Sun, Jun

Dwight Yorke (right), Carlos Edwards (center), and Densill Theobald (left) at the Legends vs T&T All Stars game at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo on Friday, May 10th 2024.

CONSTITUTIONAL reform will substantially increase Trinidad and Tobago’s potential player pool and provide a welcome boost towards FIFA World Cup qualification.

So hinted former Soca Warriors captain Dwight Yorke, 52, who joined an open call made by T&T senior men’s team coach Angus Eve in January last year, for a possible review of the nation’s citizenship laws.

Chapter two, section 17 (ii) of the T&T Constitution states that “A person shall not become a citizen of T&T, if at the time of his birth – (a) neither of his parents is a citizen of T&T.”

This law, Eve said last year, is hampering the expansion of T&T football, since the majority of other Caribbean territories can invite players whose grandparents have local lineage, to represent their nation on the international stage.

T&T, however, is limited to calling on players whose parent/s have T&T lineage.

Speaking to media after the Legends All-Star match, Yorke was responding to questions on T&T’s chances of qualifying for the 2026 World Cup in Canada, Mexico and USA.

In international football and other sports, it is common for players who would find it difficult to break into the national team of their birth country to seek other options through naturalisation or eligibility via ancestral lineage.

The ex-Manchester United striker believes such legislation has T&T on the “back foot” and is hampering the nation’s chances of progressing, while other countries hold a clear player-selection advantage.

“I think also we’re on the back foot where we’re not opening up to…and I say this openheartedly, that I feel that we’re kind of stifling our opportunity to recruit players.

“You’re seeing all the other countries being able to recruit players, and that’s a big factor. We’re a small country and we don’t have many people to choose from. So anybody with any type of nationality that is linked to T&T that player of a certain level, that could only be a benefit for us, so why deprive that.

“That’s something we need to look at, the people and heads of state are the ones to make that decision. But I think we are limiting ourselves by not allowing people who had something to connect to T&T in a bloodstream type of way, having to go through the difficulty of getting the passport.”

Since the 2026 World Cup host nations do not have to go through the qualification process, five slots are now available for remaining Concacaf nations.

Yorke added that “it couldn’t get any better” for T&T to qualify, especially with the omission of the region’s powerhouses from the qualifiers. However, he called for all-out support as T&T begins its qualification campaign in June, drawn alongside Bahamas, Costa Rica, St Kitts and Nevis and Grenada in Group B.

“(There’s) five opportunities for us to qualify. It’s never easy but the opportunity is really good for us. If we really get the government, heads of state, sponsors, public sector and people to really invest in football, and give Angus and team all the resources he needs. “We need those little things to go our way to really improve the quality that we’re so lacking at the moment. “Let’s hope the World Cup campaign is something that is really on a positive note and you see the support we have, let’s hope that continues,” Yorke said.

When asked if T&T could still produce of players of his calibre, and the likes of former midfield maestro Russell Lately among others, Yorke believes “we have to start again” and hopes the current and past crop of senior players can inspire a future generation of dedicated sportsmen fuelled to succeed on all platforms.

“We have laid the foundation for the younger generation and we expect people to come through. Sometimes you need to take a step back to go forward again. The World Cup campaign is something positive.

“We need something really positive to happen in the country because there’s so much negative coming out. Let’s hope the World Cup campaign is such a positive one that it rubs off on the younger generation.

“It certainly did when I was growing up. We’re probably a bit of a dying breed the Russell, Shaka Hislop and Stern John, the guys who had the opportunity to play abroad. Let’s hope it will encourage the younger boys. The foundation is there and the opportunities are even greater. You put your work in and you get your reward.”

SOURCE: T&T Newsday