In a parody of the classic David Rudder song from the eighties, Stephen Hart's Red Army is going to Panama...but not with thousands, tens of thousands, millions or even billions. No, the Soca Warriors are going after settling for just match fees for two games: a friendly against Nicaragua in October and the initial World Cup Qualifier away to Guatemala.
What has been established though, based on a release from the TTFA today , is a way forward for both parties as the three representatives from the present Senior Men's National Team (Kenwyne Jones, Jan Michael Williams and Yohance Marshall) engaged in lengthy discussions with the three member committee appointed by the TTFA (Jo-Ann Salazar, Ewing Davis and Samuel Salazar).
Coming out of those discussions, at least according to the TTFA, the players showed "candour and maturity" and "fully appreciated the state of the Association and demonstrated, in a very tangible way, their concern for the development and sustainability of the local game.". Loosely translated, the players were able to see that the TTFA have no money and if they are paid everything they are currently owed right away it would affect other things that the TTFA need to invest in for the sport to improve at different levels. To that end, they were willing to sacrifice the match fees for the USA game and settle for a smaller immediate payment. That is probably as big a deed for off the field football as the heroics they perform on on the field. Bravo to you our Soca Warriors. Just another list of growing reasons to be fully behind this team.
In the meantime, the TTFA has endeavoured to "develop and consult on a policy that addresses the entitlement to, computation and timely payment of match fees so that a similar situation does not arise again" and address "a number of concerns raised by the players". This implies that the door is still open for another situation to arise if these promises are not adhered to.We still await a release from KenwyneJones Media before we can confirm the players version of events as that was the initial source of discontent among the players.
Until then,Coach Hart is free to pick his strongest team available for the playoff in Panama against Haiti. The winner of that game qualifies for the special Copa America Centenario in June in the USA. Not all of the squad will be available as the game does not fall on a recognised FIFA date but the TTFA President has vowed to do all he can to get clubs to release our players. So far, he has been faced with multiple challenges and seems to have done well so we can only hope that he is able to pull out a miracle here as well.
The work doesn't end there as the Female Team seems to lurch from crisis to crisis. That's next up on his agenda as they prepare for Olympic Qualifiers in February. In the meantime...Panama here I come!!