It’s a massive affair, and we’re going to treat it that way.”
That’s how Trinidad and Tobago captain and striker Kenwyne Jones sees today’s encounter with New Zealand, which kicks off at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain at 7.15 p.m.
The “Soca Warriors” are playing their first home match since facing Peru in February--also the first local international for coach Stephen Hart, who assumed the role in June.
After their Gold Cup campaign (T&T reached as far as the quarter-finals) and an OSN Cup outing later (T&T finished third of four teams after beating hosts Saudi Arabia), the team will take the “Hasely Crawford” field looking to give their fans a reason to cheer.
Their other motivation is their tribute to ailing T&T defender Akeem Adams, who suffered a massive heart attack last month and subsequently had his lower left leg removed after suffering necrosis in the limb. (See Page 53)
Jones wants T&T to showcase their improvement in fortunes at home, after debt, a lack of finances and other off the field issues in the last few years threatened to derail national football.
“We’ve been longing for the opportunity to play before a decent crowd at home,” Jones told TTFA (T&T Football Association) Media, ”and especially after the way the team has been playing and showing improvement, we’ve been wanting to run out before the Trinidad and Tobago public.”
The dreadlocked Stoke City striker added: “Of course the game is special because of what took place with Akeem Adams, and the people want to play their part and will hopefully show up in their numbers to extend that support to Akeem and the national team.”
According to Jones, while New Zealand have their own ambitions in the match as they prepare for a World Cup qualification play-off against CONCACAF’s fourth-place team next month, T&T also have their uses for the match.
“The good thing is we had a good seven or eight days to prepare for the game and it helped the new faces that came in. Each day we got better in training and we’re looking to take that into the game.”
Coach Hart had few words on the match, but also a welcome selection headache.
“This is our first home game since February and my first home game with the team,” he said yesterday. “Preparations have gone extremely well. There is a good competition for places, I should say healthy competition for places. In general, the players have made this selection extremely difficult for me, which is a position every coach would like to be in, so I welcome it.”
T&T defender Radanfah Abu Bakr said the home players want to perform in solidarity for Adams.
“We’re hoping for the support of the Trinidad public; as the coach said we haven’t played at home for seven-eight games inclusive of the Gold Cup, so we’re looking forward to playing in front of our home fans and give a special performance, not only for Akeem, but for the public.”
The TTFA advised yesterday that advance tickets will be available only at the ticket office of the Crawford Stadium today, and that the ticket box office opens at 11 a.m.
Children under 12 will be permitted free admission if accompanied by a parent, while secondary school students in uniform can purchase a $50 ticket for the uncovered section. Gates open at five p.m.
“I support Akeem Adams” T-shirts will be on sale at the match venue.
Trinidad and Tobago
Jan-Michael Williams, Marvin Phillips (goalkeepers); Carlyle Mitchell, Justin Hoyte, Aubrey David, Curtis Gonzales, Sheldon Bateau, Mekeil Williams, Radanfah Abu Bakr (defenders); Kevan George, Densill Theobald, Hughtun Hector, Khaleem Hyland, Kevin Molino, Andre Boucaud, Marcus Joseph, Lester Peltier, Ataullah Guerra (midfielders); Willis Plaza, Cordell Cato, Kenwyne Jones (captain), Rundell Winchester (forwards)
Glen Moss, Tamati Williams, Glen Moss (goalkeepers); Andrew Durante, Tony Lochhead, Winston Reid (captain), Tommy Smith, Aaron Scott, Bill Tuiloma, Ivan Vicelich (defenders); Leo Bertos, Jake Butler, Aaron Clapham, Jeremy Christie, Craig Henderson, Cam Howieson, Dan Keat, Michael McGlicnchey, Cole Peverley (midfielders); Kosta Barbarouses, Kris Bright, Jeremy Brokie, Rory Fallon (forwards)