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Under-17s given green light

By CAROL MATROO Thursday, April 30 2009

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TRINIDAD and Tobago’s Under-17 football team were given the green light to go home at 4 pm yesterday after undergoing 24-hour quarantine following their return home from Mexico which is curently in the midst of a Swine Flu outbreak.

The footballers and team staff were discharged from the Le Sportel Inn at Macoya after the Health Ministry undertook a thorough screening process of everyone.

The TT squad spent eight days of uncertainty in Mexico while competing in the CONCACAF Under-17 Championship while the Swine Flu epidemic increased the tension as they had to take all the necessary precautions to avoid contracting the potentially fatal disease.

The team was supposed to return to Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday night, but only arrived on Tuesday after overnighting in Panama.

The squad, which lost their three matches played in Tijuana and failed to qualify for the World Championships in Nigeria, were whisked away from the airport and taken to the hotel at the Centre of Excellence where they were observed and samples taken overnight.

The team medic, Dr Mario John, said a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test was done on the players and staff.

Yesterday they emerged singly or in twos and made their way to anxious relatives, or made their own way off the compound. They did not seem eager to talk to reporters and declined to give comments about their experience in Mexico. The team and the technical staff were designated a special area at the hotel and had a special room where they took their meals.

Team manager Christopher Gouveia said they found out about the flu “when the rest of the world found out.” “We read about it in the newspapers. My first thought was that the boys were not in any immediate danger.

Mexico City was the epicentre of the outbreak and we were in Tijuana,” Gouveia said in a telephone interview while in quarantine yesterday.

He said on learning of the epidemic, they all started wearing masks and advised the boys not to shake hands with other people, to stay together and to ensure that they washed their hands thoroughly after using the toilet.

One would have said they were relatively safe, but Gouveia questioned what was “relative” safety.

“What does that mean? I mean, we didn’t know who was who, where they came from, who they had contact with...We tried to limit contact with others,” he said.

Gouveia said the tournament itself went off without a hitch, but they had to take stringent precautions when arrangements had to be made to travel through Mexico City. CONCACAF president Jack Warner yesterday said the youngsters and the technical team were being well taken care of.

“They have more medical doctors there than in the hospital,” Warner, who is currently out of the country on business, said jokingly.

Coach Anton Corneal said luck kept the team on the right path. He said the boys did not show any flu-like symptoms and were therefore thought to be healthy enough to return home.

However, he said the ministry would be keeping tabs on the boys and doing follow ups to ensure that should they develop any flu-like symptoms, they would be treated accordingly.

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