Trinidad and Tobago’s Belgium-based defender Sheldon Bateau is expecting Friday’s International Friendly with Panama to be a gripping contest when both teams take the Ato Boldon Stadium pitch from 7pm.
Bateau who plays in the Belgium Premier Division with KV Mechelen is one of three European-based pros selected by head coach Stephen Hart for the contest with Racing Genk midfielder Khaleem Hyland and former England youth international and Millwall defender Justin Hoyte being the other two.
Bateau who lined up with San Juan Jabloteh in the T&T Pro League before moving to Mechelen in 2012, is applauding the move by Hart to include several of the T&T home-based pros in the team for Friday’s match.
“It’s a bold step but I think it’s the right thing at this stage as it will give him (Hart) a good idea of how these players are shaping up because we need a big pool to take us through to the World Cup qualifiers,” Bateau told TTFA Media.
“There is some experience in the squad but it’s also important that a lot of the players who are a bit younger get that opportunity early to taste international football. We don’t have the luxury of playing a lot of international games so the coach has to take the chance to see these guys in an international game before he can know for sure who can really make it at that level of the Gold Cup and playing against the likes of a Mexico, USA or Costa Rica at the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers,” the 24-year-old defender added.
Bateau has played ten matches for T&T at the senior level since making his debut against a star-studded Peru team at the Ato Boldon Stadium in February 2013. The likes of Bayern Munich striker Claudio Pizarro was in the Peru team that night and Bateau remembers it quite clearly.
“I remember it quite well. I had now settled in Belgium and here it was I was coming into the team to play Peru and joining the national team with players like Kenwyne Jones, Carlos Edwards and other senior players. Your senior debut is always a special experience and a very important game in your career. So for these young players coming into the team now it’s important that we help them along and create a good situation for them. They must also realize very early that this is a different level and they have to raise everything about themselves,” he added.
Bateau expects the game to be a difficult one for T&T.
“It’s going to be difficult but it’s the kind of game we want to play. Panama are a good team and this will show us where we are at now and the coach will know exactly what needs to be done between now and the Gold Cup in July and the World Cup qualifiers later this year,” he said.
Hart has included ten uncapped home-based professionals in his final selection. Among them are National Under 20 captain Shannon Gomez and his teammates from the recent Under 20 team Neveal Hackshaw and Aikim Andrews.
Also earning their first call ups to the Senior Men’s Team are former Under 20 team defender Uriah Bentick of Central FC and W Connection’s Jomal Williams as well as Johan Peltier of San Juan Jabloteh. The other newcomers include Central FC’s Akeem Benjamin and Jamal Jack and San Juan Jabloteh’s Tyrone Charles and North East Stars’ Dwane James. The two goalkeepers are regulars Jan Michael Williams and Marvin Phillip. Central FC forward Willis Plaza has earned a recall while his club teammate Ataullah Guerra has also been included.
Tickets for the T&T versus Panama encounter cost $100 and are available at Fan Club Movietowne (POS, Trincity Mall, Gulf City Mall), All Out Restaurant (QP Oval), Heritage Sports Tobago, Ramsingh's Sportsworld, Couva, Econo Supermart and Kenny's Sports Shops. Gates at the venue open at 4pm on Friday.