Shamfa Cudjoe, the Minister of Sport and Community Development says she is confident in this country making a winning start to its 2022 Concacaf Qatar World Cup Qualifying later this month against Guyana.
The Terry Fenwick-coached Soca Warriors will open their Group F round-robin home encounter against Guyana on March 25 in the Dominican Republic.
The "Soca Warriors" will then be away to Puerto Rico (March 28) in their next encounter; away to the Bahamas (June 5), and home to St Kitts and Nevis (June 8.).
Addressing members of the team after witnessing their 8-0 win over a Tobago’s Orange XI at the St James Police Barracks in St James on Saturday in a practice encounter, Minister Cudjoe said she was confident in the team going ahead.
She said, “I see the work being done and the guys are training and of course I know that conversations are happening at the level of the Normalisation Committee to get the team ready. Of course, we will like to see more co-operation and collaboration but these guys are hungry and ready to play and ready to win. And, I feel confident that they are going to go forward and we are going to play our very best and they are going to get the three points that we need.”
Concerning her presence at the match, the Tobago-born Minister Cudjoe said, “Today, I was invited by the Commissioner of Police, Gary Griffith to participate in this evening of celebration. I would say celebration for the national team rather than the Tobago team because we got some licks today 8-0.
“But I am thankful for the opportunity to interact with these guys and fellowship with them and talk with these football players and hear how passionate they are about the game, about seeing football being restored to its former glory and about getting ready for the international game and World Cup qualifiers and so on, I am excited."
Minister Cudjoe while acknowledging the off the field issues have left a sour taste in the mouths of locals, said like everyone else she was anxious to see the game in T&T get back to its glory days.
“Like I said to them football is everybody’s game, whether you played or never kicked a ball in your life, football is T&T’s game.
She said, “You know everybody feels like we are a part of it so as Minister of Sport it is in the best interest of the country and sports development and in football development to see that we settle down.
“As it relates to football there is a lot of rumbling taking place at this point in time but I am pleased to see that hope is still alive and that we have everybody on board, stakeholders on board, down to the COP on board. You know just trying to get in there and make the investment of your time, your talent and bringing them together in these friendly matches extending the reach and the love of the T&TFA to even Tobago."
She aded that, "The Government continues to make its investments and support T&T football.
“The records will show that over the years the amount the investment has been. So we stand ready to contribute to football and support football. Of course we are going through a really trying difficult time as it relates to Covid-19, as it relates to trying to have some level of normalcy amidst financial trials, amidst abiding by the health protocols and keeping these guys energized and those in the Semi-Pro and Pro football at home."
The Sports Minister also hinted that a restart to local professional football could be on the horizon adding, “I know right now the Pro League and T&TFA are having conversations about having a combined league, and we look forward to all the new ideas and strategies towards the resurgence of football.
“I met with Robert Hadad (Normalisation Committee chairman) and SPoRTT about some of the plans they are thinking about on the way forward for football and of course those plans are going to be discussed with the football fraternity to make sure that there is buy-in and we can all move forward harmoniously and peacefully. We need that in football and we as Government stand ready to support."
She continued: “We the fans are waiting, we are ready to see T&T in full effect once again and I call on all football players, stakeholders, associations, community groups and anybody who has any say in the football fraternity and, in the development of football in T&T, lets put our differences aside and really come together and plan a proper way forward."
The Minister citing one of the key areas for the disruption of T&T football said, “At the end of the day, over the years we have had management, poor management, mal-management and lack of management being a major cause for break down of football in T&T and we have to find a way to rebuild bridges and to mend all that has been broken."
She concluded that: "It’s a herculean task and it’s a lot of work to be done, every time I look at these gentlemen and I talk to them and I hear about the passion that they have, their plans and their dreams and their aspirations I am excited and we should get excited too and it makes us more willing to work and more willing to invest and I hope that that is the type of energy that runs throughout football fraternity if not for management definitely for the young men and women whose future depends on the beautiful game.”