Trinidad and Tobago’s senior women’s football team is currently facing a player crisis ahead of the opening round of 2016 Concacaf Olympic qualifying matches.
With team captain Maylee Attin- Johnson and TT ’s leading female goalscorer, Kenya ‘Yaya’ Cordner, still nursing serious injuries, the absence of ace winger Ahkeela Mollon and midfielder Arin King, several of the first team picks in college abroad, and a turnout of just six or seven players at the last few national training sessions at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, team selection for Olympic qualification may pose a challenge this year.
TT are in Group II with regional rivals Antigua and Barbuda, St Lucia and the Cayman Islands. The Women Warriors were scheduled to begin their campaign against Antigua and Barbuda almost two weeks ago but were forced to postpone this meeting due to a tropical storm.
With qualifying matches now scheduled to kick off within the coming weeks, TT seem to be in a spot of bother, since most of the top players are either injured, unavailable or too demotivated to drape themselves in national colours once more.
Mollon, who has opted to refrain from national training due to internal issues with team management, revealed yesterday that several other players share her sentiments and have also chosen to be absent from practice. The winger previously cited issues such as non-payments to players, unavailability of proper training attire and having to take money out of their own pockets to attend training as some of the key problems arising out of the female camp.
These matters, according to the 30-year-old, have now forced some of the girls to stay away from training in a crucial time just days ahead of their opening Olympic qualification matches.
“I really hope this issue between management and some of the players can be solved really quickly because of the upcoming Olympic qualifiers,” said Mollon yesterday. “There are only a handful of players coming out to train and there’s only so much that the local coach (Anthony Creese) can do. The players are not encouraged at all. Some of them are concerned to speak up for fear of being blacklisted but I am at a place in my life where I have experience playing at the top level and I have to stand for something because I’m 30, and there’s only so much more years I have in me.” Questioned on Thursday as to what avenue of approach might quell the emotions involved in this touchy situation, general secretary of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TT FA) Sheldon Phillips stated that it will be resolved within the managerial ranks of the team. Efforts to reach coach Creese via his mobile phone yesterday however, proved futile.
But Phillips remains calm about the situation, stating: “The coaching staff is on top of the player pool. We are right now discussing the dates with the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) and we are confident that a player pool (for TT ) issue shouldn’t be a concern. The group stage matches will see many of the players who are in college unavailable. As far as numbers are concerned the coaching staff is on top of that issue and we see no problems. All our players should be available following the group stages.” Mollon on the other hand, continued to shed light further on the situation and revealed that when players take time off from their jobs to represent TT competitively, they are unable to receive monetary compensation from either the Ministry of Sport or their respective employers.
She then reflected on her recent Pan American Games experience in July, where she and two other track and field athletes who are all employed as Athlete Development Officers in the Ministry of Sport, were blanked payments for their three weeks on national duty in Canada.
“When we returned and asked if we would be paid for our time away, we were told that we were on contract and would not be paid,” revealed Mollon. “The stipend promised by TT FA for representation is also yet to be paid to us.
“So we are working for free it seems, and have bills to pay like everyone else. I also asked my superior on work if I would be paid for my time away if I’m selected for the Olympic qualifiers and was again given a negative response.
I took it to management and told them of my situation and nothing has been done.” She also indicated that the last time the Women Warriors played a match together was at the Pan Am Games over two months ago.
Mollon noted that development is taking place throughout the Caribbean and urged TT not to be at a standstill.
“Right now Jamaica women’s team are in a camp in Miami and Haiti had the wonderful privilege of playing the USA earlier this week, but what is being done for women’s football in Trinidad? We must put things in place for our players now. Why wait for next two years to decide to get things organised for World Cup qualifiers.
We need to act now and get the practice games now and begin preparations,” she said.