The standard of women’s football is on a steady rise and soon T&T will be ready to compete with Concacaf powerhouses such as Canada, USA and Mexico.

This was the view of national women’s coach Jamal Shabazz on his return to T&T from a four-match tour of Venezuela with T&T Under-20 women’s team.

The South American tour was in preparation ahead of the 2006 Concacaf Women’s Final Round Qualification competition to be played in Veracruz, Mexico from January 18 to 27.

Reflecting on the tour Shabazz said it has shown him how much the women’s football programme has improved over the last two years.

When asked if the invited players from abroad has had any negative effects on the team, Shabazz replied: “Not at all. In fact, the camaraderie among them was tremendous. It’s a really close-knit group of girls and they have all embraced each other because they know their value. In the same way, the girls based outside of T&T have also accepted their roles with the team and have not tried to be cocky.”

Among the foreign-based players that toured Venezuela were: the Mohammed twin-sisters who attend the University of Tampa, Maylee Attin-Johnson, Kia Rigsby and Katrina Meyer.

Attin-Johnson is in her first year at Cumberland University, while Rigsby and Meyer are also in their first year of studies at Florida International University (FIU) and North Carolina Upper State University respectively.

Shabazz, who also coaches local pro club Caledonia AIA/Fire, pointed out that the reason for chosing to play Venezuela was because that country plays a similar style of football to T&T.

Shabazz also pointed to the food that was on offer in Venezuela which is similar to what the players expect while in Mexico.

He said that was also a key aspect of the tour as well as the living conditions which were a bit challenging but the girls came out of it very well.

For the first two days, the players had to force themselves to eat and on top of that they were training and playing football, but by the third stay they began to settle down and were able to understand that in Mexico it will not be that much different.

On Friday, the national players will have another practice match against a mixture of local and foreign-based players before the coach selects the final team of 20 players.

T&T squad in training:

Kimica Forbes (Stokely Vale), Tricia Lawrence (St George’s College & Real Dimension), Maria Mohammed (University of Tampa).

Ayana Russell, Kennya Charles (EL Dorado & Joe Public), Anastasia Prescott (Real Dimension), Christine Rose (Real Dimension), Patrice Superville (Real Dimension), Tamar Watson (Real Dimension), Kia Rigsby (Florida International University), Katrina Meyer (North Carolina Upper State).

Dernelle Mascall (Petrotrin), Aveann Douglas (Joe Public), Karen Forbes (Stokely Vale), Bianca Walker (St Joseph Convent & Real Dimension), Stephanie Barrow (Joe Public), Jemilia Mathlin (Real Dimensions), Marissa Mohammed (University of Tampa).

Kennya Cordner (St Clair Coaching School), Candace Edwards (Stokely Vale), Janine Francois, Dinelle Douglas (Real Dimensions), Kermica Alexander (Memphis), Maylee Attin-Johnson (Cumberland University).

Technical staff: Jamaal Shabazz (head coach), Izzler Browne (assistant coach), Marlon Charles (assistant coach), Ricarda Nelson (manager), Jinelle James (assistant manager), Steve Frederick (equipment manager), Nicole Kistow (physiotherapist).