TRINIDAD and Tobago star striker Dwight Yorke and utility player Anthony Rougier will both be used in today’s 2002 World Cup qualifier at the Hasely Crawford Stadium against Honduras after all.
The Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (T&TFF) yesterday backed down on their decision to sack Rougier and Yorke from today’s crucial qualifying match after both players failed to join the team for a pre-game friendly against Panama.
Key to their about turn, according to the technical staff and T&TFF, was a “touching” letter of apology submitted by Yorke.
In the letter signed by the Manchester United attacker, Yorke re-stated his commitment to the team’s objective of qualifying for the 2002 World Cup tournament.
He maintained that he returned to Trinidad because his sister was ill. However, he admitted that he may have sent the “wrong message” by being out late on Friday night.
He then apologised unreservedly to his employers and the Trinidad and Tobago public.
“I apologise to the coach, my teammates and the loyal fans and all my supporters,” stated the letter. “And promise that I will give my full effort to our collective success...Whether I was right or wrong and I am prepared to say I was wrong, I have been give another chance...
“I will let my actions on the field do the balance of the talking.”
Copies of the letter were handed out to the media before yesterday’s press conference at the Concacaf Office, Edward Street.
Rougier reportedly also handed over a letter of apology to the T&TFF although the local football governing body did not deem it fit to present that to the media as well.
Fifa vice-president and T&TFF special adviser Jack Warner, T&TFF president Oliver Camps, team coach Ian Porterfield, manager Neville Chance, technical director René Simoes, Yorke, Rougier and their local handlers—Tim Nafziger and Wayne Mandeville respectively—were all present at the brief meeting.
Simoes, said to be the one directly responsible for the imposition of the ban, was asked by Camps to open the batting at the media conference. He began by stated that T&T football was now entering “a new chapter”.
The Brazilian referred to the letter as “thoughtful” and welcomed Yorke back into the team.
“You would be remembered as the man,” Simoes said to Yorke, “who led (the) squad to the World Cup.”
Both men then shook hands.
Porterfield, Rougier and Yorke also gave brief addresses, emphasising their commitment to the cause and the importance of fielding the “best team”.
Camps then abruptly terminated the media conference, saying that he wished to end on a “positive note”.
No questions from the media were entertained. As he rushed off to another meeting, Camps insisted that the T&TFF had not backed down.
“Certainly not,” he replied, when asked if he had bowed to player pressure. “It’s standing up and getting what is right.”
Porterfield said that he was “too busy” to entertain questions while Chance had very little to say.
Asked whether there was a curfew in effect for the team, he responded curtly that he “will not answer that question”.
So with the team at full strength for the all-important game, it is left to see whether the fans will heed the advice of the players and come out and support the team in spite of the high prices of entry.