The elimination of T&T’s Under-20 footballers from the Korea Republic 2017 Under-20 World Cup qualifying series has come as no surprise to ex-national coach Angus Eve.
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Tears for U-20 Soca Princesses
Tears flowed from the several players and staff, while others reminded the team that they created history.
National Olympian Cleopatra Borel said, “Your greatest disappointments sometimes turn out to be your greatest source of motivation,” at a luncheon hosted by the Ministry of Sport and the Sport Company of T&T (SporTT), yesterday in recognition of the national women’s Under-20 team, which was mere minutes away from qualifying for a first-ever Fifa Women’s U-20 World Cup in the Cayman Islands on Sunday, before suffering a heavy 7-3 extra-time defeat to Costa Rica.
The function, held at Hilton Trinidad & Conference Centre, provided a forum for a number of speakers including the Minister of Sport Anil Roberts, executive members of the T&T Football Association (TTFA), the women’s Under-20 national team manager Lyndell Hoyte-Sanchez and women’s senior national team player Maylee Attin-Johnson, all of whom gave their take on the team’s loss.
The general consensus was the team ought to be congratulated for becomming the first Caribbean team to make it to the semifinal of the Concacaf Championship, thus breaking ground.
The loss remained noticably etched in some of the faces of approximately half the squad present at the luncheon.
After Borel offered encouraging words to the team, Hoyte-Sanchez was brought to tears before taking to the podium.
“Before we left, we knew Costa Rica was the team to play (in the third-place playoff). It all worked out as planned. It was the game of their life. They stuck to the plan. I just don’t know what happened.”
Continuing to fight back tears, Hoyte-Sanchez said, “We wanted to do this so bad for the country and also to lift women’s football in Trinidad and the Caribbean.” Nevertheless, she expressed pride in the team’s effort.
Her cries fuelled a spirited response from Sport Minister Roberts, who said he witnessed the grit and determination in the team’s training prior to their departure. He said their dedication spoke volumes, and would continue to support the team.
“You cry!” Roberts said to Hoyte-Sanchez.
Unlike the women’s Under-20 team, he said many local athletes would opt to swallow a loss by partying, as if they were not serious about their sport.
“We (are) fed up of athletes taking things for granted. I will argue for you in cabinet.”
Roberts encouraged the team to continue in its efforts to thrive for a place at the World Cup, saying they had several advantages over men.
“Women are more disciplined, stronger and can take more pain,” he said.
Eleven of the team members were present at the luncheon. Some of those absent were on vacation, while others were abroad reviewing schools, according to the team’s captain Anique Walker, the team’s leading scorer at the tournament with four goals.
Walker said it was a wonderful journey and was appreciative of the supporters back home.
“However,” she added, “It (the loss) will haunt me for the rest of my life.”
Tim Kee, Phillips reaffirms TTFA’s vision
TTFA technical director Sheldon Phillips and president Raymond Tim Kee both spoke at yesterday’s luncheon.
Tim Kee was of the opinion that T&T had, at intervals, proved the better of the two teams in a losing third-place playoff, but acknowledged fitness as one of the determining attributed to the loss.
“I am disappointed that we didn’t continue showing the world that we are better than Costa Rica, after half time. Because, as I saw it, you all were the better team,” he said.
“I think, however, that fitness had to do with something, and, therefore, I do not know that you were prepared for the 90 minutes, which is a huge challenge.”
He, however, was proud that T&T became the first Caribbean team to advance to the knockout round of the Concacaf Championship.
Phillips said the team needed to continue to train, while the association continued to attract partners in aiding with the development of the women’s game.
He said: “You’re more than just footballers; You’re activists. Because what you’re trying to prove and what you’re trying to sell is the importance of the women’s game.”
Phillips said this year, 2014, would see the women’s game as the primary focus of the association, as it continues its mission to have all national teams qualify for their respective Fifa competitions by 2018.