Four footballers from Trinidad and Tobago are one step closer to being reunited with their loved ones.
Shirlo Johnson, Shackiel Henry, Dwight Pope and Garnet Diaz who arrived in Barbados earlier this year and played with Paradise Football Club in the Coca-Cola Barbados Football Association Premier League received official documentation from authorities stating they had tested negative for COVID 19.
President of Paradise Club, Adrian Donovan, told Barbados TODAY that the players currently residing in the Ivy, St. Michael area were expected to depart Barbados on Wednesday along with 33 other Trinidadian nationals stranded on the island for the last couple of weeks. The players will have to pay US$634.50 to a private charter to get back home.
Donovan explained that the process to get these players back to their home country had been tedious but thanked the efforts of Caribbean Football Union president Randy Harris, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Jerome Walcott, Minister of Creative Economy, Culture and Sports, John King and noted physician Dr. Adrian Lorde who conducted the tests.
“It has been a very long and challenging process with the submission of letters, phone calls and visits. But it could not have been made possible without the tremendous assistance from a number of people who made it possible. We are just hoping and praying that everything goes well and they could return to their respective families by Wednesday along with the other 33 who were stranded 54 days ago,” Donovan said.
The long-standing Paradise president also thanked spokesperson for the group Phillip Ramdial. “It is now left in the hands of the Trinidad authorities who I presume would put them into quarantine. But from our end they have all passed the test with flying colors, they are fit and healthy to return. They have been four outstanding young men who have done their country proud both on and off the field,” Donovan added.
Following the good news this morning that they were granted medical clearance, the players spoke with Barbados TODAY about their experience of waiting, the uncertainty of not knowing what would happen on a daily basis and having the strength to endure.
The players thanked the Trinidad Government for their response and said they understood the stance taken to close the country’s borders in the best interest of its citizen.
Striker Shirlo Johnson said he was happy to be going home considering how hard it was for him during this time. “It is very welcoming that we are able to go back home. It was hard not being sure what the outcome will be. Everything went from point A to point B because of the support we had but it was tough. But today we received the document stating that we were negative pertaining to COVID-19, so we welcome this great news,” he said.
Johnson was the last of the four men to arrive in Barbados and only played three matches before the season came to an abrupt end. “I didn’t have enough time to enjoy the season but I look forward to returning once this is all over,” Johnson said.
Midfielder Shackiel Henry noted he felt relieved. “At the end of the day these things take time and the Government is doing what is best in the interest of the country. So, locking down the border was the right thing to do and I am just glad we are getting accepted to reenter,” Henry said.
Defenders Garnet Diaz and Dwight Pope said communicating with family on social media had helped them through this time.
“I feel great now but before it was stressful because we all have family to get back home with, people have children to deal with, so I am excited that we are a step closer to getting back,” Diaz said, adding, “I speak with my family every day, they call every day because they know what we are going through right now.”
Meanwhile the lanky Pope who occupies the centre-back position noted that he feels a little better now. “It is stressful for me. I am married and been away from my wife for how long, so I am happy about the progress being made. In the meantime I chat with my wife and family on WhatsApp video call. Just seeing my wife on video and knowing that we are not so far apart but can’t get in touch with each other physically is really stressful,” Pope said.
Like Johnson, the other three players were also disappointed they were unable to finish the season with Paradise Club who are currently in third position on 11 points in the BFA league. The Dover-based Paradise unit are behind defending champions Barbados Defence Force Sports Programme on 12 points and former two-time kings Weymouth Wales leading the standings on 16.
“I am a football player, I love playing and knowing that I came here to play football when the season started, I was enjoying it, was very excited and then this happened (COVID 19), it is disappointing that we can’t play anymore,” Pope said.
Henry added: “No football is playing throughout the world and since joining Paradise which is a family I had intended to win the league with them.”