NINE professional TT footballers who play in the Hero I-League in India are again pleading with the National Security Ministry to grant them an exemption to return home.
They say it is unfair that cricketers are about to be flown into TT for the 2020 Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) while there are still so many nationals stranded abroad.
The players include Churchill Brothers FC defenders Radanfah Abu Bakr and Robert Primus, and striker Willis Plaza; Gokulam Kerala players Marcus Joseph (forward), Nathaniel Garcia (midfield) and defender Andre Ettienne; Neroca FC defender Taryk Sampson and goalkeeper Marvin Phillip; and Mohun Bagan AC defender Daneil Cyrus. All have represented TT at the international level.
Their league was suspended on March 31 owing to the covid19 pandemic, and the remaining games were eventually cancelled.
National Security Minister Stuart Young had said a group of students stuck in India would be granted exemptions, but made no mention of the footballers.
When Newsday asked about the athletes at a subsequent press conference, he said, “As much as I’d love, at this stage, to tell everyone who is applying (for exemptions) to come home, it pains to say, right now what we’re doing is balancing numbers.
“We will get to the footballers in India, but they are in a different category, because right now the students in India – a lot of them are based on scholarships, and you have their university and the government of India asking for them to be brought back.”
But on Thursday, Cabinet gave the green light for the CPL to host the tournament exclusively in TT from August 18-September 12. Over 250 players and staff from the six CPL teams will stay at the Hilton Trinidad, St Ann’s. This includes Indian cricketer Pravin Tambe, who was drafted by the Trinbago Knight Riders.
Speaking with Newsday on Friday morning, Cyrus said the footballers are now feeling hopeless.
Cyrus said, “They are coming out and saying the cricket will be hosted by TT and we are out here, we keep asking what’s happening. My club had seven foreigners and I’m the only one left back…Every day, my club is asking me what is happening.
"My contract finished like two months ago. We have to pay our own rent now and everything else. We came here to work, not play.
"And on the back of this, I represent my country and my country can’t help me come home? Now, come on. We don’t know what to do again. We just here waking up every day don’t know what going to happen.”
Abu Bakr also spoke to Newsday, saying the CPL announcement left him baffled, adding that it was “a sure slap in the face.
“(I’m) not against them hosting it, of course, but in the context of the number of citizens still outside with no discernible plan to get them back...(it is) unbelievable, really.”
Newsday tried to contactYoung but all calls went unanswered.