Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs, Anil Roberts, was in full praise of Soca Warriors coach Russell Latapy and his team after they topped the Digicel Caribbean Cup second round Group Qualifiers to reach the eight-team finals in Martinique later this month.
Prior to the start of the series, Roberts, Fifa vice-president, Jack Warner and T&TFF president, Oliver Camps were critical of the Warriors after a string of poor results.
However, Latapy and his youthful squad answered their critics with a 6-2 mauling of St Vincent and The Grenadines, a 2-1 win over Guyana and a 4-0 shut-out of Haiti on Saturday to book a spot in Martinique from November 26 to December 5. Commenting on the team’s performance, Roberts said he was very proud.
“I’m elated. That’s how we should perform against Caribbean countries.” Roberts commended the technical staff, players and Latapy and said T&T football must never be in the doldrums, especially in the Caribbean. “I expect we will be in the final against Jamaica and we will beat Jamaica.” Roberts believes Jamaica is currently ahead of T&T.
“They have been doing well and their young players are looking fit and playing as a cohesive unit, and we are playing catch-up. “But I think by the end of this month we will be ready for them.” Roberts said there will be no incentives for the team to win the Cup.
“The reward will be intrinsic. They must want to play with pride and passion. We will begin to talk about incentives when we reach next year’s Concacaf Gold Cup and then qualifying for Brazil 2014.
“The incentive is that they are wearing the red, white and black and they must prove to themselves and us as a public, that they are good enough to put it together on the pitch.
“We need to go out there and give the Jamaicans and the other teams a run for their money. “I don’t just want to think about the end result, but obviously we will have to take it one game at a time.” Roberts said he supports Latapy’s decision to add eight players to the squad. “He is the boss. He knows what he has to do and he is being paid big bucks to do it.
He has gotten through stage one, congratulations are due and we now move on to the finals.” Asked for an update on the funding for the salary of Latapy and his technical staff, the Minister said he has received the budget from the TTFF.
“But the board of the Sport Company of T&T (Sportt) has just been installed. So we are reviewing to see how much we can do and how much we can pay, because it’s a rather all-inclusive budget which includes the technical staff and development programmes in one. “The overall budget is $25 million a year but we will not be able to cover 100 percent.
“But as we stated, qualification for Brazil 2014 is a national priority, so we may have to extricate the Warriors budget from the rest of the developmental plan to deal with their funding in a special project manner.”
Concerning payments to players who competed in recent matches, the Minister said: “The T&TFF has presented us with some arrears and we are looking at them because accountability and transparency are key. We will get it done and give them what is rightfully theirs.”