Trinidad and Tobago’s senior footballers encountered a much earlier than anticipated challenge on the weekend as they sought to pick themselves up from the enormous disappointment of an exit from the 2014 World Cup qualifying effort.
Head coach Otto Pfister led his charges onto the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Sunday morning for their first session since the 2-1 defeat to Guyana on Friday which ended all aspirations of a place in Brazil and such a session could have turned out to be anything but encouraging or positive. But fortunately the one-hour session brought whatever little form of relief that was possible for skipper Kenwyne Jones and his teammates.
There was a bit of the usual banter and believe it or not, the session had its intense moments that was customary for a team that's preparing for a serious challenge with something at stake, which by now one would surely know does not apply to Tuesday’s match with Guyana from 5pm.
Playing for pride is sometimes nothing more than a convenient saying. But at least Jones and company have faced the disastrous defeat with the pain that they rightly should and now they will aim to finish on a bit of a high for whatever its worth.
“These last couple of days have been extremely challenging for us as players, for the staff and somewhat for the fans too who we’ve heard from,” Jones told TTFF Media.
“There’s nothing more that we would like other than to turn this around but unfortunately we can’t . We lost a match on Friday that sent us out of the campaign and now we’ve had to literally pick ourselves up and put on a brave face and get on with the preparations for this game. It’s the least we can do right now and go out there and try to win this match on Tuesday and look ahead to what the future holds for our football,” the skipper said.
He mentioned that there was deep sense of sadness within the T&T camp.
“It is sad that our campaign has come to such an abrupt end in the manner that it did. I don’t think we played badly at all on Frida. It was a valiant effort but maybe it was not our bet. We had chances to score goals in the game and quite a few and that’s football. It’s not the result any or anyone that has anything to do with Trinidad football wanted. We as players are hurting just as bad as the public because our football is our livelihood and our passion,” Jones stated.
Regarding his feelings on what the future holds for the team and football in general involving the efforts on the international stage, Jones had the following to say:
“We can only take it one day at a time. There’s a lot happening in the football now that needs to be checked and it will start from the ground come up. We had the qualification in 2006 but we need to realize that is in the past now. We need to have some form of continuity.
We have a lot of good youth players in the squad now and we just have to develop that professional lifestyle in every department of our football now,” Jones added.
“It’s typical for those looking in from the outside to cast aspersions after the dismal exit and Jones understands this. But he dismissed any belief that the players did not go into the match with intentions of winning or avoiding a defeat,” Jones said.
“At no point in time we as players are going to go out there to intentionally lose a game. No one likes to lose but yes sometimes you lose, draw and win. As footballers we do have bad games. Sometimes occasions may be too big. It happens and it’s a hard lesson to learn. We have a chance where we are able to learn from this moment and take it forward for the future.
It’s easy for the fans to point a finger at anyone in a situation that didn’t go right and fair enough it’s their prerogative to voice their opinion on what should have been done or shouldn’t be done. But I think that as a country, in every dominion of sport or whatever else, just in basic national pride, we are way off from years gone by,” he continued.
“ As a country on a whole and this is apart from football, we have a blase attitude to most things Hopefully the way how things go with the youth coming up, they can get to know what it means to have people behind you. We had ups and downs yes but for the last few years we haven’t had this (support). I hope this can change and we can really have long term support even when things are not going great,” added the Stoke City player.
He went on to say that it was down to the actual individual to ensure he prepares himself in the best possible manner to achieve success.
“The individual must have that attitude and desire to look after himself and to ensure he is as best prepared as possible to deliver. Exposure is a major part of it but it’s all down to attitude of the individual in every juncture of his life. This does not relate to football alone, but to every man, woman and child and their characters if we are to move forward as a country on the whole,” Jones concluded.
Birchall excused from Tuesday’s match
The management of the National Senior Team and the players have agreed to allow Chris Birchall an early departure from the team camp in order for him to return to LA Galaxy as they prepare for their all-important American MLS Cup final against Houston Dynamo on Sunday.
With T&T now holding no chance of advancing to the next phase of the 2014 World Cup qualification, and following a request from LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena for the midfielder to return due to the injury to Chad Barett, Birchall will now miss Tuesday’s match and link up with his Galaxy teammates.
T&T head coach Otto Pfister and assistant coach Anton Corneal discussed it with the T&T players with all of them giving him their blessings for his early return ahead of Sunday’s final.
“I really appreciate that the team is allowing me to go back to LA for the preparations. It’s an unfortunate situation because one of our players got injured and now they’d like me back to be part of the preparations before Wednesday. This will happen now because we’re out of the World Cup qualifiers,” Birchall told TTFF Media.
“It’s been a horrible last couple days for me and the others guys on the Trinidad and Tobago squad. No player can imagine something like this but it’s happened and we have to face it and try to get ourselves back in order for what’s to come now. Hopefully we can get it together and come back better from this,” Birchall added.