The “Soca Warriors” were one of the stories of World Cup 2006. Trinidad and Tobago was the smallest nation ever to qualify for the World Cup, and they inspired us all. After Avery John of the New England Revolution was sent off early in the second half of the opening match against Sweden, T&T managed an improbable draw thanks largely to the outstanding goalkeeping of West Ham’s Shaka Hislop. (Hislop now plays for FC Dallas). In the following match T&T were unfortunate to not be leading England 1-0 at half time, and continued to play well in the 2nd half until two late England goals buried the Soca Warriors.
But fast forward to Gold Cup 2007. The T&T Football Association has banned all 23 players who played in last year’s World Cup for the nation from participating in the Gold Cup. A pay dispute is at the center of the trouble and the fact that T&T’s players don’t have a PFA has helped the Federation blacklist the World Cup veterans.
“I would love to be there, to have a chance with the national team,” Revolution Defender Avery John said. “This is a major tournament. But everyone is standing firm because we believe change is needed and this is something that needs to be done for the future, for the young guys.”We are blacklisted and can’t play. We haven’t received the money we were promised [from the World Cup]. We need to set up a PFA [Professional Footballers Association] in Trinidad to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”The T&T World Cup vets have contacted the English PFA about organizing a division for Trinidad and many will continue to support their nation in the Gold Cup. “Regardless of everything, I will be supporting the team in the Gold Cup,” John said. “I haven’t seen them play, so I don’t know how they will do. They have more local-based players and they will be getting some good experience and exposure. They have a lot of young guys and I want them to do well.”