The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) will play its opening Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifier against Guyana at the Pan American Stadium, San Cristobal in the Dominican Republic on 25 March.
The decision was relayed to the media this afternoon, just hours after Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe closed the door on any possibility that the government would overrule chief medical officer Dr Roshan Parasram and waive mandatory quarantine for the affair.
“[The] TTFA is stating that [its] players cannot quarantine and that is troubling for us,” said Cudjoe, at a virtual press conference this morning, “especially with players coming from the United Kingdom, Denmark, Belgium—coming from countries where there are these strains that we are really concerned about.
“[…] Flying in, travelling to the Home of Football, and playing your game with no quarantine whatsoever; it does not sit well with our technical people [at the Ministry of Health] at all.
“[…] I have to agree with the CMO. And it is not my business, as it is being recommended, that I instruct—or the minister of health instructs—the CMO. We have to trust his advice to keep our people safe and even our players and the rest of the sporting fraternity safe.”
The Ministry of Health advised the TTFA, which is now run by a Fifa-appointed normalisation committee led by businessman Robert Hadad, to either bring the players in early to quarantine or postpone the match date. Neither option is feasible in competitive international football.
“We have worked tirelessly with Fifa, Concacaf and the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to find solutions but regrettably a compromise could not be found,” stated a TTFA release. “The TTFA is incredibly disappointed and shares the public’s frustration at not being able to play our designated home match on local soil. However we do understand the responsibilities of the MOH and appreciate the efforts that they are making to preserve the safety of the citizens of our country.
“While the decision is a bitter pill to swallow, we believe that sport and the positive mental health aspects of sports must not be undervalued and applaud the Government of Trinidad and Tobago for allowing outdoor recreational sports to resume.”
Despite the normalisation committee’s claim of ‘working tirelessly’ towards finding a solution, Cudjoe confirmed today that the government did not receive a proposal from the TTFA until 2 February 2021.
Trinidad and Tobago knew its World Cup grouping since 19 August 2020 while the dates for the fixtures were confirmed by Fifa on 4 December 2020.
Fortunately, the normalisation committee appeared to have found a neutral venue—i95.5FM talkshow host Andre Baptiste’s claim that the Warriors would be forced to play in Guyana was always untrue.
The Dominican Republic is one of a handful of Caribbean nations which does not insist on quarantine, once travellers test negative for Covid-19. So, the Soca Warriors will adopt that island as its home venue for the immediate future.
They are by no means the only Caribbean nation that have sought lodging elsewhere for their football team, as Cudjoe noted today.
“[…] Barbados are playing in the Dominican Republic, Anguilla is playing in Tampa and then the Dominican Republic,” said the minister of sport and community development, “Antigua [and Barbuda] and Montserrat are playing in the US Virgin Islands, St Vincent and the Grenadines is playing in Curaçao. Suriname is playing in the Dominican Republic…”
Trinidad and Tobago, who are in Group F of the preliminary Concacaf draw, are also scheduled to host St Kitts and Nevis on 8 June while they play away to Puerto Rico and the Bahamas on 28 March and 5 June respectively.
It is likely that Puerto Rico and Bahamas will retain home advantage when they face the Warriors. Only the group winner will advance to the next round of qualifying while the other four nations are immediately eliminated.
The normalisation committee promised to give the Soca Warriors ‘the best preparation possible during these challenging times’.
“We have been working and continue to work on solutions to provide head coach Terry Fenwick the opportunity to engage in international friendly matches and training camps ahead of the qualifiers,” stated the TTFA. “With the confirmation that the venue has been set for San Cristobal, we anticipate that further plans will be rolled out over the coming days.”