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Thu, Jun

Soca Warriors paid in full and ready to face Wales; but players urge DJW to raise match fees.
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The Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team players are finally paid in full and anxious to turn their attention to next month’s international friendly against Wales. However, there is still the matter of a match fee to be negotiated.

The Soca Warriors received a standard match fee of US$1,000 for friendly internationals since before the turn of the century. But Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams subsequently cut the players’ rate by more than 60 per cent, as he offered just US$300 for matches in 2018.

One international player, who spoke to Wired868 on condition of anonymity, said the Warriors were happy to represent their country and look forward to the challenge posed by Wales. But there is no consensus yet as to whether all the players are willing to play for US$300.

The player insisted that he and his colleagues showed good faith to the TTFA in the past but they now need John-Williams to reciprocate.

“It is a good game for us but I hope he doesn’t keep [our match fees] at US$300,” said the anonymous Warriors player. “I’m hoping he would at least try to meet the players halfway so we could have the best possible squad.

“As far as I know, the players are still waiting to negotiate; but I don’t think players will accept US$300 anymore, especially for such a big game.”

Wales are ranked 19th in the world by FIFA and boast of world class players like Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale and Juventus-bound midfielder Aaron Ramsey in their ranks, while they are coached by former Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs.

In contrast, Trinidad and Tobago are ranked 93rd by FIFA and the Warriors head coach cannot be certain of having his top attacking player, Minnesota United midfielder Kevin Molino, at the current US$300 rate. At least two international players suggested they would follow Molino’s example if John-Williams does not raise their match fees.

There is an element of uncertainty about which coach will be leading out the Warriors next month as well.

A TTFA media release suggested that incumbent Dennis Lawrence will lead the squad out at the Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground in Wales next month. Lawrence, a former World Cup 2006 stand-out, is a Hall of Fame inductee at Wrexham alongside compatriot Carlos Edwards.

However, Lawrence is out of contract since 31 January and, although John-Williams indicated that he wanted the lanky rookie to remain as head coach, the board is yet to make a determination.

The TTFA board meets next Wednesday and the question of the head coaching void is one of several points raised for discussion by Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) president and TTFA board member Keith Look Loy.

One player who made no secret about his excitement over the upcoming friendly is defender Sheldon Bateau, who signed a one-year deal with Norway top flight club Sarpsborg 08 FF this week.

“This is a game that could change your life, it can change your career,” Bateau told the TTFA Media. “It’s a very good opportunity for us as players. We should set a goal to do well in this game and accept the challenge; and not only accept the challenge but compete and get a result.

“I think everyone should be really motivated for this game because I am and am sure the other players are as well.”

Bateau has not played competitive football since 2018 while the Norwegian professional season does not get underway until late March. But he says he will be ready for the Welsh test and believe his teammates will be as well.

Trinidad and Tobago are preparing for the June 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup while Wales play Slovakia in a Euro 2020 qualifier, four days after facing the Warriors.

“For me this game is […] the only thing on my mind right now, after having signed with a new team,” said Bateau. “[…] This is a huge challenge and is one we shall welcome as a country to play against a team that has world class players apart from Gareth Bale. It will be a good challenge to see where we are at and how much work we need to put in before the Gold Cup.

“[…] As players, you live for games like this. It will definitely be a tough game but I think we will be ready in time for it.”