By Shaun Fuentes
Ex-English-based striker Stern John has been included in a Trinidad and Tobago 20-man squad selected by head coach Otto Pfister for Sunday’s friendly international against India.
John last played for the “Soca Warriors” in a World Cup qualifier against the United States in April 2009. He subsequently a knee injury that kept him on the sidelines for several months. But following surgery, John has returned to the fold and has been part of Pfister’s sessions this year and has done sufficiently well to warrant a selection by the German.
Another one of John’s 2006 World Cup teammates, midfielder Densill Theobald of Caledonia AIA is also in the squad along with Anthony Wolfe and ex-Holland based forward Darryl Roberts.
Some of the other members who have been in the squad in prior international action include W Connection duo Hughton Hector and Kern Cupid, goalkeeper Marvin Phillip, defender Keston Williams and midfielder Hayden Tinto. Striker Andre Toussaint and former Under 20 forward Juma Clarence have also been included.
The newcomer in the squad is T&TEC goalkeeper Akini Adams who is the brother of defender Akeem Adams who has also been selected for the upcoming friendly.
“The players for this game will be fully local-based. These players have been training with a lot of commitment and desire to do well for their country in all my training sessions since I arrived in this country and they will get the opportunity,” Pfister said.
“Of course we are preparing for the World Cup qualification which begins next month but it is important to see how the players perform. We want to have the best squad. I have already seen the overseas player and I know what they are capable of doing but again, no player’s position is guaranteed in my team,” Pfister said.
John, now attached to DirecTV North East Stars, is looking forward to his return in national colours.
“It’s a good feeling to be back in the national team. I’ve really been pushing myself to regain full fitness since the surgery and I’m grateful for the opportunity seeing that the coach has seen enough to have me in the squad. We have a long World Cup campaign ahead of us and if I can make a positive contribution in some way then I’m definitely anticipating that chance. We have a squad of dedicated and committed players both at home and abroad and hopefully we can get it right for the qualifiers coming up. That starts with a good showing against India on Sunday. The football in our country needs a boost at this time and we are aiming to play our part on the pitch,” added the ex-Sunderland forward.
The Indian team with top striker Sunil Chhetri, arrives in Port of Spain on Wednesday night and are scheduled to face Barbados earlier in the day in Kensington. It was also confirmed on Tuesday that India will face Pakistan in a friendly international in Glasgow on September 9 at the Ibrox Stadium as part of the UK Wide series.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) general secretary, Kushal Das spoke of the significance to play more international friendlies with higher ranked teams like T&T.
“We want to make the [Indian national] team play a few higher ranked teams and we have this chance to play in the Caribbean. So I thought this would be a very good opportunity for the team to get some exposure and to prepare for the upcoming Challenge Cup which is a gateway to the Asian Cup,” said Das.
He further added “In England, we’re taking the India U-23 team to play a friendly with Pakistan, the U-23 England team and the U-21 Scotland team.”
When asked about current India interim coach Armando Colaco’s contract extension, Das said it depends on the AIFF Executive Committee, but conceded that the Dempo man in-charge could be handed a longer term with the senior national side.
“It is a very difficult question for me to answer. It is the decision of the Executive Committee, but all I can say is that we have been very pleased with the progress shown by him (Colaco) so far,” he said.
T&T 20-man squad
Marvin Phillip (Joe Public), Akini Adams (T&TEC)
Noel Williams (Police), Keston Williams (Defence Force),Kern Cupid (W Connection), Carlyle Mitchell (Joe Public), Akeem Adams (T&TEC), Seon Powers (Joe Public)
Densill Theobald (Caledonia AIA), Micah Lewis (Caledonia AIA), Anthony Wolfe (DirecTV North East Stars), Hayden Tinto (Joe Public), Andrei Pacheco (T&TEC), Akeil Guevera (North East Stars), Akim Armstrong (Caledonia AIA), Hughton Hector (Caledonia AIA)
Stern John (North East Stars), Andre Toussaint (Joe Public), Juma Clarence (Caledonia AIA), Darryl Roberts