Yesterday’s Concacaf Zone opening round draw was as favourable as national senior team coach Terry Fenwick could have hoped for.
The Warriors drew Caribbean rivals Puerto Rico, Guyana, the Bahamas and St Kitts and Nevis in Group F at the draw for the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup in Zurich, Switzerland. If T&T wins that preliminary group, a two-leg second round with the winner of Group A, containing El Salvador, is next. That second-round winner then plays the USA for an automatic World Cup spot. Qualifying begins in October and November.
“It looks pretty good. It looks favourable,” Fenwick mused after watching yesterday’s draw. But greater questions plagued his thoughts.
“I need to know that we have the finances and leadership to get us to a position that we can go out there and win,” the coach stated. “I don’t want October, to come around and we have to go into qualifying without money, without preparation, without getting the players together and getting a camp where we can work hard.”
The former England World Cup defender said the uncertainty of whether FIFA’S Normalisation Committee or the exiled William Wallace-led TTFA executive is in charge of football, is hampering the national men’s team programme.
“It’s been frustrating to say the least. I have not heard anything. When are they going to get up and running?” stated Fenwick—despite having reached out to local businessman Robert Hadad who FIFA made chairman of its Normalisation Committee, taking over the TTFA operations in March.
“Normalisation means getting back to normal. So, what happens next? What budget is available? Can we get a camp organised? What budget will be made available to bring in players from around the world to represent Trinidad and Tobago? And he can’t give me an answer.
“I am hoping somebody can untie Mr Hadad’s wrist so that he can start making a few decisions,” he added.
He also addressed the lack of financial support to his staff.
“When are they going to look after my staff and recognise that my staff... we haven’t been paid for eight months,” he declared.
Fenwick commended coaches Derek King, Keith Jeffrey, Clayton Ince, Keon Trim and Adrian Romain, and captain Basil Thomson, who have all worked behind the scenes without pay.
“We have done everything on not even a shoe-string budget,” he said, acknowledging the help given by Police Commissioner Gary Griffith and others, including Hadad who had provided some food to the players from his own company,
“For us to be competing in these tournaments, I need my staff looked after,” he continued, calling for a compromise between FIFA and the TTFA in the interest of football.
Fenwick also commended the Herculean effort put in by the group of local players he has been working with, most of whom are non-contracted.
“They are still turning up because they want to represent their country,” he said, “and they are being thrown under the bus, for want of better words, because of the internal politics here in Trinidad and Tobago.”
Fenwick is also hoping for a quick restart to local football but he hinted that if the local football politics are not sought out, a promising World Cup qualifying campaign may end before it begins.
“A collaboration may be wonderful at this stage so the kids on the street can see something happening that is favourable to them,” he said.