TT footballers expect challenges ahead of qualifiers

TT footballers (from left) Radanfah Abu Bakr, Marvin Phillip, Willis Plaza, Taryk Sampson and Robert Primus during their time in India earlier this year.  -
TT footballers (from left) Radanfah Abu Bakr, Marvin Phillip, Willis Plaza, Taryk Sampson and Robert Primus during their time in India earlier this year. -

NATIONAL footballers Robert Primus, Radanfah Abu Bakr and Marvin Phillip say while they are relieved FIFA has lifted its suspension of the TT Football Association (TTFA), there lies some inevitable challenges ahead of the qualifiers for the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup and 2022 FIFA World Cup.

But through teamwork, they said, the challenges can be overcome.

The TTFA was banned on September 24 as its ousted executive, led by William Wallace, refused to drop a legal challenge against FIFA from the local court.

The ousted executive (United TTFA) had challenged FIFA’s decision to remove it and appoint a normalisation committee, headed by Robert Hadad, to run TT football. FIFA lifted this ban on Thursday.

But with the TT Pro League and Super League on hold due to covid19, and with training being inconsistent with constantly changing lockdown measures, locally-based players may have to jump straight into the forthcoming qualifiers.

On Friday, men’s national team coach Terry Fenwick told Newsday he was hoping to get permission to host “at least three” friendlies before the end of the year to help prepare the team. But there is still the possibility his proposal may not be approved by the government.

World Cup qualifiers begin in March and Gold Cup qualifiers begin in July.

Defenders Abu Bakr and Primus compete in the Hero I-League in India.

On March 13, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) had initially suspended the league until March 31 owing to the covid19 pandemic. But as lockdown measures began being implemented in the country, the remaining league matches were cancelled and table-toppers Mohun Bagan were crowned champions.

Abu Bakr and Primus, play for Churchill Brothers FC and Phillip is a goalkeeper for Neroca FC.

Should the national team go directly into qualifiers only having trained among themselves, Abu Bakr said it would be difficult.

“But one thing these unprecedented times have taught us, is to improvise,” he said, “So we must do the next best thing. Training has already resumed, which is positive.

“Having a few local/regional friendly games is crucial to achieve the match sharpness that would be needed going into those games. The revised qualifying formats for the Gold Cup and World Cup are unforgiving, so there isn’t much room for error.”

He said he is relieved the drama between the TTFA and FIFA is finally over, but added, “Unfortunately, the inevitable consequence was yet another display of how institutions such as FIFA ruthlessly guard their power structures.

“The priority should now be on the most important stakeholders in the game, the players, and ensure that they are given the best possible preparation to enable them to perform well in the upcoming games.”

Primus told Newsday he feels “very happy and excited” the ban was lifted, “so we can get our football under way.

“It’s been a while since we played or even trained (consistently) so this is good news for all the players.”

He said times have been particularly difficult for the local-based players

“...Not having a league going on for them to play or participate in or even getting a salary. We are professional footballers so this is how we make our money,” he said.

Primus added, “It’s going to be very difficult going into these qualifiers without having played a season before so it’s very difficult for them, but we will get the work in together.”

Phillip said he is “definitely happy” the ban has been lifted.“And I’m not only glad for the senior men’s team but also the women and the youngsters who could come back out and get the opportunity to show their talent and go after their dreams and goals again.”

He agreed with the other two players that tough times lie ahead.

“The local-based players haven’t been playing (competitive) football for months and they won’t be anytime soon. So the onus is on the players to put in that work and be up to a certain level of match fitness.”


"TT footballers expect challenges ahead of qualifiers"

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