By Neto Baptiste
The FIFA World Cup Qualifier between hosts, Antigua and Barbuda Benna Boys, and visitors, Grenada, slated for Friday at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground (SVRCG) will be played without spectators.
This is the word from the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association’s (ABFA) media officer, Troy Gibson, who said they were denied permission by the country’s health ministry to host a limited number of fans at the venue for the CONCACAF Group A fixture.
“Players, staff of teams, ABFA staff and staff within the stadium and the media, of course. I will however have to separate the media from the players, unfortunately. I know the president [Everton Gonsalves] had asked and I know there were emails between them [ABFA and the Ministry of Health] but the Ministry of health is really being on the safe side but there has been communication and I can attest to that. The Ministry of Health has been in contact with them even when training started because the ABFA had to send their conditions towards having the training but they want to be on the safe side and they are saying not yet to fans,” he said.
The match is slated to kick off at 4 pm at the premier venue and some fans were hoping to view the clash from the stands of the spacious venue.
One member of the coaching staff and former national player, Schyan Jeffers, however believes that his players are mentally prepared to play under any conditions.
“I think the players have adjusted to it already from the past few games in Curacao and in St Croix, so I don’t think there will be any problems at all. We have been training in an empty stadium for the last four months and we played in Curacao in an empty stadium. We played in St Croix where the stadium was 90 percent empty and the guys watch football, the EPL, and [venues] are empty. So I think they are accustomed to it right now so they won’t have any problems,” he said.
The Benna Boys have four points from their two matches having beaten US Virgin Islands 3-0 on March 27. They drew 2-2 against Montserrat on March 24. El Salvador, meanwhile, trail on goal difference following their 1-1 draw with Montserrat on March 28 after previously defeating Grenada 2-0 on March 25.
Following their clash against Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda will travel to El Salvador where they face the home team.