At last the time has arrived for the member countries of Concacaf (North America, Central America and the Caribbean) to get ready for the region’s most important competition, the Concacaf Gold Cup.
History has seen the success of Mexico and the USA in previous competitions, while progress is shown by the lesser developed countries that have become serious challengers. Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago have been knocking on the door to win the tournament, but the task is a difficult one, not only on the field, but off it as well.
Trinidad and Tobago has often been faced with the problem of obtaining US visas for a number of their players. With just a week to go before the start of the tournament, which is being hosted in the USA, Costa Rica, and Jamaica, our national team has recently been informed that six key players do not have visas to enter the USA. Their first match is June 18. Up to June 2, the matter had not been sorted out and heaven knows if T&T will be at full strength.
Most Trinis are aware of the careless approach to issues similar to this one. The regulations for applying for visas are clearly defined. But the matter should not be problematic if the Concacaf administrators do their duties to deal with the diplomatic issue.
The simple fact is that the national team will be affected by the uncertainty of the paperwork for entry in the USA. If the USA or any other country refuses to allow entry to players, then no country should be allowed to host the tournament unless it is willing to open the doors for all qualifying country teams.
Because FIFA is the world footballing body and Concacaf one of their confederations, then this urgent matter should be dealt with long before the tournament is scheduled.
Everyone plays to win and should be given proper coaching with access to special facilities. But off the field issues with regard to visas, finances, and permission from clubs for which players ply their trade should also be addressed.
Concacaf must be responsible for all teams entering the host country without being halted by visa problems. If that is the case, then they should allow the lesser populated countries to host some of the matches where supporters can have the opportunity to support their national team at home.
My belief with this situation is it must be dealt with long before the confederation has to take the case to the host country. Decisions must be made in the interest of all. America has hosted this tournament more than any other. It is unfair for the other countries to have to face situations like this in which they have no control.
If the TTFA has done what is required vis a vis the immigration regulations for entry, then Concacaf must make representation to the respective host country.
Our national team must be well prepared to face the most important challenge in the confederation and nothing but the opposing countries —on the field, should be in their way. I wish coach Dennis Lawrence and his team the best of luck.