… T&T Government gives FIFA/TTFA request Red Card
THE Golden Jaguars’ March 25 clash with Trinidad and Tobago, which was scheduled to be played in the Twin Island Republic, will have to be played in another territory after the country’s Ministry of Health’s chief medical officer (CMO) Dr Roshan Parasram ruled that a proposal by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) fell short of local COVID-19 regulations.
The decision, according to leading online sports news outlet, www.wired868.com, will see Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team concede home advantage in a World Cup qualifying campaign for the first time in 36 years.
At the Ministry of Health’s virtual press conference yesterday, Minister of Sport and Community Development, Shamfa Cudjoe delivered the bad news to TTFA, which is now headed by FIFA-appointed normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad.
“One, bring the players in time so they can quarantine and play their game,” said Cudjoe, “two, set the date to a later time to allow the players to come in and properly quarantine; three, play the game on a neutral ground within the Caribbean and the Americas. Those are the three options being offered at this point in time.”
FIFA mandates clubs to release players at a maximum of five days before a World Cup qualifier, while TTFA has no control over the date of the qualifying games. It means Hadad only realistically has the third option available.
FIFA permits countries to use neutral venues if they cannot play at home for a variety of reasons – a rule that existed since the last millennium. And Cudjoe’s own investigations found that more than a half dozen Caribbean countries had already conceded home advantage.
“Barbados are playing in the Dominican Republic, Anguilla are playing in Tampa and then the Dominican Republic,” said the minister of sport and community development, “Antigua and (Barbuda) and Montserrat are playing in the US Virgin Islands, St Vincent and the Grenadines are playing in Curaçao. Suriname are playing in the Dominican Republic.”
The TTFA requested two persons per room at the Home of Football in Couva. Cudjoe said Dr Parasram was very troubled by that. So would FIFA; and everyone else with any passing knowledge of the novel coronavirus.
FIFA’s own ‘Return to Football – International Match Protocol’, which was published on September 29 2020 and freely available online, states: ‘Each individual must have his own hotel room.’
It is the most basic of COVID-19 provisions and is followed by Trinidad and Tobago cricket teams, as well as other travelling sport teams.
TTFA not only hoped to subject its own players to that rule but the visiting teams too. It was a non-starter and far from the only discrepancy in the doomed pitch by the Hadad-led body, which also failed to highlight several key aspects of its bubble such as accommodation for reserve match officials, at least three hygiene implementation officers, room sizes, and safeguards for employees – such as drivers and cleaners – involved in the affair.
Cudjoe confirmed that the TTFA submitted its substandard proposal for exemptions on February 2, 2021. However, the World Cup qualifying draw was made on December 4, 2020.
As Cudjoe confirmed, many of the other Caribbean FAs booked alternative grounds – even as TTFA urged Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to force the CMO to accept their inadequate proposal.
The Golden Jaguars were drawn in Group F of the Qualifier alongside Trinidad and Tobago, The Bahamas, Puerto Rico and St Kitts & Nevis.
After their clash with the ‘Trinis’, Golden Jaguars will return home to roar against The Bahamas on Tuesday, March 30.
On Friday, June 4, Guyana will travel to St Kitts & Nevis for their third game and then host Puerto Rico on Tuesday, June 8.
Guyana last faced Trinidad and Tobago during the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup, where, despite a beautiful goal scored by Neil Danns, the two sides ended the match with a 1-1 draw.