A number new faces will wear Barbados’ colours when the senior men’s national football team touch down in Trinidad and Tobago this Friday for a highly anticipated international friendly.
Those 18 players making the final cut were announced last night and Alvin Chapman, captain of Belfield Soccer Club, arguably one of the best left backs in Barbados at the moment will get his first overseas outing.
Clayton’s Kola Tonic Notre Dame defender and national Under-17 player Sheran Hoyte has also been given a chance to prove his worth among the senior men. Barbados Defence Force Sports Programme striker Omani Leacock and midfielder Akeem Hill have also been given the selectors’ nod.
Noticeably missing from the team this time around are national players Ricardo Morris and Rashad Jules both of BDFSP and Rico Graham of Weymouth Wales, all of whom are said to be injured.
Speaking with Barbados TODAY, team coach Colin Harewood said the national squad was going through a rebuilding phase and it was time more attention was paid to the island’s junior players especially the Under-17s.
“The squad so far is a big one and it is good this evening to see so many guys that I haven’t seen in the past couple of days. The squad is confident, everybody is happy and we are looking to go and do our best against Trinidad. We know Trinidad come strong against Barbados but we are trying to build a national team and over a period of time you would see a lot of opportunity for under- twenty players because most of the teams around the world build their national teams with under-twenty players and it is time we start building our national team with our under-seventeen players and under-twenties. Yes, some of our senior players would still be there but it is time to build,” he said.
When questioned about the readiness of those younger players now coming into the squad, Harewood explained: “All of them played junior football at national level, this is another step further where they have to play a little quicker and harder in terms of how the game is played but the only way you will know is if you give them a chance. And to me against quality teams this is the best time to give them a chance.”
Later this month Barbados will host Martinique’s men and women’s senior teams in what will be a double-header on March 26 at the Usain Bolt Sports Complex. This is in preparation for the upcoming Windward Cup Championship in May.
There was some uncertainty brewing about national captain Mario Harte being chosen but coach Harewood placed his confidence behind the top national striker, saying: “I watch him play this season and he hasn’t been as sharp, but I have faith in Mario because I know he can produce on the day playing for Barbados. I don’t think he is not as fit, I think he is getting a season that is not as effective as people were seeing like last year when he was scoring. People will rate Mario now off of not scoring goals but when I watch him, I am looking at his work rate, the chances he is getting and not scoring… I am one of those coaches who don’t pick players who did things in the past, I think when the season is in and you play a game, pick the players that will perform and basically that is what I am looking at this season.”
National selectors are also eyeing Zeco Edmee of Notre Dame, the leading goal scorer so far in the 2017 Digicel Premier League with nine goals, along with Shaquille Stewart from Porey Spring Football Club for the next friendly against Martinique at home.
The team will depart early tomorrow morning for the twin island republic and the match will commence on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva. Final squad reads: Captain Mario Harte, Arantees Lawrence, Armando Lashley, Shaquille Boyce, Hadan Holligan, Romario Harewood, Ranaldo Bailey, Mario Williams, Omani Leacock, Raheim Sargeant, Jomo Harris, Alvin Chapman, Akeem Brown, Sheran Hoyte, Akeem Hill, Tariq Highland and goalkeepers Dario Weir and Kishmar Primus.
Friday night’s game will provide new Trinidad and Tobago coach, Dennis Lawrence, the opportunity to see what quality of players he has under his charge. The game, Lawrence’s first in charge, came as a result of the cancellation of a visit to Paramaribo where his side was to have faced Suriname.
Assistant coach, the former England international Sol Campbell, is to fly into T&T tomorrow, with Stern John and Stuart Charles-Fevrier already there to help out.
The match will serve the hosts as a warm-up for their March 24 and 28 World Cup qualification games against Panama and Mexico respectively.
“So far, the training sessions have been fantastic,” said squad member Sean De Silva.
“The intensity has been really good every day and it’s been good getting to know some of the new faces around the team and working under Dennis. Everything we do right now has been geared towards the two upcoming games,” the Central FC player said.
“Coach Dennis has made it clear that the only thing that should be on our minds right now is that Panama game and then Mexico to follow.”
Barbados last played Trinidad and Tobago in 2011 and defeated them 4-0.