EXPERIENCED TT central defender Sheldon Bateau has bemoaned the lack of pride within the men’s national football team, as they look to conclude their disastrous 2022 FIFA World Cup Concacaf Zone Group F campaign on Tuesday against group winners St Kitts/Nevis at the Felix Sanchez Stadium, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
This game will kick off at 5 pm (TT time).
The World Cup dream for the Terry Fenwick-coached TT team ended on Saturday when they were held to a goalless draw by hosts Bahamas at Nassau. With that result, St Kitts/Nevis remained atop the five-team group with a perfect nine points from three games, followed by TT (five points), Puerto Rico (four points), Guyana (three points) and Bahamas (one point).
Only the group winners (St Kitts/Nevis) will advance to the second round, which will comprise three respective home-and-away matches, featuring the winners of the six first round groups, on June 12 and 15.
In an interview with TT Football Association (TTFA) media officer Shaun Fuentes on Monday, in the team’s hotel in the Dominican Republic, Bateau reflected on the apparent mood within the squad after Saturday’s match.
“My feeling is that it affected the senior guys more than other guys, maybe because they have time to work towards another campaign,” said the 30-year-old. “Maybe I’m wrong in my judgement but that’s the overall feeling I have that, with the senior guys, that’s maybe our last chance.”
He continued, “Where I came from (as a rookie within the squad), we had to train in a white t-shirt and we had to earn our red t-shirt. I think part of the problem is that a lot of the players now just coming into the team and getting a red t-shirt. When it comes so easily, it’s like they don’t appreciate the fact that they’re playing for the national team.
“We’re in a World Cup campaign. So that sense of importance, it’s not really there. It’s almost as if it’s just another game. That’s not the case. With that general feeling, for some players they have more time to bounce back and, for others, it’s a really big disappointment because we’re at the end of our roads.”
Bateau, who plays for KV Mechelen in Belgium, acknowledged that the TT players will have to accept some blame for their exit from the qualifiers.
“We had a lot of questions before the game, we have even more after the game,” he said. “As players, we need to accept some sort of responsibility for the result. Regardless of the circumstances, we are all professionals. At the end of the day, we had to do better.”
Asked if he ever envisioned seeing TT eliminated in the first round, Bateau replied, “No way, not so early in the (qualifiers). I honestly believed we would get past Bahamas, with the quality players we have, and then we would go into the game against St Kitts with a fighting chance. It’s really disappointing. We have no excuse.
“I think, nine out of ten times, we would win against them easily,” he added. “We had quite a bit of chances in the game and we had to take those chances. We have some guys that can still continue at the rebuilding phase of the game because that’s where we need to go now. We have the Gold Cup to look forward to and it’s just about taking it one step at a time.”
He called on his teammates to show some pride, in Tuesday’s dead-rubber affair.
“We have to have some sort of pride as players,” said Bateau. “That’s basically it. We’ll go into the game against St Kitts to get three points. The result is not going to change anything and the damage is done, but we have the Gold Cup playoffs to look towards. We’re not sure what’s the solution towards preparing for the (St Kitts/Nevis) game. It’s just to get past the game (on Tuesday). The goal is to give a good showing and salvage some sort of pride.”
Asked how he would motivate himself for the St Kitts/Nevis game, Bateau responded, “To be honest, there (are) so many things against us as players, mentally, physically, financially. Playing for the national team takes a lot out of you. We sacrifice a lot. I’m still looking forward to the game (on Tuesday). It’s still about pride.
“What the future holds, I don’t know. We have a lot to fix. If these things aren’t fixed, it’s difficult to continue under these circumstances. There has to be a silver lining somewhere and we need to get to that point.”
In related news, the trio of Danish-born goalkeeper Nicklas Frenderup, Canadian-born defender Luke Singh and midfielder Jomal Williams will not join the team for Tuesday’s game, as previously announced by the TTFA.