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TT U-23 footballers in visa woes.
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THE TRINIDAD and Tobago Under-23 football team are currently embroiled in a visa saga, resulting in a portion of the squad arriving in Puerto Rico for the start of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) First Round Qualifiers, which will take place this week.

The team, under the guidance of coach Zoran Vranes, will face Suriname on Wednesday, St Vincent/Grenadines on Friday and hosts Puerto Rico on Sunday, with the group winners advancing to the CFU Final Round in August.

In a media release issued last week by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA), it was reported that team manager David Muhammad “explained that some players were without US visas and arrangements were being made for this to be obtained in order for them to travel for the (qualifiers).”

However, it emerged yesterday, in a story on the Wired 868 website, that only five members of the original squad had visas and were due to land in Puerto Rico yesterday — striker Rundell Winchester, goalkeeper Montell Joseph as well as midfielders Neveal Hackshaw, Nathaniel Garcia and Jelani Felix.

As a result, the team management had to recall, due to the fact that they possess US visas, a number of players who were omitted from the training squad — Adrian Welch, Xavier Rajpaul, Ricardo John, Leland Archer, Martieon Watson, Jabari Mitchell and Duane Muckette.

Vranes was also in Puerto Rico, along with technical staff members Gilbert Bateau (assistant coach/trainer), Michael Taylor (physio) and Esmond O’Brien (equipment manager).

All efforts to reach Muhammad and Sheldon Phillips, TTFA general secretary, proved futile up to press time last evening.

(Trinidad and Tobago Under-23 Team in Puerto Rico)

Goalkeepers: Montell Joseph (Forest United);

Defenders: Leland Archer (College of Charleston—USA), Martieon Watson (W Connection);

Midfielders: Neveal Hackshaw (North East Stars), Jelani Felix (Defence Force), Duane Muckette (North East Stars), Jabari Mitchell (W Connection), Xavier Rajpaul (College of Charleston—USA);

Forwards: Rundell Winchester (Portland Timbers 2—USA), Ricardo John, Adrian Welch (both St John’s University—USA).

Staff: Zoran Vranes (coach), David Muhammad (manager), Gilbert Bateau (assistant coach/trainer), Michael Taylor (physio), Esmond O’ Brien (equipment manager).

(Remaining squad members still in Trinidad)

Goalkeeper: Aaron Enill (San Juan Jabloteh);

Defenders: Alvin Jones (W Connection), Jesus Perez (North East Stars), Josiah Trimmingham (San Juan Jabloteh);

Midfielders: Jomal Williams, Aikim Andrews (both W Connection), Nathaniel Garcia (Central FC), Kadeem Corbin (St Ann’s Rangers);

Forward: Dwight Quintero.

Staff: Nigel Neverson (goalkeeper coach).

RELATED NEWS

U23s down to 11 players for qualifiers; but Suriname allegedly withdraws
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868.com)

The Trinidad and Tobago National Under-23 Team breathed a sigh of relief today as their Suriname counterparts supposedly withdrew from the Caribbean preliminary round of the 2016 Olympic qualifying campaign, which kicks off on Wednesday June 24 in Puerto Rico.

The Caribbean Football Union (CFU) is yet to make an official announcement but Under-23 manager David Muhammad told Wired868 that Suriname, who were due to face the “Soca Warriors” at 5.30 pm on Wednesday were out due to visa issues.

If so, it appears to have saved the Warriors from the embarrassment of starting their campaign with barely half their squad available.

Twelve Trinidad and Tobago footballers left for Puerto Rico yesterday to represent their country in the Olympic qualifying series. But only eleven got there.

Muhammad confirmed that Central FC attacker Nathaniel Garcia got as far as Panama before being turned back due to an improper visa. Garcia allegedly has a student visa that is no longer valid since he quit university last year and joined local Pro League club, Central FC.

“There was a possibility that he would have gotten in,” Muhammad told Wired868.

The versatile attacker’s failure to get to Puerto Rico means that national coach Zoran Vranes would have had just 11 players to choose from for Trinidad and Tobago’s opener against Suriname on Wednesday.
The farcical situation is the result of late visa applications from the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) coupled with a technical glitch that handicapped the United States Embassy’s visa section.

Muhammad explained that the “Soca Warriors” applied for visas just before they entered a live-in camp on June 16.

“We had applied within the regular timeframes,” said Muhammad.

However, a consular message on the Embassy’s website stated that they experienced “technical problems” since May 26, which are not restricted to Trinidad and Tobago.

“The Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs is currently experiencing technical problems with our overseas passport and visa systems,” stated the US Embassy’s website. “This issue is not specific to any particular country, citizenship document, or visa category…

“Passport applications accepted overseas or after May 26, 2015 are affected by this delay. If you applied for a U.S. passport overseas during this time frame and have travel plans within the next 10 business days, please consider requesting an emergency passport…”

The problem proved disastrous to the National Under-23 Team.

There were only four visa holders within Vranes’ final squad, who were midfielders Neveal Hackshaw and Jelani Felix, goalkeeper Montell Joseph and United States-based forward Rundell Winchester had visas.
Garcia, of course, tried to travel with an invalid student visa.

United States-based university players Adrian Welch, Xavier Rajpaul, Ricardo John and Leland Archer as well as the W Connection and Naparima College duo of Martieon Watson and Jabari Mitchell, who were all dropped from the squad at various points, were recalled by the Warriors solely because they already held visas.

And former National Under-20 midfielder Duane Muckette, who is on trial with New York Cosmos and was initially due to miss the preliminary round, was persuaded to return and help the squad.
Another eight players will know tomorrow whether they have been granted visas. And, if so, they will leave for Puerto Rico on Wednesday.

They are: goalkeeper Aaron Enill, defender Jesus Perez, utility players Josiah Trimmingham, Aikim Andrews and Alvin Jones, midfielders Jomal Williams and Kadeem Corbin and forward Dwight Quintero.
Subject to availability, their flights will touch down in Puerto Rico at either 3.15 pm or 4.17 pm. It is expected to be too late for the players to get to the match venue in time to be processed for kick off, if Suriname did turn up.

Muhammad said Trinidad and Tobago were not the only participants affected by visa issues, which appears to be confirmed by Suriname’s supposed withdrawal. And, despite having an 11-man squad on the brink of a qualifying tournament, the manager congratulated his staff and players for their efforts in making the competition.

“I am very proud of the staff,” Muhammad told Wired868, “that, in light of the circumstances, we were able to put together a strong team to compete by Wednesday.

“That goes to show the depth of our squad. I am proud of the players too for making themselves available, especially Muckette.”

National Under-23 right back Shannon Gomez told Wired868 that he went to the US Embassy this morning only to realise he did not have an appointment.

However, Muhammad said Gomez must have misunderstood the precise details of his dilemma, since the W Connection player was allegedly issued a green card that never reached him due to a family issue. As such, he required a temporary travel document called a “boarding foil” rather than a visa.

“We told him to speak with someone for a boarding foil,” said Muhammad. “I gave him a letter saying he was part of the national team and so on and asking for them to assist him. That’s what he went there for and they told him they cannot give it to him just like that.

“We had told him to sort this situation out for quite some time…”

The eight players were accompanied to the Embassy by Under-23 goalkeeper coach Nigel Neverson, who also needed a visa.

They should all arrive in time to face St Vincent and the Grenadines on June 26 and then Puerto Rico on June 28. Only the group winner will advance to the next Caribbean qualifying round for the Olympic Games in August.

The Warriors are not out of the woods yet.

Tournament rules mandate that each team must select three goalkeepers. However, the Under-23s are only expected to have Joseph and Enill in Puerto Rico this week as Central FC custodian Javon Sample was denied a visa today.

“We will discuss that with (CFU officials) tomorrow morning at 11 am,” said Muhammad. “We will ask if that (rule about goalkeepers) can be amended or what their position is on that at this stage.”

It would be controversial if the CFU imposed sanctions on the Warriors for not selecting three goalkeepers in light of the visa complications.

It was the CFU, after all, that decided to stage a Caribbean competition on the one island in the region which requires travel visas.

(Trinidad and Tobago Under-23 Team in Puerto Rico)

Goalkeepers: Montell Joseph (Unattached);

Defenders: Leland Archer (College of Charleston—USA), Martieon Watson (W Connection);

Midfielders: Neveal Hackshaw (North East Stars), Jelani Felix (Defence Force), Duane Muckette (North East Stars), Jabari Mitchell (W Connection), Xavier Rajpaul (College of Charleston—USA);

Forwards: Rundell Winchester (Portland Timbers 2—USA), Ricardo John (Virginia Tech—USA), Adrian Welch (St John’s University—USA).

Staff: Zoran Vranes (coach), David Muhammad (manager), Gilbert Bateau (assistant coach/trainer), Michael Taylor (physio), Esmond O’ Brien (equipment manager).

(Remaining squad members still in Trinidad)

Goalkeeper: Aaron Enill (San Juan Jabloteh);

Defenders: Alvin Jones (W Connection), Jesus Perez (North East Stars), Josiah Trimmingham (San Juan Jabloteh);

Midfielders: Jomal Williams, Aikim Andrews (both W Connection), Nathaniel Garcia (Central FC), Kadeem Corbin (St Ann’s Rangers);

Forward: Dwight Quintero.

Staff: Nigel Neverson (goalkeeper coach).

T&T to play first match on Friday.
By Shaun Fuentes (TTFA).

Suriname pulls out of olympic qualifiers.

Trinidad and Tobago’ s National Under 23 Men’s Team will have an additional two days to prepare before commencing it’s 2016 Olympic Qualifying campaign.

This comes as a result of Suriname’s withdrawal from the Caribbean Football Union qualifying phase which starts in Puerto Rico on Wednesday.

T&T, under head coach Zoran Vranes, was initially scheduled to face Suriname in the opening game on Wednesday. However, the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association received a formal correspondence from the Caribbean Football Union today advising of Suriname’s decision to pull out of the competition. The fixtures have been re-arranged and will now see T&T facing St Vincent/Grenadines on Friday June 26th, 2015 at 8pm.

T&T will then meet hosts Puerto Rico on June 28th at 8pm. The hosts and St Vincent/Grenadines will kick off the group on Wednesday. The group winner will advance to the CFU semi-final stage.

Vranes remains optimistic

The T&T team lost 1-0 to Nicaragua in a training match at the Ato Boldon Stadium on Friday.

Head Coach Zoran Vranes will be without a few of his players , at least for the early part of the stay in Puerto Rico, due to visa complications and expects the two matches to be challenging for the visitors. But he is remaining optimistic.

“Okay so we have a couple extra days and this will give us some more time to prepare with the players we had to call again to join the team in Puerto Rico,” Vranes told TTFA Media.

“It’s very difficult for us but we have one goal which is to qualify from the group. The players are very eager and I believe we can get the results to take us out of the group. But I expect the two games to be very difficult and we will have to play very strong and not give away anything if we are to come away with what is necessary for us to advance,” Vranes added.

T&T squad for Puerto Rico

Montell Joseph (UK-based), Leland Archer (College of Charleston, US), Martieon Watson (W Connection): Neveal Hackshaw (North East Stars), Jelani Felix (Defence Force), Nathaniel Garcia (Central FC), Duane Muckette (North East Stars), Xavier Rajpaul (College of Charleston—USA), Jabari Mitchell (W Connection), Rundell Winchester (Portland Timbers 2, US), Ricardo John (St John’s University, US), Adrian Welch (St John’s University, US), Aaron Enill (Jabloteh), Jesus Perez (North East Stars), Josiah Trimmingham, Aikim Andrews (W Connection), Alvin Jones (W Connection), Jomal Williams (W Connection), Kadeem Corbin (St Ann’s Rangers), Dwight Quintero (Central FC).