Soca Warrior unfazed by Guyana qualifier uncertainty – Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

TT's Radanfah Abu Bakr (left) heads away under pressure from Panama's Luis Tejada during a 2015 friendly in Panama. - AP
TT’s Radanfah Abu Bakr (left) heads away under pressure from Panama’s Luis Tejada during a 2015 friendly in Panama. – AP

SOCA Warriors defender Radanfah Abu Bakr and team manager Adrian Romain said the national players are focused and upbeat despite the uncertainty surrounding the March 25 World Cup qualifier against Guyana.

The normalisation committee remains in communication with the health ministry and Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram, awaiting clearance to host the match in TT.

However, TT Football Association (TTFA) general secretary Amiel Mohammed said on Friday, “We are still finalising arrangements and all will be confirmed tomorrow.”

National football training resumed on Monday under head coach Terry Fenwick after several players and coaches completed state-sanctioned quarantine. TT fell 7-0 to the US on January 31 in Florida and the local-based players and coaches who travelled abroad had to serve 14 days quarantine upon their return – seven days at the Home of Football and seven at home.

The experienced trio of Kevin Molino, Joevin Jones and Abu Bakr, who missed the US friendly. returned to training this week.

Speaking to Newsday on Friday, Abu Bakr said he is uncertain if all the players are aware that the qualifier has not been given the green light. However, Abu Bakr said the players are concentrating on training.

“Generally, we want to just focus on what we can control, which is putting in our work in training and performing on the pitch…those other issues are not up to us,” he said.

On his personal training during the pandemic, Abu Bakr said, “I have been doing as much as I can on my own or in small groups in the gym. I did not retire, obviously, so I assume he (Fenwick) saw it fit that he needs a little bit more experience around the team especially in this time here. In these qualifiers, one mistake and it could probably spell the end of your chances. There is no room for mistake.”

He added, “I am delighted to be asked to be a part of the effort and however I can help. Even if it is just sort of being there and mentoring some of the younger guys. I am happy to share my experience and obviously contribute on the pitch as well, which I still think I am more than capable of doing.”

Under normal circumstances an entire national team will gather just days before a World Cup qualifier during an international window. But because of the pandemic many of the local-based players have been training regularly since the middle of 2020, allowing the players to build chemistry.

Abu Bakr said this can benefit the team. “At least you have guys in a long period together. It could almost be a plus in the sense that under normal circumstances you bring guys in an international window – two, three days – just to put some ideas in their head and hope that it sort of just sinks in really quickly in time for a game. That’s always very difficult. Maybe there is a bit of a positive in the guys being here and being able to really understand what the coach is expecting of them.”

Romain added, “The mood of the camp is very upbeat. Everyone is focused on the World Cup qualifiers that are coming up. We are trying to get at least two international friendlies before the World Cup qualifiers. It is a plus to have senior guys return to the training fold locally…

“We are just awaiting word in terms of where the game will be hosted on the 25th, but we are putting things in place.” TT are targeting Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines as two potential friendlies

Asked if the uncertainty of the qualifier is a distraction for the players, Romain said, “Honestly, we know it will not be played in Guyana. To be fair (normalisation committee president) Mr (Robert) Hadad and the general secretary (Amiel Mohammed) are doing as much as they can do to make sure that the game is in Trinidad.”