SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, CMC- Visa problems have ravaged the Trinidad and Tobago national Under 23 team ahead of the start of their campaign in the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) First Round Qualifiers in Puerto Rico today.
Only five members of an original 20-man squad announced for today’s opening fixture with Suriname arrived in San Juan on Monday as scheduled, officials have said.
Another seven players who did not make the final shortlist were due to arrive Tuesday after they were recalled.
All 12 players are in possession of United States visas, unlike the players who were originally selected but could not travel to the US territory for the tournament.
“We had applied within the regular timeframes. These (Olympic qualifiers) were scheduled for August and our first order of business was the Pan Am Games, which starts in July,” said Team manager David Muhammed.
“Then, they rescheduled the Olympic qualifying phase and put it before the Pan Am Games and this reoriented our whole plan… the mad scramble started from there.” The Olympic qualifying schedule was adjusted in April leaving officials with eight weeks to prepare and select the squad and sort out passports and visas issues.
Muhammed said the Warriors application for visas was made on June 16 just before the players went into a training camp only to be told that no applications could be processed that week.
However, a message on the embassy’s website reported “technical problems” since May 26, not restricted to Trinidad and Tobago.
“The Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs is currently experiencing technical problems with our overseas passport and visa systems. This issue is not specific to any particular country, citizenship document, or visa category. We apologize for the inconvenience and are working urgently to correct the problem and restore full operability,” the embassy stated.
“Passport applications accepted overseas or after May 26, 2015 are affected by this delay. If you applied for a U.S. passport overseas during this time frame and have travel plans within the next 10 business days, please consider requesting an emergency passport…”
Following today’s opener against Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago will play St Vincent and the Grenadines on June 26 and hosts Puerto Rico on June 28.