Tue, Jul


Trinidad and Tobago's professional footballers plying their trade in the United Kingdom could feel the backlash from FIFA's snub of England's 2018 World Cup bid.

The English media have been awash with condemnation of FIFA, and, particularly, vice-president Jack Warner after the CONCACAF head failed to support England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup, which went to Russia last week.

Prior to last week's announcement that Russia and Qatar (2022) had been awarded the next two World Cups after Brazil 2014, Warner had been courted by England's bid team and had met with members before Russia were officially named hosts.

Warner himself blamed a BBC report on FIFA corruption before the bid announcement which he said "insulted" members of FIFA's executive committee.

England only got two votes, including one from their own representative. Warner's CONCACAF quota was three.

But former national player Brent Sancho, who has played in the English leagues—most notably with Dundee FC, Gillingham and Millwall—thinks T&T's UK based players could be in for a hard time.

"It will impact (T&T players) tremendously," Sancho told the Express yesterday. "At the end of the day, the (British immigration) Home Office in England is a separate entity, and they have the final say.

With England feeling slighted, and they have every right to feel that way by Jack Warner's part in the FIFA process of selecting a host nation, the ramifications (will affect our players)."

Sancho knows first-hand the experience of being denied a work permit to play in the UK. He was able though to secure a successful appeal. But he believes it will now be more difficult for T&T players, at least in the near future.

"You can't play without a work permit, I'm sure everybody knows that," Sancho said, adding: "When you talk about these things, whatever leniency we had is gone."

The former T&T defender explained he had spoken to ex-national goalkeeper Kelvin Jack, currently in the UK, and Jack had expressed concerns similar to his (Sancho's).

He is hoping Stoke City striker Kenwyne Jones, Ipswich players Jason Scotland and Carlos Edwards and others do not feel the effects of England's wrath.

"People tend to become emotional with stuff like this, so I wouldn't be surprised if you feel the backlash from this. It is sad but it is very possible. I've seen the England public turn on David Beckham, and it can happen to (our players) too."

Sancho suggested Warner, as Minister of Works and Transport, is representative of T&T.

"They have every right to feel (slighted), but Jack won't be there to face this," he stated. "They are in England, they will have to represent the country, and they are the ones who are flying the flag for T&T."

But Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs Anil Roberts does not expect major problems from the UK because of the World Cup bid affair.

He feels T&T players may get some flak from English fans who "wear their emotions on their sleeves", but does not think this will last.

"I don't know why they would want to blame our players...our players had nothing to do with it," Roberts said at a news conference yesterday at his Ministry's headquarters on Abercromby Street, Port of Spain. "But I expect that there will be some because English fans are not known to be the most rational."

But Roberts thinks the British government will take a more "mature" approach to dealing with T&T's players.

"I think the British government is a bit more mature than that. They understand that work permits are based on merit. I do not believe a developed country like Great Britain will impact on our players in that way," he said.

The minister added: "Also, those who are there, what they have to ensure (is that) they play well, they play hard, they score, that they are very impactful on their team, so that any query could be deemed to be discriminatory. So once they keep performing, I don't think there would be any problems."