Tobago is ruing the absence of Lambeau-born playmaker Keon Daniel but is still abuzz by the presence of the “Soca Warriors” as the Trinidad and Tobago national senior football team touched down on the sister isle today in preparation for this week’s 2012 Caribbean Cup qualifiers at the Dwight Yorke Stadium in Bacolet.
There will be three double headers at the Bacolet venue this week with Trinidad and Tobago playing the closing fixture on each occasion against St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Cuba on November 14, 16 and 18 respectively. Tickets will be sold at the venue on match day for $40 (covered stands) and $20 (uncovered stands).
The top two teams progress to the Caribbean Cup finals in Antigua and Barbuda next month.
The Trinidad and Tobago outfit is captained by 28-year-old DirecTV W Connection goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams and also includes 2006 World Cup midfielder and Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA employee Densill Theobald, uncompromising North East Stars defender Seon Power and the overseas-based pair of Vancouver defender Carlyle Mitchell and Vietnam-based attacker Hughtun Hector.
Tobago last hosted a competitive senior international game on 6 June 2009 when Dwight Yorke led out a squad that included England-based stars like Kenwyne Jones, Carlos Edwards and Dennis Lawrence for their first game under then coach Russell Latapy. They lost 3-2 to Costa Rica on an emotional evening, which was Yorke’s first and only competitive game on a ground named in his honour.
Huey Cadette, the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) assistant general secretary for sport and youth affairs, hopes that this week’s games are every bit as exciting.
“There is definitely a buzz here and we think it is an excellent opportunity for the Tobago public to see top flight football,” Cadette told Wired868. “It is obviously a big disappointment for the home crowd not to be able to see Keon... It might have generated even more excitement if he was here.
“But I think his omission was not deliberate and there will still be support.”
National coach Hutson “Barber” Charles shared Tobago’s disappointment in Daniel’s absence. The clever United States-based midfielder scored four times in three matches during the earlier round in St Kitts and Nevis last month but the technical staff has been unable to reach him by phone, Blackberry messenger or through his agent.
“Keon is a player we could have used but apparently he doesn’t want to be contacted,” said Charles. “We don’t even know what country he is in… I think it is real immature behaviour (because) we spoke to him in St Kitts and he assured us he would come back.”
At just 25 years of age, Daniel has already amassed 54 senior caps with 12 goals while his passing range and set pieces are always welcomed assets. His absence opens the door for another gifted but sometimes wayward talent in 24-year-old Caledonia AIA attacking midfielder Ataullah Guerra.
Guerra is the Pro League’s joint highest scorer with four goals, despite not holding a regular starting berth for his club. He has managed just ten senior caps since his debut under coach Francisco Maturana in April 2008.
Charles, an accomplished former midfielder with the “Strike Squad”, is counting on Guerra to come good in Tobago.
“I think he is one of the better midfielders we have in Trinidad and Tobago,” said Charles. “I expect great things from him. He will most definitely feature (in Tobago).”
Charles, who has no access to his Europe-based players since the tournaments falls outside the FIFA calendar, also has to do without W Connection defender Daneil Cyrus and Willis Plaza, who have club commitments in Vietnam, while Kazakhstan-based defender Robert Primus was injured in national training on the weekend and United States-based playmaker Kevin Molino is trying to finalise a move to Belgium.
However, the interim coach believes his current squad is capable of advancing from this group.
“It’s not ideal at the moment but this group of players are very hungry to achieve something,” Charles told the TTFF Media.
“… We have some experienced players as well as some in form ones here with us and I believe once we execute our plan well on the day then we should be alright.”
Tobago is excited at the chance to witness their efforts first-hand.
A Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) insider revealed that the football body sought out the THA for assistance at the height of its friction with the Ministry of Sport so as to avoid the possibility of being embarrassed as the host nation.
Cadette said the TTFF’s friction with Sport Minister Anil Roberts did not form part of any discussions between the two parties and expressed hope that Tobago will not have to wait three years for another game of this magnitude.
Apart from the entertainment on the field, Cadette explained the Caribbean Cup games were also allowing Tobago administrators and match officials the benefit of interacting with knowledgeable professionals in their fields. He suggested that the TTFF should consider rotating more international games across the various football venues nationwide including Malabar, Couva and Marabella.
“We are probably one of the few countries in the world who have four of five venues of the caliber to host international games and yet choose to play in only one,” said Cadette.
“In Germany and England, they move around their games according to who they are playing and I think we centralize things too much by having all our games at the Hasely Crawford Stadium. I feel we should look at that going forward.
“Give us a chance to see international games more often and also do the same for the Ato Boldon or Larry Gomes Stadiums. We are getting very good feedback from the (Tobago) public about the matches so far.”
Williams and his men will aim to please starting from 8 pm on Wednesday night against St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Trinidad and Tobago Team
Goalkeepers: Jan Michael Williams (W Connection), Marvin Phillip (Central FC);
Defenders: Kern Cupid (W Connection), Seon Power, Kareem Moses (both North East Stars), Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Carlyle Mitchell (Vancouver whitecaps—Canada), Aubrey David (Caledonia AIA);
Midfielders: Kevon Carter (Defence Force), Hughtun Hector (Song Lam Nghe—Vietnam), Clyde Leon, Joevin Jones (both W Connection), Keyon Edwards, Densill Theobald, Ataullah Guerra (all Caledonia AIA), Kendall Jagdeosingh (Chainat FC—Thailand);
Forwards: Devorn Jorsling, Richard Roy (both Defence Force), Jamal Gay (Caledonia AIA), Hashim Arcia (W Connection).
Caribbean Cup Fixtures
Wednesday November 14
Cuba v Suriname, 6 pm,
Trinidad and Tobago v St Vincent and the Grenadines, 8 pm,
Friday November 16
Cuba v St Vincent and the Grenadines, 6 pm,
Trinidad and Tobago v Suriname, 8 pm,
Sunday November 18
Suriname v St Vincent and the Grenadines, 6 pm,
Trinidad and Tobago v Cuba, 8 pm.