Despite the furore surrounding the inability of the FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee to seal a World Cup qualifying match against Guyana here at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Mucurapo on March 25, Kenwyne Jones, a former national striker and captain, has said he sees no reason for coach Terry Fenwick to complain about this.
However, Evans Wise, the talented left-footed winger who was on the T&T team that played at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, as well as former Technical Director Anton Corneal believe, it's a major issue for T&T not to capitalise on home advantage.
Both men feel that not enough was done by the negotiating parties- the FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee, being led by businessman Robert Hadad, Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe and officials from the Sport Company of T&T, Minister of Health Terrance Deyalsingh and his Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram, for the match to be played in a football bubble, as is being done around the world.
T&T will contest Group F of the qualifiers that also include Puerto Rico, Bahamas and St Kitts/Nevis.
Following the Guyana encounter in the Dominican Republic, the Warriors will play their next two matches away to Puerto Rico on March 28 and then the Bahamas on April 5. They will complete the group phase with a match against St Kitts/Nevis on April 8 at home, needing to top the group to be able to advance.
On Saturday, Minister Cudjoe made the announcement during the Ministry of Health (MOH) coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic virtual press conference update, said: "The TTFA is saying that the players cannot quarantine and that she said is troubling for us here in T&T. 'The Players must quarantine' she stressed, especially the players coming from the United Kingdom, Denmark, Belgium, coming from countries with the new (COVID-19) strain that we are really concern about."
The Minister said: "The TTFA proposal was for the players to come-in travel from the airport to the Home of Football, play their game, stay for two days and then go back out. That does not provide anytime really for them to quarantine. The proposal has also asked for them to room two-people to a room."
In response, a press release also on Saturday from the TTFA stated: "Over the last few months, we have been in discussions with the Ministry of Health (MOH), Sports Company of T&T, and other relevant Government agencies. Based on these discussions, numerous proposals and scenarios were put forward to host the match in T&T but unfortunately, none were ultimately successful, which would satisfy our FIFA mandates for international competitions."
The release continued: "The MOH’s protocol and guidelines mandate fourteen (14) days quarantine for anyone entering the country. This condition is not feasible given the FIFA international match window and the MOH has declined the TTFA’s request of an exemption to facilitate a hot-bubble which would allow members of both teams including staff, to arrive within a suitable time period conducive to international football."
According to Corneal: "I would have probably tried to continue speaking to our government and find ways to make it possible to play here. Of course, we have to look at the safety first of our people, and especially what we have done over the past eight months, containing the virus. I know there is a lot more that needs to be taken into consideration but losing the home advantage is a major issue when it comes to football or any sport."
Meanwhile, Wise called on the parties involved to come together for yet another time to allow the T&T footballers the opportunity at achieving home advantage, noting: "I definitely believe we're making a mistake. Home advantage is a plus, especially for an inexperience team and a team that hasn't played together for pretty much the whole year. I understand that guys have COVID-19 issues and quarantine protocols, but other countries did it. The US did it for us in the game we played recently, so I think it's unfortunate that we can't get that home advantage for players to boost their confidence, and also for the fans to get to see their team play."
He told Guardian Media Sports it will be important for coach Terry Fenwick to include some of the senior overseas players such as Kevin Molino, Khaleem Hyland, Joevin Jones etc, who will all be able to rally the younger players and be a driving force moving forward.
Fenwick's 7-o drubbing at the hands of the US, may not have only broken down players confidence, but it allowed the English-born coach to see what he had available to him.
Jones, on the other hand, following his public criticism of the national coach after the US defeat, said: "It's a neutral venue. The same woes T&T will be having, Guyana will probably have the same woes, so it's just about us going out on the pitch and playing the match to get the required result."
He added: "I don't see where the argument is really. Knowing what the situation is at hand, Mr Fenwick can't really complain. He had a game based on the conditions, based on how things have been rolled out here, so it's about him (Fenwick), after the quarantine period, coming back from the States, he should be focused on getting the team together, whatever plan he has down and trying to get everyone focused for that match in the Dominican Republic."
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