THE struggle of women's football to gain equality in Trinidad and Tobago is never more evident that the current plight of the T&T women's national team which is generally considered as having its best ever chance of qualifying for a FIFA Women's World Cup.
But with World Cup qualifying set to begin in three weeks, preparation is less than ideal. Half the team is in a Houston camp under the guidance of recently-appointed American head-coach Randy Waldrum, while the other half is stranded here, because the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) at one point did not even have enough money to pay for tickets or even visa applications. Among the players still in Trinidad are sisters Kamika and Karen Forbes, Anique Walker, the Debesette twins (Khadidra & Khadisha), Rhea Belgrave, Patrice Campbell and Natasha St Louis. National assistant coach Marlon Charles is hoping that some of the players would leave today. But, he is only hoping.
"It not the ideal situation any team will like to have and I not too happy with the situation right now. It is a situation that is not really suitable for a tournament that is coming. But we have no control over it. We have to deal with it," Charles stated.
"We still have about ten days, which is a good preseason."
Apart from Government, the staff and the players themselves, it seems the only one backing the team is former USA Under-23 coach Waldrum, who is offering his service free of charge, in a bid to qualify the Caribbean team for its first Women's World Cup. Not a single sponsor has come forward.
Not that its anything new to the under funded women's team which often goes into World Cup qualifying without international warm-up matches. "This group has never gotten what it deserved," Charles said of the national team. "But this group will fight. When it comes to a competition setting they will battle on."
A month ago, the TTFA announced plans to get T&T to the World Cup in 2015. Waldrum was hired and a one-month camp in Houston, Texas, was announced. They were to play the Mexican national team twice before going into competition.
"It is believed by many in the CONCACAF region that the present women's national team is facing its most promising chance to qualify for the Women's World Cup, which will be held in Canada in August 2015," the TTFA said in a release, when announcing the recruitment of American Randy Waldrum to head the women's programme a month ago.
It added: "Earlier this month, the TTFA unveiled plans to send the team to a residential training camp in Houston, Texas for one month in preparation for the upcoming CFU Championship, which the TTFA will host from August 16-27.
This move will mark the first time in TTFA history such an investment is being made in the Senior Women’s programme."
Big plans indeed. But once funding was delivered late by its lone beneficiary, Government, plans by the almost bankrupt TTFA fell flat. The camp was cut almost in half, with the first group of players leaving just over a week ago. Once the first group left , the other stopped training in anticipation of leaving close behind.
"I might start to do training again with the group that here. The reason we stopped training is because the group was supposed to be going out, " Charles added. "The girls had been doing their fitness work, but we had not been training as a group."
Following the Houston camp, Trinidad and Tobago hosts the Caribbean Football Union Championship from August 19-26 which doubles as World Cup qualifying. The top four teams will qualify for the CONCACAF Championship taking place in the US between October 16-26 where three automatic qualifying spots and a play-off berth for the 2015 Women’s World Cup will be up for grabs.
Trinidad and Tobago’s chances of qualifying out of the CFU Championship is good having been drawn in a relatively easy group consisting of Antigua and Barbuda, Martinique and St Kitts & Nevis. But the Soca Princesses need financial and other help to come their way before taking a spot in the field next year in Canada.