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Mohammedan SC striker Willis Plaza steps on to the field to face Gujarat FC on October 11th 2020.
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India-based T&T senior national football team striker Willis Plaza is confident that this country can get back to playing its best football of recent times under new coach, Englishman Terry Fenwick.

The 33-year-old Plaza was speaking after a national team training session yesterday (Friday) at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Mucurapo, at which re-installed Normalisation Committee chairman Robert Hadad paid a visit and addressed the national squad and its staff.

Signed by Mohammedan SC during the off-season in the Indian I-League and a key part of their successful promotion run, Plaza said working with Fenwick can also serve to work in his favour.

A former Central FC and San Juan Jabloteh striker, Plaza who was joint top-scorer in the I-League in 2019 said, "Actually, it’s a plus for me working with Fenwick knowing the type of football he plays and the type of person he is, and know that I played with him before I know I can fit in his system and I am just happy to be here.”

Reflecting on his time in India during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and having to stay in lockdown for most of that period, Plaza said, “Trust me, it was a real break down in your mindset when it comes to being a bread winner for your family and being away from your family and just being away from your country, it was really difficult.

"You lose the love, the vibe and everything especially when you are out there alone and I am just grateful to be back in Trinidad and I have now started to find back the love for the football and everything."

Commenting on the state of the professional game in India where he has been plying his trade for the past three seasons with Churchill Brothers and now with Mohammedan, Plaza said it's difficult now because the football has taken a hit.

He added, "The game has moved from 10/10 to about 6/10 because the money has dropped, the support has also dropped and I think it all has to do with India being so high risk with the coronavirus.

"The social distancing is very strict over there in India and I don’t think it’s a life for a footballer at present, and I am not sure if I will be going back as well.”

Looking ahead to his training stint Fenwick and the national team, Plaza said everyone can expect to see him working hard and aiming to make the country proud again.

"We are a bit behind so we now have to try and catch back that level and bring the country back to where it was in our football. I'm confident we can get there because I know coach Terry Fenwick has been working towards it behind the scenes during the pandemic and most of the players understand what it will take and are willing to work hard and I think we will get there," said Plaza.


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Covid struggles

LIVING with the Covid-19 pandemic has made life so difficult in India that striker Willis Plaza is considering not returning to Mohammedan SC where he signed just a few months ago, and scored a few vital goal during their 2020 promotion qualifiers which began on October 8, with five teams vying for a spot in the I-League.

The round-robin competition ended on October 19, with Kolkata giants Mohammedan Sporting Club drawing 0-0 with Bengaluru United, taking them up to the I-League (second flight) for the first time since 2015, by registering three wins and a draw in four games.

Plaza, 33, was 2019 joint top-scorer in the I-League and had played in India since 2017, while also having stints in El Salvador and Belgium. Despite recent successes and having had multiple seasons in India with the East Bengal and Churchill Brothers clubs, Plaza is wondering whether India is the place to be now, given that the country has over nine million cases of Covid-19.

“The money has dropped, the support has also dropped and I think it all has to do with India being so high-risk with the coronavirus,” Plaza said. “The social distancing is very strict over there in India and I don’t think it’s a life for a footballer at present. I am not sure if I will be going back.”

Plaza spoke of the difficulty of isolation in India and having to do it because he is the breadwinner for his family. Under such conditions football became more of a job than a passion.

“It was really difficult,” he stated, “you are out there alone and I am just grateful to be back in Trinidad and I have now started to find back the love for the football and everything.”

Plaza is also glad to be back in the national team under coach Terry Fenwick, under whom he won TT Pro League titles at local clubs San Juan Jabloteh and Central FC. Speaking at Fenwick’s session on Friday, Plaza felt comfortable working with the Englishman again.

“It’s a plus for me working with Fenwick knowing the type of football he plays and the type of person he is, and knowing that I played with him before, I know I can fit in his system and I am just happy to be here.”

Plaza hopes to regain a place in the national team for the Concacaf and FIFA World Cup qualifiers next year, having last played for Trinidad and Tobago in a 1-0 friendly loss away to Wales under head coach Dennis Lawrence in early 2019. Plaza thinks a lot of hard work is needed leading up to next year’s competitions.

“We are a bit behind so we now have to try and catch back that level and bring the country back to where it was in our football,” Plaza said, “ most of the players understand what it will take and are willing to work hard and I think we will get there.”

Video - Plaza : I'm eager to reconnect with Fenwick