Sheer, downright madness. Quite possibly the only way to describe what really took place last Friday night at the Ato Boldon Stadium. This World Cup qualifier, yes a World Cup qualifier, is right up there with the worst organised sporting event in the sporting annals of T&T.
This trial or experiment (I am not sure what it was) was doomed to fail before a ball was kicked. I queried why a game of this magnitude, a do or die game for the Soca Warriors, was being played at the Couva venue.
The (T&T Football Association) indicated they wanted to create an atmosphere at a smaller venue with the pitch closer to the players and they also wanted the stands to be at full capacity as they could not fill the Hasely Crawford Stadium and they felt this would have created the right atmosphere.
Really? Calypsonian Doppy sang a calypso many years ago called ‘Garbage’. These statements from the T&TFA would have fitted in nicely with the lyrics of Doppy’s song.
The national team played in front of roughly 12,000 - 14,000 fans in the previous World Cup qualifiers versus Panama and Mexico and the atmosphere was enthralling. Perhaps none of the T&TFA executives attended those games so whose crazy idea was it to get these patrons in the 10,000 capacity Ato Boldon Stadium? They even went quite ludicrously and paid, as far as I understand, $10,000 to erect temporary stands for a further 2,000 spectators. I counted roughly 54 persons in these temporary stands.
It took patrons coming from the capital 2.5 hours to get to the venue; some turned back in sheer frustration and when the game finally kicked off at 8 pm, the Honduras team must have felt at home as there was more people outside trying to get in, than those inside the venue supporting the Warriors.
So it was no surprise that our opponents scored two goals in the first 20 minutes. Persons who had season tickets bought their tickets with the understanding that the games were to be played at the Hasely Crawford Stadium and some refused to go to Couva and wanted to know what to do. I wonder if the T&TFA is going to compensate those ticket holders?
Further, a lighting tower went out of operation before a ball was kicked, rumours of players not being paid, the grass not being cut to a specified length making it unnecessarily difficult for the players - need I say more?
It’s just one blunder after another and we go along like its business as usual. The T&TFA cost us qualification for the Gold Cup, now they have sunk us for Russia 2018 but I am sure a few of the hierarchy from the T&TFA are going to show their faces in Russia in some VIP box sipping fine beverages while the football fans in this country ponder what could have been.
It is easy to blame the players because they should have done this or they should have done that, however if you don’t have the right environment for the players how do you expect positive results? The next scapegoat is the coach; blame the coach he should not have picked this player, or he should have started with someone else. And the problem continues…let’s not play smart with foolishness.
The dream has ended as another defeat to Panama has left us six points adrift of USA and Honduras, and seven points behind Panama. It is a crying shame that we are not right there in the mix for an automatic spot for Russia 2018. Our last game is against USA and we owe it to Honduras and to Panama to field our strongest team and ensure that if the USA has to qualify, they must truly beat us with our strongest 11 on the field.
In the meantime who is going to stand up and apologise to the nation for the fiasco at the Ato Boldon Stadium? More than that, who is going to say that we didn’t give our team enough of a chance to get to Russia?