different place from today. So where we are today, all the circumstances are different, so we have to consider things a little bit different. So we will work with the government to find a solution."

The Caribbean Premier League (CPL) received a $6M investment from the government for six club franchise teams, with expectations of returns in the end. To date, however, it is unsure of the returns, despite a properly-run, COVID19-free tournament.

Only last week, national coach Fenwick lashed out at the government for its reluctance to approve the football bubble when the CPL received the go-ahead. According to Fenwick, his team was recently taken in by the United States for an international friendly, and his team and staff were tested every day.

Despite a worrying 7-0 result, however, Fenwick's team was subjected to another 14-day quarantine period when they returned home.

RELATED NEWS

T&T set to cede home advantage in W/Cup qualifier against Guyana.
By Ian Prescott (T&T Express).


OH REALLY?

How can Guyana host the World Cup qualifier but Trinidad and Tobago cannot?

The question was asked by former Sport Minister Brent Sancho, after news circulating yesterday suggested the Trinidad and Tobago senior men’s team will likely give up home advantage and play its 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier in Guyana, on March 25.

Yesterday, unconfirmed reports stated that Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Roshan Parasram had denied a request from the FIFA-imposed normalisation committee to allow the match to be played here, owing to current Covid-19 protocols.

Neither Parasram nor FIFA normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad responded to telephone calls or WhatsApp messages in seeking clarity, or confirmation, regarding the impasse. And when contacted, men’s national head coach Terry Fenwick said he would comment at a later date.

Fenwick began full national team training on Wednesday with a contingent of local and foreign-based players, including the likes of Joevin Jones, Alvin Jones, Kevin Molino and Dwayne Muckette.

A Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) source revealed that Fenwick had been given the option of either playing the match in Guyana, or on a synthetic pitch at a neutral venue in Curacao.

The Englishman was reportedly fuming at the prospect of the “Soca Warriors” having to cede home advantage against what could prove to be the toughest opponent (Guyana) for T&T in preliminary group stage action, whereby only the top team advances.

Fenwick is said to be furious that two teams were denied access to play a key World Cup qualifier here when only a few months ago, and at the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak, Government allowed six teams to participate in the 2020 Caribbean Premier League (CPL), while in an isolated bio-secure ‘bubble’ from August 18-September 10.

The 61-year-old former England international is reportedly also peeved that during the six months after FIFA confirmed that World Cup qualifiers against Guyana (March 26) and St Kitts-Nevis (June 8.) would be held here, that officials of the Sport Ministry, Health Ministry and the normalisation committee could not come together to find a means for the T&T football team to host the one-off match.

Efforts via both telephone and WhatApp, to contact Sport and Community Development Minister Shamfa Cudjoe, also proved futile

The question was raised, why not hold the match at an alternative venue such as Barbados or Grenada?

“Anguilla playing their game in Miami at a neutral venue and Trinidad and Tobago can do the same. At the end of the day, the Government allowed CPL to play here and at the height of the pandemic. My point is, find a way,” contended Sancho. Given the many protocols which have allowed sport to take place around the world, Sancho is of the firm belief that a way could have been found to have the match played in T&T.

“It doesn’t make sense,” he added, “When you have 83 countries around the world hosting World Cup qualifiers, then people finding ways to do things.”

Soca Warrior unfazed by Guyana qualifier uncertainty.
By Jelani Beckles (T&T Newsday).


SOCA Warriors defender Radanfah Abu Bakr and team manager Adrian Romain said the national players are focused and upbeat despite the uncertainty surrounding the March 25 World Cup qualifier against Guyana.

The normalisation committee remains in communication with the health ministry and Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram, awaiting clearance to host the match in T&T.

However, TT Football Association (TTFA) general secretary Amiel Mohammed said on Friday, "We are still finalising arrangements and all will be confirmed tomorrow."

National football training resumed on Monday under head coach Terry Fenwick after several players and coaches completed state-sanctioned quarantine. T&T fell 7-0 to the US on January 31 in Florida and the local-based players and coaches who travelled abroad had to serve 14 days quarantine upon their return – seven days at the Home of Football and seven at home.

The experienced trio of Kevin Molino, Joevin Jones and Abu Bakr, who missed the US friendly. returned to training this week.

Speaking to Newsday on Friday, Abu Bakr said he is uncertain if all the players are aware that the qualifier has not been given the green light. However, Abu Bakr said the players are concentrating on training.

"Generally, we want to just focus on what we can control, which is putting in our work in training and performing on the pitch...those other issues are not up to us," he said.

On his personal training during the pandemic, Abu Bakr said, "I have been doing as much as I can on my own or in small groups in the gym. I did not retire, obviously, so I assume he (Fenwick) saw it fit that he needs a little bit more experience around the team especially in this time here. In these qualifiers, one mistake and it could probably spell the end of your chances. There is no room for mistake."

He added, "I am delighted to be asked to be a part of the effort and however I can help. Even if it is just sort of being there and mentoring some of the younger guys. I am happy to share my experience and obviously contribute on the pitch as well, which I still think I am more than capable of doing."

Under normal circumstances an entire national team will gather just days before a World Cup qualifier during an international window. But because of the pandemic many of the local-based players have been training regularly since the middle of 2020, allowing the players to build chemistry.

Abu Bakr said this can benefit the team. "At least you have guys in a long period together. It could almost be a plus in the sense that under normal circumstances you bring guys in an international window – two, three days – just to put some ideas in their head and hope that it sort of just sinks in really quickly in time for a game. That's always very difficult. Maybe there is a bit of a positive in the guys being here and being able to really understand what the coach is expecting of them."

Romain added, "The mood of the camp is very upbeat. Everyone is focused on the World Cup qualifiers that are coming up. We are trying to get at least two international friendlies before the World Cup qualifiers. It is a plus to have senior guys return to the training fold locally...

"We are just awaiting word in terms of where the game will be hosted on the 25th, but we are putting things in place." T&T are targeting Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines as two potential friendlies

Asked if the uncertainty of the qualifier is a distraction for the players, Romain said, "Honestly, we know it will not be played in Guyana. To be fair (normalisation committee president) Mr (Robert) Hadad and the general secretary (Amiel Mohammed) are doing as much as they can do to make sure that the game is in Trinidad."