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No word yet on fate of Charles, Shabazz

By Kern De Freitas

For the first time since losing the Caribbean Cup final in Antigua in December, the "Soca Warriors" could be in action as early as next month.

The Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) is currently in search of opponents for the senior national football team, as they look to kick off 2013 with a friendly international encounter. February 6 is the first FIFA date set for such a friendly.

The team and the TTFF have been plagued with financial woes, unpaid salaries to staff dating back to 2011, the 2006 players' law suit, controversies hanging over the sport locally and a slide in form that saw T&T miss out on 2014 World Cup qualifying in the first round, as well as the previous two Gold Cups.

The team almost defaulted on qualifying after a money row prompted the Ministry of Sport to initially withhold funding, but after public outcry the issue was belatedly settled. Still, during the qualifiers in St Kitts, the team were cash-strapped.

T&T struggled through the Caribbean Cup preliminary round and needed a favour from Haiti to see them through to the final four after being beaten by hosts Antigua. But they rallied past Martinique 2-1, before losing the regional final 0-1 to Cuba.

Now the technical team is looking to build on that progress, and have been trying to line up friendlies. So far a date with Chile has fallen through, but there are also ongoing negotiations with El Salvador and South Korea.

Another issue currently up in the air is the fate of the T&T technical staff, in particular interim co-coaches Hutson Charles and Jamaal Shabazz. Charles took charge of the team last year in conjunction with fellow former national midfielder Angus Eve, while Shabazz joined T&T shortly before the Caribbean Cup.

According to technical director Anton Corneal, though, there is no word yet on the composition of the T&T technical team.

"I'm not sure," Corneal told the Express yesterday. "That decision comes from a few different people, and at this time there's no official changes in the technical staff right now. I would not know myself."

Still, he is pleased with what Charles and Shabazz accomplished during a turbulent 2012.

"I think they have done a good job, taking everything into consideration," Corneal pointed out. "The team was pretty much basically a local team with two players playing abroad in (midfielders Kevin) Molino and (Lester) Peltier, but the spirit of the team was very good; they were very much focused, especially the senior players (captain and goalkeeper) Jan-Michael (Williams) and (midfielder Densill) Theobald.

"And they accomplished that, first going to the Gold Cup, and playing the (regional) final. There's still a lot of work to be done, but they are at a place that we can build on."

The Soca Warriors were due to resume training next week, but as Corneal revealed, a number of players are still to return from foreign trials.

Still, there are plans to have the local-based players practice in between Pro League assignments. There are also hopes to have a bonding camp in June once the foreign-based players return from their respective clubs ahead of the Gold Cup, which kicks off on July 7.

"They will be looking forward to (playing) the Gold Cup, and I'm sure they're looking to give a good account of themselves," Corneal said.

Asked about financial situation of the team, Corneal stated that things are looking up, with the Ministry of Sport pledging their support to the national team for the Gold Cup.

"But we don't want to depend on them only; we want to make sure corporate T&T get on board," he added.

"We would like to see some support coming from corporate Trinidad. Hopefully the first FIFA date in February will be our first outing…we're also looking at other players in the Pro League. There's a chance we will see a couple new faces."

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