“It is the first time in my six or seven years preparing national teams that we didn’t have a camp before a tournament,” national Under-17 men’s head coach Shawn Cooper declared yesterday.
“It is not ideal conditions, but we are working within the constraints which the Association (TTFA) are under. We are making the best of the situation,” he said.
It is no secret that the cash-strapped Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) is struggling with funding issues. Recently affected have been the senior and women’s Under-15 teams and now, Cooper’s Under-17 footballers.
The team leaves tomorrow for St Lucia, seeking a spot in the final round of the CFU Under-17 championship carded for Haiti in September. It is a path to the Concacaf final zone of World Cup qualifying.
The young Soca Warriors play St Lucia, Grenada and Curacao between August 20 and 24 at the Beausejour Cricket Ground, looking for top spot in the group.
“We are trying to work within our constraints because of the lack of resources we have,” Cooper added.
Cooper begins with a new squad, his former bunch having gone onto Under-20 level. His main concern is that most of his current players are new to international football and would not have also built the type of camaraderie which being in a camp develops.
“It’s the first time they are in a competitive environment, so we are cautiously looking to see how our squad will perform,” Cooper said. “We are behind (other teams) because the other Concacaf teams which we hoping to qualify against have already been exposed to a lot of international matches.”
Cooper thinks his team has raw talent and is captained by W Connection’s Kareem Riley. It also includes Anthony Herbert, a top-scorer in the Youth Pro League. Cooper is also excited by former primary school star John Rochford, the younger brother of former youth World Cup midfielder Jean-Luc Rochford. The team also has two young goalkeepers from Naparima College, who Cooper hopes will grow as the tournament progresses.
CFU UNDER-17 QUALIFIERS:
GROUP 2 (dates & location to be determined)
(Wednesday, Aug 20)
Curacao v Grenada
Trinidad & Tobago v St. Lucia
(Friday, Aug 22)
St Lucia v Curacao
Trinidad & Tobago v Grenada
(Sun, Aug 24)
Grenada v St Lucia
Trinidad & Tobago v Curacao