Trinidad and Tobago’s National Team announced on Wednesday that it would not take the field for Saturday’s friendly international against Belize at the MCC Grounds because of the shambolic conditions of the venue.
This decision forced the Belize Football Federation to hold an emergency meeting late on Wednesday evening which resulted in a decision to shift the game to the FFB Stadium in Belmopan to Saturday at 8pm (10pm T&T time).
The venue was used for T&T's previous friendly in Belize in 2010. Initially it was in fact the venue for the encounter before the FFB made the switch to accommodate a local Bandfest show. Fans will now have the chance to enjoy both events on the evening. Click here for photos
The stance taken by the T&T players and staff was supported by TTFF President Raymond Tim Kee on Wednesday. After roughly 40 minutes of training at the MCC Grounds, a stone’s throw away from the Princess Hotel where the T&T team is based, head coach Hutson Charles was forced to call off the session because of the poor field conditions.
Charles immediately stated that his team would not hold another session on the ground nor would they play the match on Saturday. The venue consisted of no dressing rooms and inadequate fencing from the general public as well as poor lighting even though the FFB scheduled the game for a 7:30pm kick off. Daylight usually goes until 6:30 pm here in Belize.
Belize FF President and other Federation officials were present at the venue and tried to convince the T&T staff to reconsider their decision but there was no backing down from the ‘Warriors’ end. The Belize Media was also on location and recorded an announcement by team captain Densill Theobald that the T&T team would not play if the venue was not changed as the MCC was unsuitable for international football.
The decision by the FFB to change the venue was maybe the best news for the week for the T&T team following a less than smooth past couple days in which the team almost skipped the trip due to inadequate match fees which was subsequently resolved, difficult travel arrangements which saw the team arrive in two groups and luggage that arrived late in Belize from Miami.
“There is a God and when you do good and you mean good, he knows and he helps you,” Theobald told TTFF Media.
“We simply could not play an international game on such a ground. This is not amateur football and I hope this stance we took helps to benefit others including the Belize FA.
They must try to follow a high standard as hosts. If we were to have them in Belize they would be well accommodated and they would get the maybe the best playing facilities,” Theobald added.
There is small contingent of just under 100 Trinidadians living in Belize and some are expected to attend the match which is a warm-up for both teams ahead of the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup. The hosts face the United States in their opener while T&T will meet El Salvador in their first encounter on July 8th in New Jersey.
Saturday’s friendly game is carded to be broadcasted live on CNC 3.
Belizean bacchanal: Frustrated Warriors force Belize venue change
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868)
Financial wrangling, distrust, an airline booking hiccup, lost baggage, an inadequate playing surface, an abrupt re-scheduling; you name it.
At this rate, the Trinidad and Tobago national football team will be mentally drained before it takes the field for a friendly international fixture against Belize from 10 pm (8 pm Belize time) at the FFB Stadium in Belmopan on Saturday evening.
The venue for the friendly contest, the FFB Stadium is the only FIFA-approved venue in the Central American country and was constructed with $8.3 million (US$1.3 million) from the FIFA Goal programme. But local radio station LOVE FM will hosting its annual Bandfest there tomorrow; so the likes of Stoke City forward Kenwyne Jones and North East Stars striker Cornell Glen were initially ordered to play at the MCC instead.
The MCC ground was so inadequate that the “Soca Warriors” refused to complete a training session on it and walked off after 40 minutes this afternoon.
Two Trinidad and Tobago players, who spoke to Wired868 from Belize this evening, said the players were considering boycotting the match if the Football Federation of Belize (FFB) did not change the venue.
The FFB retorted that it would water the ground and its president, Ruperto Vicente, was defiant in public as he claimed the federation stood to raise more money by playing the Warriors in Belize City.
“Before we discussed the international match with Trinidad, we had engaged the stadium to the organizers of the Band Fest,” the FFB president told Channel 7 Belize news, on Tuesday. “…When we got the game with Trinidad, we were saying that we decided that the best venue for this game would have been Belize City. It is about looking to raise more funds (…) to maintain our national team.”
But tonight, after the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) backed its players’ stance, Wired868 was informed that the FFB relented and confirmed the venue switch. The two events are expected to share the venue now.
Nothing has come easy for the Warriors of late and the players have been in constant crisis mode over the past three days as a series of mishaps have frustrated their two-game tour, which should feature warm-up matches against Belize on March 22 and Peru on March 26.
The Warriors would be relieved by the TTFF’s support but the relationship between players and staff allegedly remains strained.
The players were incensed on Monday when their team management informed them that they would only receive match fees and per diems when they returned to Trinidad after the overseas games.
Twenty Warriors, including nine players on this tour, are already owed roughly $7,000 each for their part in the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) qualifying series last October and are fed up of broken promises. The squad refused to budge without a guarantee that players would be paid during the tour.
A late compromise between the TTFF and the Sport Ministry persuaded the players to leave for Belize on Tuesday. But, once in Belize City, the Warriors were allegedly informed yesterday that the Trinidad and Tobago government did not provide enough money to cover all match fees.
An offer was supposedly made to pay the foreign-based players immediately while the home-based players would receive their fees on their return to Trinidad. Predictably, that news did not go down well with the squad and some Warriors accused the technical staff of dishonesty.
There were other issues that added to the feeling of unease.
Both players who spoke to Wired868 claimed that there was no booking for the Warriors when they got to Miami and it took a last ditch intervention from TTFF president Raymond Tim Kee to get a connecting flight.
Three players, Port Vale midfielder Chris Birchall, FC Edmonton defender Carlyle Mitchell and DIRECTV W Connection defender Daneil Cyrus, then arrived in Belize without their luggage due to an airline error.
It took several hours before the trio had the comfort of clean underwear and their football boots for training.
Training, of course, did not last long for aforementioned reasons.
“We thought things would get better after we qualified for the Gold Cup,” said one Warrior, who asked to remain anonymous. “But it feels as if things are getting worse.”
Last year, in-fighting between the TTFF and Sport Minister Anil Roberts meant a barrage of financial problems for the Warriors who had to scrap practise matches and even pooled their own money for laundry and extra meals during the preliminary qualifying round. The players were marooned too by Tropical Storm Rafael in St Kitts.
2013 has not started much better with the latest bout of bacchanal in Belize and the likes of Jones, Birchall, Glen and Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA midfielder Densill Theobald might be reminiscing on how far Trinidad and Tobago has fallen since their historic appearance at the Germany World Cup, seven years ago.
These days, the Warriors have to fight tooth and nail to get a proper field, their own luggage and match fees that are less than a quarter of the rate it was when Dwight Yorke was national captain.
Joint head coaches Hutson “Barber” Charles and Jamaal Shabazz will hope the players have enough mental fortitude in reserve to see off their Belizean opponents in less than 48 hours.