22 May 2012
- Written by Shaun Fuentes (TTFF)
- Hits: 1408
National Under 17 Men’s head coach Shawn Cooper says his squad’s preparation has started to take shape ahead of the upcoming Caribbean Football Union World qualifiers to take place in this country from July 3rd.
However, Cooper, who led the previous T&T team to within one victory of qualification for the 2011 FIFA Under 17 World Cup, has not closed the door on local or overseas-based players eligible of representing T&T. Back in 2011, T&T needed to defeat Canada in its quarter-final fixture to qualify for the World Championship in Mexico but disappointingly lost the match 2-0 in Montego Bay.
Since the start of the talent search campaign last month, Cooper has seen just under 100 players and he is currently working with a squad that has been trimmed to 32 players including eight goalkeepers. However, one of the bright young prospects to serve in goal, W Connection’s Stephan Seepersad has had to be withdrawn from the team at this stage due to a heart complication. His club, W Connection is overseeing his medical requirements and the TTFF is also assisting as deemed necessary.
“It’s been difficult trying to put everything together in such a short space of time but we’re getting there and we’re making things work at this point,” Cooper told TTFF Media.
“It’s no secret that the resources are not at its best because of the tough circumstances the Federation is in at the moment but they (TTFF) are trying their best to make things work and with that we are working with what we have in trying to get the team into the best possible shape for the tournament.”
Cooper will include at least five US-based players into the training in early June while players from Tobago will also have their chance to vie for final selection. One player, Akeem Garcia, has the experience of the previous Under 17 qualifying campaign with the likes of ex-captain Duane Muckette and others graduating the Under 20 team which is also in training ahead of a qualifying campaign.
Cooper along with recently introduced assistant coach Leonson Lewis and Ross Russell have been overseeing sessions three days per week at the Ato Boldon Stadium but Cooper adds that his Saturday sessions have had to be tapered due to the Oasis Pro League youth competition still ongoing.
“We get in at least two good sessions every week but the third session normally has to be cut back on because of the boys that play in the youth Pro League. This is something that we have to iron out because I understand the League is running until June 20th and our first game is on July 3rd which means that we will be in live-in camps prior to that and we will need the players on a full time basis. I expect that some sort of mutual arrangement will be made with the League and the clubs to facilitate this,” Cooper added.
“A team like Suriname is always organized and you don’t know what to expect from Guyana so we have to prepare well and we cannot afford to take any of these teams lightly,” Cooper concluded.
Caribbean qualifying for the Under 17s will be played from July 3-10th with Trinidad hosting one of the groups which will see them come up against Suriname, British Virgin Islands and Guyana.
The group winner of the five groups and the best second placed team will advance to the final CFU round in August. The 2013 FIFA Under 17 World Cup takes place in United Arab Emirates. The dates for the CONCACAF final round will be announced in due course.