ALTHOUGH Trinidad and Tobago were unable to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, national coach Terry Fenwick praised his defeated players for boldly taking on the challenge in the midst of the local association’s financial dilemma.
The Soca Warriors concluded their unsuccessful quest for Qatar qualification with a consolation 2-0 victory over St Kitts and Nevis on Tuesday. Their journey for a second World Cup berth officially ended on Saturday after a scoreless result against Bahamas.
The team’s two prior Concacaf Group F matches, however, saw them win the opener 3-0 against Guyana and draw 1-1 against Puerto Rico. TT finished second (eight points) in the group behind leaders St Kitts and Nevis (nine points), who advanced to the next round of qualifiers.
At the post-match press conference on Tuesday, Fenwick commended his players for a fair effort but emphasised that TT’s chances of qualifying were greatly restricted owing to the current state of the TT Football Association (TTFA).
In March of last year, FIFA removed then TTFA president William Wallace and his executive, who was elected four months prior, claiming a fact-finding mission found “massive debt” and which could result in the association “facing a very real risk of insolvency and illiquidity”.
On March 27, a normalisation committee, led by businessman Robert Hadad, was then appointed to run its affairs. Since then, Hadad and his team have been trying to reduce the fraternity’s over $50m debt while attempting to balance money owed to local administrators, coaches and other staff.
“We are disappointed we’re not advancing to the next round of World Cup qualifiers. But I’m proud of my players tonight (Tuesday). Their performance and professionalism despite all the divisions we’ve got in TT football.
“With lack of financing, lack of support, the boys have dug in deep. What you’ve got to recognise is that we’ve got terrible challenges back in TT. The normalisation committee is dealing with debts around the association.
“That means we’ve had very little if any support for the last 18 months. We’ve had no friendly games, we’ve had no preparation for these qualifiers and it’s been difficult for the players," Fenwick said.
The English-born coach was still pleased with the squad’s unbeaten run (two wins, two draws) throughout the Concacaf qualifiers. He also credited team captain Khadeem Hyland for an all-round performance on the pitch during their final match.
A goal from midfielder Duane Muckette and another from Hyland concluded TT’s unbeaten but unlucky run throughout the qualifiers. Fenwick also said because of the local association’s financial crisis, several of the team’s top players are missing out on opportunities to advance their craft.
“I thought we dominated the game particularly in the first half. Everything was coming through us. I felt we could have scored more goals, we had good opportunities. We had a penalty appeal that was turned down.
“But the players were magnificent, they kept to the task, kept their professionalism and we moved the ball quickly. We created five or six good chances and it could have been a much more comfortable result than that,” he added.
Throughout the campaign, Fenwick also utilised some of TT’s younger players and allowed them to feature in several of the matches.
He credited the youngster’s perseverance and hopes the normalisation committee can help clear up TTFA’s financial mismanagement which would, in the end, provide a better platform for the upcoming players to develop into more world class athletes.
“I thought Jesse Williams did terrific at right back and Justin Garcia on the left side. Most of these guys have been with me for the past 18 months and they have been learning as they go along.
“You saw their appetite for the game. These kids have got ambition and they want to do well for their national team. We’re just in hope that the national body can get behind us in the future,” he said.