By Neto Baptiste
The senior national football training squad is set to start preparations next week following the approval of protocols submitted by the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association to the country’s health officials.
This was confirmed by president of the association and former national striker, Everton Gonsalves, who said the body is still in dialogue with its partners in CONCACAF regarding the pending World Cup qualifiers.
“Our protocols committee has delivered our protocols to the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Sports has approved them, so we can resume training at the national level, and so we intend to do that. We are not even sure that the dates given, the matches will be played then,” he said.
“The quarantine periods, when Antigua and Barbuda leaves to play let’s say, St Kitts, they have to be quarantined, and how is that going to be worked out. When other contesting nations come to Antigua they have to be quarantined. The usual timeframe between the matches is three days, and if you have to be quarantined for 14 days how are the matches going to be played so with all these logistics, we are in constant discussion with the confederation which is CONCACAF,” he added.
The FA reportedly received permission to train in groups of 25 or less as they jumpstart preparations for their Group A campaign in the CONCACAF qualifiers alongside El Salvador, Grenada, Montserrat and the US Virgin Islands in March.
Gonsalves said that a number of other Caribbean countries have expressed concerns over the feasibility of having the qualifiers as scheduled in March.
“Around the Caribbean, a number of other associations who are scheduled to play have not started, so it is not Antigua alone. Montserrat, who will be one of our competitors in these qualifying rounds, all of their players come from England. How are they going to get here? How are they going to prepare because of what is happening in England? You are also hearing what is going on in St Lucia, St Vincent, Barbados so I am in constant conversation with the heads of my colleague organisations, and so I am kept abreast with what I am going to do, and that is why we are starting next week,” the football boss said.
Asked why the FA delayed the start of training, Gonsalves said that the body was not convinced that it was safe enough to do so.
“Every time we hear of an increase and it could be one Covid contraction, or worse, one Covid fatality, I don’t know for others, but it raises my mindset as to where I need to push the football. The number one priority for this president is the health of the football players, its members and its staff, and by extension, the nation of Antigua and Barbuda,” he said.
The Benna Boys are scheduled to face Montserrat on 24th March 2001 before taking on the US Virgin Islands three days later. The Benna Boys will then round off their group campaign against Grenada on April 6.